|One Busy Guy presents...
The Chocolate Story
A revered confection prized for it's soothing effect (it helps produce endorphins). A holiday staple. A baking ingredient. An aphrodisiac. A fondue. A liqueur. A billion dollar industry.*
The word "chocolate" is said to derive from the Mayan 'xocoatl'; cocoa from the Aztec 'cacahuatl'. The Mexican Indian word "chocolate" comes from a combination of the terms choco ('foam') and atl ('water');
It all began with the cocoa bean more than 2000 years ago. The 'cocao' plant is native to South American forests. Mexicans and other early civilizations of the Yucatan peninsula were the first to make seeds within these pods into a bitter beverage. That's right... bitter. It was even blended together with chili peppers to make the beverage 'xocoatl'. This was often served as the last meal before human sacrifice.
Spain was on a quest to return with riches from the New World for their royal family. It was the explorer Cortez who in 1528 introduced chocolate to Europe. Lucky for us the Spanish empire declined and the secret of chocolate escaped! In 1615 Spanish Princess Maria Theresa provided Louis XIV of France with a gift of chocolate. By 1657 the first chocolate shoppe had opened in London. Still unsweetened. It was quite expensive and considered an indulgence of the elite.
It wasn't until 1765 that chocolate was introduced to America. The first chocolate factory was established in Dorchester, Mass. With the industrial revolution and mass production the cost dropped to affordability for the masses. Around 1840 the sweetening had begun and by 1857 the first candies had appeared (caramel, bonbons, cremes etc).
Although it was popular with men in Europe, chocolate was not immediately accepted by American colonists. It was originally considered to be the choice of children. It became more widely accepted as a baking ingredient. Cocoa powder began manufacture in 1828. The first chocolate bars appear around 1847. A Swiss firm (Nestle) develops milk chocolate in 1876.
Refinements in production have provided us with a variety of ways to employ this remarkable, flexible treat. It's enjoyed around the world in bars, cakes and candies. We like it hot or cold. We fill it with creams and nuts. We freeze it into ice cream, we dip fruits into it and mold it into a thousand shapes.
Perhaps most interestingly chocolate has become the gift of affection. Eggs at Easter, Santa's at Christmas... but nothing compares with the 'sweet hearts' of Valentine's Day. Hershey's 'kisses' are named for the 'smooching' sound made by the machinery. The 'snickers' bar is named after the family horse.
Dining on chocolate is a bit risky for some of us. Many experience allergic reactions to it, some must endure acne or cold sores... we all know that it is a dreadful substance to feed your dog!
Women everywhere rejoice and embrace the rich, soothing consolation of chocolate. Many claim they like it because it's high in antioxidants but don't you believe them! It's a wonderful way to say how 'sweet' is your company!
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