All posts by 2016e737

Cacao, Cocao, Cocoa: The Deification of Chocolate in an American Household

Chocolate has fallen from its archaic divinity; as industrial chocolate manufactures, such as Hershey, Ghirardelli, Cadbury, Mars, L.A. Burdick and the multitudes of other small and large confectionary manufactures have strategically subverted religion and evaded the creation of a static definition of what can be classified as health food (Off, 2008). This has been done on a global scale (Allen, 2010). Yet, for all of the exploitation of natural and human labor resources in the mad capitalist race to net exponentially larger profits, methods of chocolate consumption have changed. Chocolate has invaded every home in America and continues to spread into even the most remote regions of the world were chocolate is merely grown as a exported market good (and the farmers have never tasted the finished product) (Leissle, 2012) (Martin 2016) (Stuckey, 2012). Modern chocolate consumption has continuously increased and transformed from a relished delicacy into an addiction, one that has fostered a cultic fanaticism in its omnipresence in American culture (Martin, 2016). Chocolate addiction has been fostered by dynamic consumption practices, various health benefits, ideals of beauty, sexualization of female chocolate consumption, and the reframing of sales advertisements to secularize and/or create holidays revolving around chocolate consumption (Leissle, 2012) (Howe, 2012) (Robertson, 2009) (Martin, 2016). Addiction is an all encompassing cultural mindset which has gone further in the continued liminal state of chocolate’s meaning to contemporary American society (Benton, 2004) (Robertson, 2009). Average American households often are not aware that their chocolate consumption is irrevocably linked to the various external methods of ideological implantation of chocolate as a religious iconographic good. A brief ethnographic analysis of an average New England household, comprising of my future in-laws, engenders a radical deviation from chocolate as a coveted, addictive necessity and furthers chocolate’s ideological transformation by coming full circle to again reify chocolate’s worship as a physical manifestation of divinity.

Cacao, or Kakawa, is a substance similar to maize, corn, in its purveyance in Mesoamerican culture and religious iconography (Coe & Coe, 2013). Cacao is also shown in Mayan iconography to have been conflated with the Maize god, this has rendered archaeological interpretations of cacao as the food of the gods (Coe & Coe, 2013). Ancient associations of cacao with the food of divinity has not been lost in modern methods of advertisement (Leissle, 2012). Even analyses of chocolate advertisements can be interpreted to illustrate that chocolate and divinity are intrinsically linked. Capitalism has not so subtlety transformed and secularized religious holidays by constructing the consumption of chocolate as a ritualized activity, in which participants (consumers) will be glorified and feel euphoria through acts the giving and receiving chocolates (Martin, 2016) (Robertson, 2009). Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and even the forty days of Lent have all become associated with chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). Lent is the most indicative of chocolate’s association with divinity, through its construction as a vice (particularly for women) which should be avoided so as to liken oneself to the divinity of Christ’s fast and then temptation by Lucifer in the desert. My fiancée’s (F) family is traditionally Irish-Catholic, like much of the greater Boston area, and has their roots firmly set in the nomenclature of religious etiquette. However, like many religious followers, they merely retain a religiously linked ethnic identity. This is not to say that they do not follow a set of religious rituals that underpin their daily lives, but the god (chocolate) to which they devote both cognitive and subconscious worship, is revealed through the family’s vocalization and ritualization of chocolate consumption. Through almost a year of total emersion into their household I have observed both passively and actively their emphasis on the  importance of ritual chocolate consumption. By cooking, and baking, with the father (FD); observing F’s sister’s food habits (FS); and through consensual approval to inquire about their chocolate habits during informally structured interviews, I have captured a snapshot of the ethnographic phenomenon by which chocolate has been re-deified.

Anonymity Disclaimer: all proper names are changed to protect anonymity and personal privacy.

This is a clear over exaggeration, but illustrates the extent chocolate is incorporated into their diet.

The demographic biological sex ratio in my fiancée’s family, including myself, is three females to two males. I entered their household in June 2015, as it was the most convenient way to save up money for our wedding and attend school. My fiancée and her sister both have severe cases of mental illnesses, and have self-proclaimed themselves vegetarians, which has inhibited their ability to consume a wide variety of food products. Prior to my debut, F’s family cooked for and brought FS any food that FS desired, while FS was unable to leave her bedroom due to severe agoraphobia. During this period and into the first several months of living with the F-in-laws, the father (FD) and mother (FM) brought FS mass quantities of sweets (per her request)- the vast majority of which contained chocolate in some form. These sweets were then incorporated into FS’s daily diet through both home cooked treats and purchased delicacies. So pervasive was chocolate into the kitchen and pantry, I could not open the refrigerator without stumbling upon 8 out of 10 items containing chocolate. Even F considered pancakes unsatisfying is they did not contain chocolate chips, accompanied by chocolate milk, and chocolate croissants, from FD’s crafting or purchased from the local French bakery. Upon my alien perspective into this near total emersion of chocolate into every aspect of nutrition, as I prefer recipe purity without the forced inclusion of chocolate, F’s mother (FM) made it quite clear that the extant to which chocolate was considered medicinal. Even long-standing family recipes, such as their grandmother’s scone recipe, that originally contained fruit changed to substitute chocolate chips; this was celebrated not only by F’s immediate family but the extended relatives as well. F, FD, and FM prefer dark chocolate; FS prefers milk chocolate. Methods of dietary consumption are among the easiest to witness, but also the amount to which F’s family purchases or crafts feminine hygiene products known to contain cocoa butter, and the amount of objects, utensils, and other paraphernalia used in the consumption, production, promotion, or distribution of chocolate.

