All posts by 2016e250

Invasion of Gods Through Pods and People

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Trailer, 1956 gives perspective of invasion through the eyes of a foreign entity. This exaggerated approach is what Pollan argues plants have done for thousands of years.

The idea of alien infiltration into the human race is far fetched from the vista of outer space, but a shift in perspective from the obscure sci-fi view of invasion reveals an entity regional, yet subhuman. One that has been here all along. The alien mother ship, according to the Mayan cultivators of this amazing Amazon Basin plant, are culture bringers; the gods themselves. Their modal is the Theobroma cacao.

In, The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan discusses the symbiotic relationship that humans and plant life share. In his ground breaking book, Pollan exposes the control that intelligent plant life has on the human race. “We don’t give nearly enough credit to plants,” says Pollan. “They’ve been working on us – they’ve been using us – for their own purposes.” (Pollan, 17)

The Botany of Desire Trailer, 2009 is an academic and modernly eloquent take on the above, Invasion of The Body Snatchers. This media takes the idea of cacao invading the world and makes it plausible.

The idea of plants gratifying specific desires in the human condition reveals  their purpose to be a sort of world dominance. The opposing perspective on plant control is deemed by Pollan as a way to satisfy these desires by using humans to disperse themselves around the world. No such plant has been successful in doing so as the cacao tree. It’s versatility in food and health has succeeded in gaining control over human activity throughout centuries of its cultivation.

If this is credible, the conscious character of the cacao pod is not only that of a survivor, but a resilient mastermind who’s ingenious tactic is it’s adeptness to be linked with almost any other ingredient in the world. Through the wiles of consumption and medicinal properties, cacao reigns.

Beginning with the Olmec as the first Meso-American group to cultivate cacao, and following through up until the about 900 CE invasion of colonists, the early caretakers were manipulated by chocolate as they utilized its versatility. Seen in documents such as the Dresden codex, Madrid Codex, and Paris Codex (pre-columbian Maya books written in hieroglyphics) cacao was used as a food, a medicine and even a gift back to the gods who gave it. Our first glimpse into the versatility of chocolate was its use through the practice of Tac Haa, roughly translated as “to serve chocolate”. Early on in its use, chocolate was paired with many other Mayan staples. (Hurst, et al. 2002, 289) It was then drunk communally.

We know this due to human disbursement of cacao in differentiating pots, made specifically to house chocolate’s diverse uses. Spices and flowers were added along with maize and other grains. Its broad span reached as far as medicinal through digestive and anti-inflammatory related uses. It was a meal replacement as a gruel. This included maze which would cut hunger and chocolate which would energize. So we see very early on, this clever plant crafting itself to become an indispensable staple.

In her recipe section of “The New Taste of Chocolate, Maricel Presilla remarks on this amazing ingredient as a conductor of a taste symphony. “The following recipes have one quality in common: they showcase the wide-ranging possibilities of chocolate and imaginatively explore its capacity to absorb flavors and harmonize with other flavorings and spices.” (Presilla,143)

Cacao vessels inscribed with hieroglyphs (as to which pot was to be used for which recipe) contained combinations such as cherry, honey and a maize type gruel. These precursors aided chocolate in it’s migration to Europe. “A survey of early colonial cacao beverage recipes shows that early colonial Mesoamerican recipes usually had vanilla and water, and included a variable array of aromatic flavours, such as orejuela (custard apple) and piquant spices, such as chile pepper. Sweetness, by adding honey, occurred, as well. These Mesoamerican colonial recipes also show Europeanization, by the adoption of flavorings such as sesame, almond, and sugar. (Martin and Sampeck 2016, 41)


This South Coast, Guatemalan vessel depicts a female holding cacao. The copious amounts of cacao beans reveals that the crop is highly valued. The female herself is holding a small bowl filled with cacao pods. AD 250-450


In order for chocolate to make its way out of the Amazon basin, it must not only appeal to the indigenous cultivators of the pods, but the Europeans who would take it to the world. “Europeans sought to re-create the indigenous chocolate experience in America and Europe. Europeans in the New World and then the Old World somatized native aesthetic values.” writes Marcy Norton. “The migration of the chocolate habit led to the cross-cultural transmission of tastes. Over time, the composition of chocolate did evolve, but this was a gradual process of change linked to the technological and economic challenges posed by long-distance trade rather than a radical rupture in the aesthetic preferences of chocolate consumers.” (Norton 2006, 681)

A turning point for the cacao plant was the invasion of the Spanish and early colonialists who saw very early on the value of this versatile plant. As stated by Michael Pollan, we did exactly what cacao wanted us to do. Took it around the world.

Used originally as food for the elite, it quickly went viral and into everyones home. Seen through non-taste bias perspective, this would appear to be something right out of Little Shop of Horrors. However, in order to sustain its rule as staple in the early centuries of its being, it had to make itself useful in a wide variety of uses for the new world.

It was chocolates versatility that took it from its Meso-American origin to the entire world. By the 1800’s, chocolate’s versatility strikes again. Paired with sugar, chocolate began to be wildly consumed by British people of all social classes.

Food has been a focal point of colonization and labor through cultivation and even revolution throughout history.

