All posts by 2017e141

Monocrops, Poverty, and The Ethical Shortcomings of Global Capitalism

Julia Naumowicz

10 May 2017

Chocolate, Culture, and The Politics of Food

Monocrops, Poverty, and The Ethical Shortcomings of Global Capitalism

When Christopher Columbus first sailed west to find a new passage to India, it was by design that the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria were to instead take harbor in South America.  Columbus’s goal was to circumvent the Silk Road, which was an ancient network of trade routes connecting the whole of the Asian continent to Europe and Africa[1].

The Silk Road of Columbus’ era

By forging a direct naval route, Columbus hoped to secure for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of what is now Spain access to the means of producing and trading goods that had been cut off to Europe by the Ottoman Empire.  Instead, Columbus, and subsequent Conquistadores, returned to Spain with cargo holds stuffed with new and exotic plants, animals, and people.  It was not until after Columbus’s voyage that the value of cacao to the Indigenous Americans was revealed, and it would be nearly one hundred years before cacao became commonplace in the Western world.

The phenomenon of chocolate, as first a religious elixir, then transported to Europe as a medicine before becoming a widespread delicacy of the European aristocracy, is one of strange dichotomies.  As mentioned above, the French aristocracy kept a special place on their banquet tables for small chocolate statues or chocolate served in quaint moulds, and the Italians were renowned for their love of chocolate in their cooking, as evidenced by pappardelle and chocolate polenta which was popular in the eighteenth century.[2]  (Ironically, however, it was in the chocolate houses of the 1600s, turned coffee houses by the reign of Louis XVI, which became the gathering places of the overworked proletariat who overthrew the French aristocracy in 1789.)  With the Industrial Revolution came newer and less costly technologies for preparing chocolate, and by the mid nineteenth century the chocolate bar was born.

But it is with cacao as a monocrop that the phenomenon of global capitalism can be analyzed in its entirety within a single industry.  From its role as a religious elixir and a beverage specifically preserved for the Mayan and Aztec elite to an ordinary Hershey bar, the evolution of cacao as a cash crop exemplifies the collaborative nature of Imperialism and Capitalism as well as it places in stark contrast the realities of global poverty.

Cacao is a notoriously difficult plant to grow.  According to Michael Coe, co-author of The True History of Chocolate:

… With very few exceptions, it refuses to bear fruit outside of a band of 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the Equator.  Nor is it happy within this band of the tropics if the altitude is so high as to result in temperatures that fall below 60℉ or 16℃.  If the climate is one with a pronounced dry season, irrigation is a necessity, for cacao demands year-round moisture; if it does not get it, it sheds its otherwise evergreen leaves in a protest that is described as looking like autumn in New England.  Poor growing conditions make it even more susceptible than it normally is to the multitude of diseases which attack it, including pod rots, wilts, and fungus-produced, extraneous growths called “witches’ brooms.”  Squirrels, monkeys, and rats steal the pods to enjoy the pleasant-tasting white pulp which envelops the seeds that they contain, but they avoid the bitter-tasting seeds themselves (although they may disseminate them)[3].

 

This is an extremely narrow band of growing conditions, which means in turn an extremely narrow band of countries and regions capable of cultivating the cacao tree.

Côte d’Ivoire is one such nation in which cacao can be cultivated, and it has been a world leader in cacao production since the 1970s.  Originally a French colony, the small African nation declared independence under the leadership of Félix Houphouët-Boigny.  In the 1960s, Houphouët-Boigny made the famous speech in which he guaranteed that “… he would turn the jungle into an Eden, and that everyone who lived there would enjoy the fruits of their own labor.”[4]  It was by creating and cultivating huge cacao plantations that Côte d’Ivoire fueled its economy, and, after his death in 1993, it was cacao which has caused the greatest turmoil in the small African nation.  By 1998, the trafficking of children to the cacao farms of Côte d’Ivoire was an international story.[5]