Saying that their mass consumption of all things chocolate is a product of the historical engendering of chocolate as healthy for dietary consumption limits the extent to which FM’s concept of medicinal use resonates with the subjectivity of healthy consumption (Albritton, 2012) (Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FS suffered tremendous weight gain from overconsumption of carbohydrates and sugars (Albritton, 2012), most in the form of chocolate pastries and confections, but FM continued to supply these “medicinal” chocolates. In accordance with popular conceptions of the medicinal use of chocolate, it historically has been linked to a healthy state of mind and postulated to aid the treatment of mental illnesses such as “hypochondriac melancholy“(Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FM’s utilization of chocolate as a medical ritual to expedite the healing of FS’s mental faculties echoes: the Mesoamerican use of cacao as a restorative of the deities, the early European adoption of cacao as a similar but secularized restorative devoid of divine embodiment, and contemporary literature on chocolate’s ability to illicit pleasure responses from the brain. Contemporary concepts of chocolate’s medicinal use illuminate the chocolate industry’s persistent norms of advertisement and the increase of processed sugar consumption and sugar additives into nearly all forms of processed foodstuffs. Yet FM’s use goes beyond these analyses and parallels the sentiments that “‘chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea, and universal medicine'” (Coe & Coe, 2013: 206). While FM’s use may be a product of the historical connections of chocolate and sugar with pleasure and medicine, through the incorporation of chocolate into the entirety of the family’s diet, chocolate has been ritualized and elevated beyond the simple medicinal binary to that of a religious deity, with whom daily worship will foster inner-peace, health, and happiness in its followers. FM’s deification of chocolate retains striking parallels to the Christian description of a personal daily relationship with God, as advertised by the Bible.

A example of the cultural stigma concerning chocolate as addicitive.

F’s family’s ritual utilization of chocolate’s medicinal benefits are the product of historical polemics concerning the increase of sugar consumption, the socio-economic shift of chocolate from Mesoamerican stable to European luxury to plebian stable, and subliminally engendering advertisements (Coe & Coe, 2013). Sugar has been directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and increasing addictive behaviors, akin to drug addiction, through it’s association with pleasurable reinforcement as a reward (Benton, 2004)(Mintz, 1985). The historical shift in utilizing sugar as a preservative (Goody, 2013) directly led to the chocolate industry’s use of sugar as a stabilizing agent which also happened to increase sweetness aka. desirability, and thus “unintentionally” producing a method of engendering consumer addiction for chocolates at a early stage of industrialization (Brenner, 1999) (D’Antonio, 2006: 107) (Mintz, 1985). By keeping in context the link between sugar and addiction, the increase of sugar in chocolate opened new possibilities of advertising. Not only was chocolate now sweet, it also had been historically constructed as medicinal; it could now be produced in vast quantities previously unavailable until the industrial revolution (Brenner, 1999) (Coe & Coe, 2013). Chocolate could now be produced cheaply, containing adulterated products and sweeteners, masking the purity of the roasted cacao bean’s savory nature, and enabled new advertising strategies, informed by chocolate’s newly found socio-economic versatility (Stuckey, 2012) (Allen, 2010). These advertising campaigns have been able to pander to chocolate’s versatility in its ability to render multiple positive responses from consumers. F’s family utilization of chocolate as a restorative “cure-all” is the product of sugar’s addictive qualities, but their daily, weekly, monthly consumption of chocolate as a dietary necessity (only in the manner to which it produces a mental release of endorphins via the sugar and the Pavlovian association of chocolate with sugar) goes beyond this sweet binary to echo the mental and physical rejuvenation that religious ritual produces (Benton, 2004).

Chocolate cookies meant to imitate those taken during communion, as well as to celebrate the taking of communion. This reinforces the rewards gained upon participating in religious rituals.