Now modern day, the explosion of culinary delights thrives off pairings even the gods didn’t see coming. Chocolate reinvented itself once again. Chocolate can now be found in ingredients such as oysters, bacon and oranges. Is there room for chocolate in future foods? What will cacao do next to maintain it’s survival and master plan of world domination?

Another way chocolate has infiltrated the world is by being beneficial to human health. Health conditions such as indigestion and heart disease are treated with chocolate. These benefits are still early in discovery and insure that chocolate has not seen the end of its plan for world domination.

The future food and health booms see chocolate as an unexplored frontier as far as its variety in pairings and health benefits.

It is said by doctors that even in the 21st century, modern approach to nutrition and health, is similar to what we knew about surgery in the 1600’s, very little. This idea puts the combination of food and science in its very early stages of knowledge and health practices. Cacao for health purposes are then placed as a final frontier in breakthrough medicine, and solidifies the plant’s invasion on the human race as an indispensable crop we will soon be unable to live without. The more we discover, the more we realize the plant’s invasion on the human race, is indispensable.

-“A Square a Day Keeps the Doctor Away” is a modern twist on the historical advertisement boom for apples, “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”. The video represents the popularity that cacao is attaining in modern culture as both a food and a medicine.

“The major goal… is to evaluate the variety of clinical benefits of chocolate and especially its polyphenols. Thus, dark chocolate could reduce the risk of heart attack and provide other cardioprotective actions if consumed regularly.” (Watchson et al, 10)

One product simply called “Cacao” is a supplement pill claiming to promote antioxidants such as polyphenols and the basic structure of catching and many other free radical fighting nutrients.

“All natural appetite suppressant, decreases appetite so you eat less. Helps you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Helps you maintain healthy cholesterol and lipid levels. Provides a variety of antioxidants from two dozen herbs and nutrients. Provides healthy fiber. Balances mood. Improves will power and choice of food selection.” (Cocoa Supplement Pill Benefit, 2015, cocaobean.html)

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 11.47.32 AM
Cacao Powder 500mg showing the versatility of cacao through its unique ability to be fused as both food and medicine.


Chocolate’s versatility has given it a place in modern culture as an indispensable ingredient. By availing its delicious yet medicinal components for all to utilize, it has been involved in every major culinary turning point throughout history. The offerings of cacao that humans have some to rely on, is what has aided it’s longevity over thousands of years. It’s ability to be paired with a vast amount of secondary ingredients have gave it a place throughout the centuries. Chocolate meets demands that modern culinary trends place on it. With chocolate’s adaptability and versatility so vast, it is sure to stand the test of time as one of the most influential ingredients the world has ever seen. Saving and enriching the lives of those who cultivate as well as those whom consume this mysterious plant, cacao has shown it self to truly be a gift of the gods.


Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. New York: Random House, 2001. Print.

W. Jeffrey Hurst, Stanley M. Tarka, Jr, Terry G. Powis, Fred Valdez, Jr & Thomas R. Hester. “Archaeology: Cacao Usage By The Earliest Maya Civilization Nature” 418, 289-290 (18 July 2002)

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.

Martin, Carla D. ; Sampeck, Kathryn E . “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe”                                                                                                                                                                             8300 defect for UNSW, 2015, Issue special issue 3, pp.37-60

Marcy Norton “Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics”                              The American Historical Review (2006) 111 (3): 660-691

Watson, Ronald R., Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. “Chocolate in Health and Nutrition”. New York: Humana, 2013. Print.

Sahelian, Ray. “Cocoa Supplement Pill Benefit, Antioxidant, Health Improvement.” 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

No Proof in Chocolate Pudding

In 2012 JELL-O responded to the Mayan Calendar scare with an attempt at viral marketing.

Playing upon the craze of a world ending 12/21/2012, Kraft Foods decided to cash in by poking fun at the Mayan religion. In this admittedly semi-genius advertisement, JELL-O asks if chocolate will save us from the Mayan foretold apocalypse. They trek far and wide to the top of an obscure Mayan ruins to offer chocolate JELL-O to the gods in hopes that the world will see 12/22/2012. Will chocolate JELL-O save the world?

This ad does several things cleverly. It plays upon people’s curiosity of an already publicized Mayan event. This leaves people associating JELL-O with the apocalypse. Which brings me to the second part of the ad’s clever anchoring.

It specifically states that if the world is not destroyed and Earthlings live to see 12/22/2012, it was the chocolate pudding sacrifice that appeased the gods.

A rundown of the commercial’s racist elements reveal many associations with the historical exploitation of exotic culture to sell chocolate.

A cartooned map of the Yucatan. (an exotic locale)

A cliched and sarcastic representation of an ancient culture. The narrator even goes so far as to call their religious practices lame. “No wonder the gods decided to end the world.”

An expedition “deep into the jungle” led by a white man, and his native looking crew. They reach a fictitious ruin and offer chocolate JELL-O pudding to the gods. Will it appease?

In Chocolate, Women and Empire, Robertson shares a history of tactics big business advertisements use by implementing race to sell chocolate. With this colonized/colonizer paradigm (Robertson, 36) this ad not only blatantly and unapologetically undermines the Mayan religion, it uses these various forms of racism to sell a product.