Mars’ Snickers campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, Snickers Satisfies” illustrates the multi-faceted approach that the Mars company takes in its marketing (Brenner, 1999). Mars’ advertisements embody the concept of satisfaction through one of it’s original marketing strategies to simply make a larger candy bar cost the same as the competition’s small one, through the incorporation of peanuts, caramel, and nougat (the primary ingredient of two of these is sugar)(Brenner, 1999). The campaign simultaneously engenders the concept that the Snickers’ bar will satisfy the physical manifestation of hunger and that the consumption of the candy will elevate the psyche back to normalcy (Benton, 2004). This engenders the ritualization of chocolate consumption as a divine facilitator of both inner (mental) and outer (physical hunger) peace; thus similarly paralleling the act of taking communion at Catholic Mass, this advertisement reifies a foodstuff to miraculously facilitate the divine restoration of the mortal self. F’s family reflects this theological embodiment of chocolate consumption as a canonized ritual, yet this advertisement does not alone explain why the three women are so captivated by chocolate’s allure.

cacao tree maize god
The Maize god is here depicted as apart of a cacao tree (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39).

Hershey’s Dove chocolate campaign (above) has a clear agenda engendering a gender stereotype of women being the primary consumers of chocolate (Robertson, 2009). F’s family represents this as the three women (F, FS, and FM) are the primary consumers of chocolate, while FD is the primary facilitator of consumption through his production of meals and snacks that prominently incorporate chocolate. This stereotype of women as chocoholics is rooted in historical contexts and has long been debunked as an “[addiction not] to chocolate but to sugar” (Robertson, 2009) (Coe & Coe, 2013: 260) (Benton, 2004). However, no matter the scientific or psychological realities of sugar addicts (Benton, 2004), this advertisement embodies chocolate’s reconstructed relationship with divinity by directly linking the consumption of Dove chocolate with the Mesoamerican concept of deification of oneself through the consumption of divine foodstuffs: particularly in their artistic conflation of the Maize god with cacao trees (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39), and through Mayan recipes mixing maize and cacao (Tokovinine, 2015). The Maya considered all objects to be of divine embodiment (Tokovinine, 2015), particularly those containing maize, which they believed was the physical embodiment of their physical selves as they were created from sacred Maize, stated in their sacred origin text the Popul Vuh, and were also divinely given the sacred crops of maize and cacao for consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). By conflating the Maize god with a cacao pod the Mayans set a ritual precedent for the divine consumption of chocolate as enabling humanity to transcend into a divine state of epiphany. The Dove advertisement then conflates this ancient cultic practice with the more modern concept of women as the primary consumers of chocolate. Women, constructed in the advertisement as the downtrodden and oppressed gender (Bourdieu, 2001), can escape this existence through consuming chocolate and experiencing their own “moment” or existential epiphany outside of this oppression (Robertson, 2009). F’s family’s near unilaterally gender-stratified consumption of chocolate represents the religious epiphany of transcendental existence, which also reinforces the earlier discourse concerning chocolate as a parallel of Communion. Chocolate consumption now enables modern humanity to embody divinity.

Hershey furthers this gender binary of chocolate consumption through Dove’s “Only Human” advertisement campaign, which in chocolate consumption provides and escape from being female (Benton, 2004). The women are shown to be weak and “Only Human,” but Dove chocolate then provides a “real” comfort from the harsh realities of femininity (Benton, 2004). Going beyond this advertisement’s sexist engenderment, chocolate can now be associated with another of religion’s coveted abilities: the offerance of sanctuary. Chocolate makes the difficulties of human existence tolerable by offering brief sanctuaries, at the ‘moment’ of consumption, meta-physically separated from the human experience. The sanctuary that chocolate provides in these ‘moments’ parallels the sanctuary offered to praticioners of prayer, which provide a ‘moment’ with divinity meant to rejuvenate and make right the pain of a human existence. F’s family’s incorporation of chocolate into nearly all foodstuffs is now clearly representative of ritual prayers for protection from the evils and difficulties of a modern human, explicitly female, existence.

Other modes of ritual chocolate consumption are woven throughout the family’s daily lives: that of hygienic products. It has been well documented that cocoa butter, made from hydraulically pressing cacao liquor (Coe & Coe, 2013: 255), is highly effective in the treatment and prevention of various skin, and hair ailments. Placement of cocoa butter into hygienic products echoes both Baptism and the Catholic ritual of the Anointment of the Sick. Both of these religious rituals engage in a ritual purification of the body and soul. Chocolate can be religiously vindicated through the purification of the human existence, and divinely heal the physical manifestations of the human condition. Dissenters, who would disagree with this statement, are to be reminded of the Christian Science movement, whose belief in the healing power of prayer is thought to heal all physical ailments (thought to be sins’ physical manifestations), and scientific medical treatments are spurred as sinful disregard of God’s will (Norton, 1899). Thus a conflated argument to be made is that the consumption of chocolate is equal to prayer, regardless of the science behind cocoa butter’s ability to remedy topical ailments of the skin and hair. Even through dissent, contemporary chocolate consumption has reified itself as divine through F’s family’s hygienic self anointment with sacred cocoa butter.

LA Burdick
The exact type of ceramic serveware that F has at home.

Ritual can be identified easily through archaeological interpretation of material culture- that is to say, the artifacts by which rituals are carried out with. Chocolate manufacturing has built megalithic structures dedicated to the continual production of chocolate, such that entire communities sprung into existence to support its cultic fanatical production. Milton Hershey’s factory communes illustrate this quite succinctly (Brenner, 1999)(D’Antonio, 2006). Even the consumption of chocolate has ritual implements, such as: stylized porcline serveware, chocolatière, and the appropriated Mesoamerican molinillo (Martin, 2016). F’s family does not have all such ritual implements as modern technology’s updated versions of the chocolatière and molinillo (serving kettle and whisks), but they do have stylized ceramic ware for the sole consumption of chocolate, indicated by the imprinted logo of L.A. Burdick (a chocolatier company). F’s house has designated chocolate cabinets for the storage of preserved “instant” chocolate beverages, edible chocolates, and hygenic cocoa products; while this cabinet space is shared with similar items for drink, eating, and hygeine, the totality of chocolate’s combination with these other products merely increases the variety by which chocolate’s ritual artifacts are incorporated into daily life.

Chocolate’s transtitional state speaks to the originial liminal state by which the Mayans contextualized their existence around divinity. Chocolate has come full circle in the historical utilizations and perperonderances by which chocolate consumption has been stereotyped, redefined, and ritualized. Through the analysis of F and her family’s cultic ritual habits of chocolate, they are revealed to be the ultimate by-product of a centuries-long polemic that has created a new world religion focused on the ritualized production and consumption, based on an engendered, constructed faith that chocolate is divinely able to elevate the human condition out of the mire of oppression, through psychological and physical restoration of peace, harmony, happiness, and self-satisfaction.



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Creme Culling: Suicide Ideation, Pleasurable Euthenasia, and Death by Chocolate

Death by Chocolate: a phrase used by many to describe a pleasurable act of suicide. The phraseology associates infinite mountains of rich chocolate-covered delicacies with the ability to gorge upon them until the “sweet” kiss of death. In these Cadbury Crème Egg commercials, aired in the UK in the mid- to late 2000’s, the finality of a sweet death is all but denied to the beatific eggs, as their “life-goal” is to expose their goo or “guts” before their life-span (season) ends. To be certain, the Crème Egg commercials equate consumption with suicide, euthanasia, and pleasure, while my created advertisement engenders the eggs to create a life-cycle akin with Easter and Spring’s natural state.

The suicidal eggs are always shown against a white background with the implements for their destruction already at hand. All that is left for them is to remove their inhibitions (their colored foil wrapper) and to hop to their “goo”-ification. The suicidal eggs explicitly say “goo.” The slogan “Here Today, goo tomorrow” indicates that Cadbury’s Crème Egg season has a hyper-accelerated timetable (Jan 1 – April 4), as well as a subversive new ad campaign (“Crème Egg”, 2016). My advertisement attempts to create the same effect: the accelerated sales timeline, with a white background, yet no tools for destruction are present; the egg has revealed its “goo” in the form of a hatched chick, thus ending the Crème Egg season with the advent of spring.

Cadbury’s advertisement relies on several emotional responses, each of which illicit a desire to watch and enable the exposure of the “goo.” The most shallow of these emotions is humor, amplified by watching the eggs commit their “goo”-ey suicides utilizing household objects; thus they can be recreated by the consumers should they also wish to laugh at the mess. Eggs are unable to use tools or manipulate their surroundings, which elicits another emotion: compassion. The consumer, being aware of the Crème eggs’ inherent immobility, feels compelled to alleviate the eggs’ suffering (suffering from their loss of “goo”). When a consumer eats a Crème egg, they commit an act of euthanasia, a mercy killing of the egg, whose desire for death/”goo” cannot be self-satisfied (Nordqvist, 2016). The final slogan “Here Today, goo tomorrow” indicates the immediacy of the Crème eggs’ plight (“Here Today, Goo Tomorrow”), which is epitomized in the act of suicide; this engenders panic. Panic motivates consumers to gorge themselves en masse upon the Crème eggs before they lose their “goo” (and die). Joyfulness is then finally enjoyed by the egg, at death, and by the consumer, upon the facilitating of the egg’s death.

New Easter Chocolate
My original mock advertisement. The age old chicken and egg conundrum and cyclical seasons.