By leaving viewers hanging, it would be obvious that should the world still be in tact on 12/22/2012, it was Kraft who saved the world. The video ends with a tag “JELL-O, FUN THINGS UP.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.52.49 AM.png
George Manko

In response to Kraft’s commercial offering chocolate pudding to the Mayan gods, I’ve created an equally sarcastic ad by a fictitious company called Creamy Criollo.

The idea behind this advertisement is to show what a would be Mayan god’s reaction is to a modern day version of what a big chocolate company considers “chocolate”.

A quick look at the JELL-O chocolate pudding ingredient list reveals the following:

Sugar, Modified Food Starch, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Disodium Phosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Artificial Color, BHA (Preservative)

With cocoa ranking third on the list (even then it is diluted with other ingredients) it’s no wonder the Mayan gods decided to destroy the world in 2012.

I did not use race, gender, or class in my advertisement, but rather a shocking portrayal of what this world has come to with its processed ideas of food throughout the last two centuries. What this portrayal hopefully shows, is that use of quality ingredients is the only ancient stereotype that should be acceptable in marketing.


Works Cited: 

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Vol. 24, Iss. 22012

Togetherness is a Gift of The Gods

It took a village this year to help my neighbors carry out their tradition of overdoing the Christmas light display. Six grown men scaled the walls, roof and parcel of the eighteen-room McMansion.

While we were outside, Ten-year-old Ariel was inside making the best, and undoubtedly exotic pancakes we’ve ever had. Her crowd pleasing ingredient: Chocolate.

This dish shows a modern American use for chocolate as an extravagant and decadent treat, but also reveals the versatility of cocoa. As seen, it is an ingredient which pairs well with a variety of flavors, textures, and cooking styles.  

As we ate, I began to think about this basic but unusually delicious additive. It struck me that something so common to modern American culture, could still be so mysterious. My chocolate and bacon filled pancakes revealed something that helped answer. Its mystery comes in its versatility. Something the native caretakers of its cultivation knew all along.

Unveiling the shroud of mystery involves peering into the early MesoAmerican belief of the origin of cacao (food of the gods).  According to Maya mythology, Hunahpú gave cacao to the Maya after humans were created from maize by the divine grandmother goddess Ixmucané. (Bogin 1997, Coe 1996, Montejo 1999, Tedlock 1985)

A food so enigmatic it has its own mythology. Even its own festival. While cacao was not believed to be created by the gods, ancient Mesoamericans believe it was discovered and given to civilization by the gods themseles. For this gift, the Mayans hold a yearly festival to the god Ek Chuah called Ek Chuah day.

Performer portraying the Maya god “Ek Chuah” or god of Cacao during the show “Los Rosters de Ek Chuah” at Xcaret eco-archeological park, Riviera Maya, Mexico by Greg Vaughn

Since the gift of cacao, humans have developed a barrage of flavor combinations centered around its wholesome goodness. Chocolate typically mixed with corn was a staple. Ancient Mayan glyphs on pottery and various types of food containers reveal to us the versatility the gods bestowed upon us. Chilies, fruits, meats and even fish were known to be paired with this royal substance. (Hurst, Tarka, Powis, Valdez, Hester, 289)

In her recipe section of “The New Taste of Chocolate”, Maricel Presilla remarks on this amazing ingredient as a conductor of a taste symphony. “The following recipes have one quality in common: they showcase the wide-ranging possibilities of chocolate and imaginatively explore its capacity to absorb flavors and harmonize with other flavorings and spices.” (Presilla, 143)

Enjoying chocolate with various flavors from around the world is something Katrina Markoff has dedicated her life to. Through her company Vosges Chocolate, she attempts to bring peace to the world through seemingly unusual chocolate pairings. “It started out just getting people to open their minds up to new idea’s and less judgment” Katrina says of her concoctions.

These concoctions seem less unusual when putting into context the original uses for cacao and the possibilities this mystery bean has bestowed upon us. Even the word cacao, which means “to drink together” signifies something that is to be used to bring people together.

Inherently, this is something Ariel knew in her attempts to bring us in from the cold.

The gift of her creation is it’s room for ingenuity. It is a versatile ingredient that calls upon creativity. This made it especially interesting for the young and old alike. All we had left to do was enjoy.

In a culture where customization is king, Ariel tailored each pancake using a staple ingredient she knew we would all be sure to love. This gave us an extra special desire for our own pancakes. As we went down the line, she took our plates, then she applied the chocolate as though adding a touch mystery to her labor of love.

“Mom always said too much chocolate is like having too much love—you can’t get enough-Geraldine Solon, Chocolicious”

Batchelder, Tim. “The Cultural Pharmacology Of Chocolate.” Townsend Letter For Doctors & Patients 256 (2004): 103-106. Alt HealthWatch. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Hurst, W. J., Tarka, S. M., Powis, T. G., Valdez, F., & Hester, T. R. (2002). Archaeology: Cacao usage by the earliest maya civilization. Nature, 418(6895), 289-90. doi:

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.