My advertisement creates rather than destroys the Crème egg. “Goo,” having been synonymous with death and loss, is now birth and permanence. It encompasses only those emotions which are associated with transformation and renewal. The joy felt upon the sight of the hatched chick is not the joy of immediate gratification upon consumption, but rather the acknowledgement of the time to come outside of the realm of the picture: spring is coming and winter is over, raising the hopes of consumers. This raising of hope will also bring about the realization that eggs are cyclical in nature: consumers need merely wait until the next Crème egg season to have their fill once again. The finality is not in death but in life. This renewal or resurrection can be easily paralleled with Christianity’s Easter narrative, as Christ’s Resurrection is merely days away from the end of the Cadbury Crème Egg Season (this year Easter fell on March 27) (Hillerbrand, 2015).  Spring is a time of renewal and of natural joy, not the depressive suicidal ideations of winter that Cadbury proposes. The Crème Egg season is the harkening of spring; one must wonder then, why is Cadbury romanticizing death without the possibility of a life-continuum? Another narrative inherent in my advertisement is: who came first, the chicken or the egg? Eggs by their nature are the limitless possibilities of potential life and a egg hatching is merely the propagation of cyclical existence.


The word “goo” is central to the Crème eggs’ suicidal narrative. Focus is not drawn to the chocolate coating but the “Crème” filling, which is just colored fondant without any milk product (“Crème Egg”, 2016). Crème is defined simply as a sweet liquor of a viscous nature, without the need for having dairy incorporated into the blending (“Crème”, 2016) . Yet this is not the primary reason the focus is pulled away from the chocolate and towards the crème-goo. The goo is the sweetest part of the Crème egg and thus what will ultimately produce the joy in both the egg and the consumer. The chocolate is merely a container with the sole purpose to hold the goo or “soul” of the egg until the moment of consumption. The Crème eggs say “goo” constantly to focus the viewer on the eggs’ innards (even when they have yet to be exposed) so that the explosions of “goo” seem eroticized and desired rather than horrific and traumatizing. Finally, the multitude of suicides illuminates the ideation of death and to that end, the demographic (Martin, 2016), ages 15- 35 approx., which is most drawn to suicidal ideation, would then be most drawn to these grim reapers of chocolate advertisements.

A Rowntree advert featuring Honeybunch, a young black cartoon girl featured in advertisements to white, English consumers. Photograph from:

Britain has a long history of subversive chocolate advertisement campaigns making the unerotic the erotic and the distasteful the most succulent; this is similarly illustrated by Rowntree’s Honeybunch advertisements, which attempted the removal of racial fear and replaced it with safe inter-racial interaction (Martin, 2016). Cadbury’s suicidal eggs are the symptom of the much larger food disease which grips the stomachs and minds of many food advertisement viewers and consumers. Suicidal food consumption is apart of the subversive advertising narrative that engenders sympathetic eating, dangerous overconsumption, and a finite existential nature of food. The finality of existence is a lie told through advertisements to push immediate gratification in fear of future existential ambiguity. Consumption is cyclical. Food’s final goal is not to die but to live and impart its life through the absorption of nutrients; a cyclical existence, the longue durée.

The interpretations expressed in this blog are subjective to the blogger and not necessarily the original intention of the Cadbury advertisements, for more information concerning the “original” intent see this site’s video (“Here Today, Goo Tomorrow”).



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@pickledplaice. Rowntree Honeybunch Advertisement. Digital image. WordPress. September 30, 2012. Accessed April 8, 2016.                          
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Pseudoscience, Pseudoreality, and Subjectivity in the Natural Sweetener Debate

The picture of “purity” soon to be equated with “Natural”

William Cadbury was no stranger to the influence that the media could have on a business’s image, particularly if the business was involved in unscrupulous dealings and production practices (Coe & Coe, 242-245). Control of the media and the terminology used in the media gave Cadbury a competitive advantage (Higgs, 133-165). Cadbury, like many other corporations, began hard campaigns amongst the public to discredit rivals, demand apologies for libel, and promote the supposed health and purity of their products (Satre, 13-32) (Higgs, 133-165) (Coe & Coe, 242-245). Cadbury’s subjective reconstruction of the definition of “slavery” on the Sao Tome chocolate plantations laid the framework for future strategic definition terminology manipulation when profits and business image would be effected (Satre, 1-32). The use of the media in the definition of “natural” terminology by American agro-business and their rivals follows Cadbury’s example of media manipulation (Corn Refiners Association, 2016) (Minton, 2014). Ambiguity of the FDA’s definition of “natural” and their reluctance to harden this definition has allowed special interest groups and amateur bloggers to perpetuate a culture of pseudoscience and misuse of information through multiple media outlets since the controversy first broke out (“Meaning of ‘Natural'”,2016).


Early newspapers were America’s predominant method for access to “reliable information” regarding “natural” food production.  Yet since its advent, in America, newspapers have been used to publish invalidated data and facts under loose or non-existent federal legislation concerning proper documentation and verification procedures (“Shield Law”, 2016). Since Yellow-journalism rose to prominence in the mid-1800’s, a sensationalist style of reporting became the norm in media portrayal of nearly any subject matter (Office of the Historian, 2016). This style gave a small, special interest minority the power to control information flow and access to the public (Wright & Rogers, 2010). Special interest information flow created public ignorance and enabled special interest propaganda (Wright & Rogers, 2010). Even public health was up to the discretion of the media owners, as to what they would and wouldn’t publish, particularly if they were also investors or owners of a company polluting public health (Coe & Coe, 243-245). Even the reporting of “facts” in the news is not without its consequences, as in the libel case of Cadbury Brothers Limited v. the Standard (emphasis mine); which awarded Cadbury with a legal precedent against itself being defamed, even with proper factual verification of Cadbury’s purchasing of slave produced cacao (Higgs,133-152). The problems with newspaper articles are: they lack factual verification requirements; lack peer-review processes (to catch factual or interpretation errors); cater to special interest group agendas (subjectivity through objectivity); lack source citations for the mass public to verify the facts autonomously; and professional newspapers do not speak for the public voice (even though some claim to) (Wright & Rogers, 2010).

The Lyrics in this song discuss the blinding effect that mass media has on the public.

Radio stations and broadcasts have the exact same problems as newspapers (Wright & Rogers, 2010). Radio did offer new opportunities for discourse concerning public health (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013). With radio, political debates could now be heard first-hand rather than reading second-hand (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013) (Wright & Rogers, 2010). This gave the public more agency to come to their own conclusions about public health policies (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013). Yet this unprecedented access still struggled with factual verification (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013). The public had little means by which to verify claims made by the radio or newspapers, even when made by so-called scientists (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013). Little can be known about who, what, where, and when the facts were collected or under what conditions they were analyzed. As the telephone was invented, the ability to call into radio stations and ask questions stirred up trouble for special interest groups, who had a near monopoly on information traffic (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013). Callers could now debate with the radio hosts and their guests to poke holes in arguments, and question motivations and agendas (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013). Eventually more radio stations were created and the science (or pseudoscience) became lost in hundreds of talk shows, advertisements, and music (“Radio’s Basic Problems”, 2013).

Television (1920’s) was the next medium by which information could reach the American public (Stephens, 2016). Food advertisements became misleading particularly when there were no regulations about how foods were described (“Meaning of ‘Natural'”, 2016). All “natural” ingredients and public polling engendered a level of trust in brand  names and terminology (Coe & Coe, 242-245) (Stephens, 2016). Companies could claim that ingredients were “natural” in-name-only; the origin of some of the ingredients were a company secret (Coca-Cola), or they were simply synthetically produced from genetically modified foodstuffs (which are “natural” as they are “biologically” produced) (“Vault of the Secret Formula”, 2016). News shows use even looser fact verification in the interest of being the first to cover a story (Mortensen, 2011) (“Definition of News Ticker in English”, 2016). Television also enabled non-news television shows to air, which garnered a larger audience (Stephens, 2016). These shows could often have “natural” subtext that could indicate a writer’s, often satirical, attempt to inform their viewers of a new factoid (Stephens, 2016). Yet even these subtextual shows were not without censorship, from private entities not wanting to be slandered or special interest groups that would pull financial support from shows that could pull focus away from their agendas (Number, 2010).

Please start video at 1:14.


The Internet (1960’s) was not initially of much use to anyone until the 1990’s and the invention of the World Wide Web (Andrews, 2013). This new form of information enabled special interest groups to reach straight into the homes of Americans (Andrews, 2013). The combination of newspapers, radio, and television accessibility through the internet created a storm of pseudoscientific articles which in-kind created hosts of new special interest groups to lobby against them with their own pseudoscientific articles (“Bonvie, 2014) (“Corn Syrup”, 2016). Social-media and multi-media sites enabled any American with internet access to engage with all this information (Leiter, 2006). Blogs became a major outlet for individuals to expression opinions and attempt to

This picture is a subject of much controversy after lawsuits were settled about subversive labeling.

root them in “fact”(Leiter, 2006) The pro/con High Fructose Corn Syrup debate has raged throughout blogs with claims that it is “natural” or un-natural, citing equally unverified pseudoscientific research whilst largely ignoring empirical academic scholarship (Landa, 2012) (Barrett, 2014) (Leiter, 2006). Even sites such as Consumer Reports have documented the mass “natural” definition confusion (Consumer, 2014) (Collins, 2014). Blogging constitutes the most dangerous form of unregulated pseudoscience. Facebook debates and Twitter outbursts on the definition of “natural” are often uncited (Leiter, 2006).


The “natural” debate has polarized the food industry and perpetuated ignorance of the dictionary definition (Leiter, 2006). The FDA refuses to define “natural,” which would obligate the government to enforce it (U.S.F.D.A., 2016). Agro-business lobbies against a definition since they constantly attempt to get negatively stigmatized, “un-natural” ingredients relabeled to disguise themselves again as “natural”(Landa, 2012). Even the opposite special interest groups have an economic bone to pick, especially if they invest in farms/businesses that already cater to their “natural” definition (Settlement Agreement, 2016).

“Natural” must be defined by the FDA in order to maintain a health standard across America (“‘Natural’ on Food”,2015). Until the FDA officially recognizes “natural” foodstuffs by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition, all subsequent constructions of “natural” are all equally subjective (Natural, 2015) (Leiter, 2006). The public must consider all possible sources and biases when contact with any information is made, even when it comes from a “credible” source (Leiter, 2006).


“About High Fructose Corn Syrup – Corn Refiners Association.” 2016. Corn Refiners Association. Corn Refiners Association.

Andrews, Evan. 2013. “Who Invented the Internet?” History.Com. A&E Television Networks. December 18.

Barrett, Mike. 2014. “Mega-Corp Using GMO Ingredients Forced To Drop ‘100% Natural’ Labels.” Natural Society. Natural Society. November 25.

Bonvie, Linda. 2014. “New Research on Drinks Finds Super High Fructose Levels | Food Identity Theft.” Food Identity Theft RSS. Citizens for Health. June 10.

Cadbury Advertisment. 2015.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2013. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Collins, Sam P.K. 2014. “General Mills Will Stop Marketing Synthetic Products As ‘Natural’ To Make Them Appear Healthier.” ThinkProgress RSS. Center for American Progress Action Fund. November 19.

Consumer. 2014. “Food Labels Survey.” C ONSUMER R EPORTS ® N ATIONAL R ESEARCH C ENTER: 1–23.

“Definition Of News Tickers in English.” 2016. Accessed March 11.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. 2016. “Shield Law.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. “Cadbury, Burtt, And Protuguese Africa.” Essay. In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, 133–165. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

“History Of Television – Mitchell Stephens.” 2016. Nyu.Edu. New York University. Accessed March 11.

Kripke, Erik, Andrew Dabb, Daniel Loflin, and Guy Norman Bee. 2012. “Supernatural Season 7 Episode 22.” Episode. Supernatural. The CW.

Landa, Michael M. 2015. “Response To Petition from Corn Refiners Association to Authorize ‘Corn Sugar’ as an Alternate Common or Usual Name for High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).” U.S. Food And Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. June 23.

Leiter, Brian. 2006. “Why Blogs Are Bad for Legal Scholarship.” The Yale Law Journal 116.

Minton, Barbara. 2014. “Corporations Have Renamed ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup’.” Natural Society. Natural Society. December 10.

Mortensen, Mette. 2011. “When Citizen Photojournalism Sets the News Agenda: Neda Agha Soltan as a Web 2.0 Icon of Post-Election Unrest in Iran.” Global Media And Communication 7 (1): 4–16. doi:10.1177/1742766510397936.

“Natural.” 2015. Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster.

“‘Natural’ On Food Labeling.” 2015. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. November 12.

Number, Prime. 2010. “Comedy Central Pulled South Park Episode ‘201’ Off The Air Amidst Controversy.” 37prime.News. 37primenews. April 23.

Satre, Lowell J. 2005. Chocolate On Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

“Settlement Agreement.” 2016: 1–16. Accessed March 11.

“System Of A Down – Hypnotize.” 2009. YouTube. Vevo. October 2.

“U.S. Diplomacy And Yellow Journalism, 1895–1898 – 1866–1898 – Milestones – Office of the Historian.” 2016. Office Of the Historian. U.S. Department of State.

Vanilla Chex Nutrition Information. 2015.

“Vault Of the Secret Formula.” 2016. World Of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola.

“What Are Radio’s Basic Problems And Future Prospects?” 2013. American Historical Association. American Historical Association.

“What Is the Meaning of ‘Natural’ on the Label of Food?” 2016. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. March 4.

Wright, Erik Olin, and Joel Rogers. 2011. “Democracy And Corporate Media.” Essay. In American Society: How It Really Works. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.–%20the%20media%20–%20norton%20august.pdf.

Bringing Back the Stone Age: A Brief History of the Metate and the Effects on Contemporary Artisanal Food Culture


Metate: This image illustrates the complexity of metate carvings.

Indigenous Mesoamericans kneel down holding a long stone with a slight curve formed to conform to the large stone slab set beneath them, grinding what looks like dark brown mud into an ever more viscous puree (Presilla 26). The above illustration elicits a picturesque, idealized metate-ground production of chocolate liquor in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. In the relatively brief period in which Europeans had managed to wrest control of Theobroma cacao and similar species from the indigenous Mesoamericans, the use and production of metates spread across the globe for the purpose of chocolate liquor production (Presilla, Coe & Coe). The manufacturing of chocolate from pod to drink or food has seen three separate ideological, social, and economical revolutions (Presilla, Coe & Coe). These revolutions have directly related to a particular processing point of the cacao bean: the grinding of the shelled cacao beans in to a viscous paste on a metate (Presilla 26). The metate stone-grinding process has come full circle from the ancient processing method to the now passé idealized food production and processing movement, symbolizing personal and environmental wellbeing (Ray 190-191, Chin et al).

metate is being used here to illustrate the rough and gritty beginnings of chocolate liquor.

The metate, a heated stone slab on which roasted, crushed cacao beans were ground into the basic form of chocolate liquor is the foundation upon which most Mesoamerican foodstuffs were processed (Presilla 26). Grinding slabs (metates) and pestles (manos) have a complex history throughout the world in nearly every culture as the basic implements for food processing (Ray 190-191). The preliminary diacritical marker of most modern Mexican metates over that of ‘generic’ grinding slabs is that of its aesthetic composition: “three legs, two in front and one behind” (Aschmann 683). Not only are metates created for utility but also can be decorated; with the advent of modern oil based paints, the metate maker can decorate easily, otherwise he/she would be confronted with the arduous task of chiseling (Cook 1499). This represents a division of appeal in which undecorated metates have wider appeal amongst rural households and/or low income, often gender stratified, households in which the homestead grinding of foodstuffs is seen as more productive than working in a capitalist economy (Cook, “Price and Output”); (Cook, “Stone Tools” 1499). Those metates which are painted or elaborately decorated would be for higher income households/individuals who have income and time available for the artisanal and ritual production of traditional indigenous foods (Preston-Werner).

This latter group of individuals who attempt to embody the traditional indigenous production of food have done so in response to the capitalist industrial mass market economy focused on inexpensive production and uniformity of poor quality foodstuffs particularly those involving cacao (Coe & Coe 233). In “Comparison of antioxidant activity and flavanol content of cacao beans processed by modern and traditional Mesoamerican methods,” an article by Elizabeth Chin…et al, they discovered that the cacao beans of original origin and production in Mesoamerica, particularly washed (lavado) unfermented beans have near double the antioxidants of the Ivory Coast fermented cacao beans, which are popularly used by Hershey (5-6). Ancient Mesoamerican people would have imbibed these higher antioxidant rich cacao products because of local environmental factors which increased the appeal of washed and relatively unfermented cacao beans (Chin et al 6). For further illustration see graph.

Metate carvers are polishing the edges.

“The craftsman, however, would not consider leaving the shady date groves of Comondú for an ugly, hot, dusty mining camp merely to double his income. Likewise there is no attempt to sell at the highest price the traffic will bear. The poor ranchero who comes to town on a burro to buy a metate once in 15 years will get it at the same price as the jobber who guarantees to take entire unsold surplus. The former even receives favored treatment, and will get the first metate made, even though the jobber is ready to haul it to Santa Rosalia that very day. The craftsman gets a satisfaction from putting his product directly in the hands of the consumer.” (686)



The metate signifies how ancient Mesoamerican tools of food processing continue to shape modern socio-economic and cultural perceptions of artisanal chocolate confectioners.

This chocolate claims on its packaging to be stone-ground indicating a niche market in which artisanal chocolatiers utilizing metates are able to capitalize.


Artisan Crafted Metate Sculpture of Pre-Hispanic Blue Iguana, ‘Turquoise Iguana’ 2016. Novica. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Aschmann, Homer. “A Metate Maker of Baja, California.” American Anthropologist 51.4 (1949): 682-86. Anthrosource. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Ceronne. 2010. Flickr. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Chin, Elizabeth, Kenneth B. Miller, Mark J. Payne, W. Jeffery Hurst, and David A. Stuart. “Comparison of Antioxidant Activity and Flavanol Content of Cacao Beans Processed by Modern and Traditional Mesoamerican Methods.” Heritage Science 1.1 (2013): 1-7. SpringerOpen. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

Cook, Scott. “Price and Output Variability in a Peasant-Artisan Stoneworking Industry in Oaxaca, Mexico: An Analytical Essay in Economic Anthropology.” American Anthropologist 72.4 (1970): 776-801. AnthroSource. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Cook, Scott. “Stone Tools for Steel-Age Mexicans? Aspects of Production in a Zapotec Stoneworking Industry.” American Anthropologist 75.5 (1973): 1485-503. AnthroSource. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Flying Panel Metate. 1986. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

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

Preston-Werner, Theresa. “4 Breaking Down Binaries: Gender, Art, and Tools in Ancient Costa Rica.” Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 18.1 (2008): 49-59. AnthroSource. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Ray, Cyrus N. “Was the American Mano and Metate an Invention Made during Pleistocene Time?” Science 91.2356 (1940): 190-91. JSTOR. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Taza 85% Super Dark Mexican Style Stone Ground Chocolate Organic – 77g Disk Dated 22/12/15. 2015. The Stateside Candy Co. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Terrio, Susan J. “Bibliography Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate.” Food and Foodways 10.1-2 (2002): 79-95. RoutledgeTaylor&FrancisOnline. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.