Despite public outcry in the United States in the early 2000s, the public quickly forgot why they were angry in the first place, and the Harkin-Engel Protocol was written up by large chocolate corporations and the congressmen who are in their pockets.  According to Slave Free Chocolate, a non-governmental organization that campaigns to end child slavery in the cocoa industry, which directly quotes Wikipedia on their website, the Harkin-Engel Protocol covers six major points:

The parties agreed to a six-article plan:

  1. Public statement of the need for and terms of an action plan—The cocoa industry acknowledged the problem of forced child labor and will commit “significant resources” to address the problem.
  2. Formation of multi-sectoral advisory groups—By 1 October 2001, an advisory group will be formed to research labor practices. By 1 December 2001, industry will form an advisory group and formulate appropriate remedies to address the worst forms of child labor.
  3. Signed joint statement on child labor to be witnessed at the ILO—By 1 December 2001, a statement must be made recognizing the need to end the worst forms of child labor and identify developmental alternatives for the children removed from labor.
  4. Memorandum of cooperation—By 1 May 2002, Establish a joint action program of research, information exchange, and action to enforce standards to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Establish a monitor and compliance with the standards.
  5. Establish a joint foundation—By 1 July 2002, industry will form a foundation to oversee efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. It will perform field projects and be a clearinghouse on best practices.
  6. Building toward credible standards—By 1 July 2005, the industry will develop and implement industry-wide standards of public certification that cocoa has been grown without any of the worst forms of child labor.[6]

 

Thus the actual problem of child slavery and widespread poverty in West Africa was able to be completely ignored.  So long as corporations could squirm their way into the vague definition of “certifying that cocoa has been grown without any of the worst forms of child labor”, whether or not children should have to work at all was seemingly not up for debate.

As of 2015, the Gross Domestic Product of the United States was 1.3 trillion dollars.  That is, $1,300,000,000,000.  From the website Brain Decoder , “Now, can you imagine how [much money] that is? Probably not. The way our brains are set up, truly understanding that vast a number is pretty much impossible.

‘Our cognitive systems are very much tied to our perceptions,” said Daniel Ansari, a researcher at the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at Western University in Canada. “The main obstacle is that we’re dealing with numbers that are too large for us to have experienced perceptually.’”[7]

So, for our reference, here is a handy infographic:

What this is to highlight is that $1.3 trillion is an unimaginably large number.  In reality it is a number that only exists in computers, because there has never been 1.3 trillion of anything large enough for the human eye to count in one place.  There are nearly one-hundred seventy-three times more dollars just in the United States than there are humans in the world as of 2017, and none of it has an actual value.[8]

For some more mind-bogglingly large numbers, There are more than 2.3 million documented homeless children in the United States as of 2014, and that number can only have gotten larger in the subsequent years.[9]  795 million people in the world live without enough food to eat.[10]

The Gross Domestic Product per capita as of 2015 in Côte d’Ivoire is $1,398.69, and trailing far behind it are neighboring Mali ($744.35) and Burkina Faso ($613.04).  Comparatively, the GDP per capita in the United States is $55,836.79.

((NOTE: The difference between these four countries’ GDP per capita is so staggering that in order to show the reader what the GDP per capita for Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso are the United States initially had to be omitted entirely.))

To put that into perspective, the average Ivorian is expected to survive on what the average American makes in a little over a week.

It is difficult to fathom, then, how cocoa sells for roughly one dollar per pound,[11]  and the average chocolate bar costs about one dollar,[12] how Michele Buck, CEO of Hershey Corporation as of March 2017, can justify making almost ten million dollars11  every year from the profit of chocolate sales.  In the same country where one in five children goes without food, we waste 165 billion dollars—or 133 billion pounds—of food each year, and often grocery stores purposely sabotage their products or lock their dumpsters so that starving people with no money are unable to take their garbage.  (In fact, as of 2016 France is the only country in the world that has written a law to prevent grocery stores from wasting food in such a fashion[13].)

It is difficult, when viewed from a rational perspective, to truly understand why it is that there are people dying from lack of a high enough number attached to their name.  It is confusing that for every homeless person in the United States there are about five homes standing empty[14], because someone doesn’t have a high enough number to have adequately “earned” the privilege of having shelter, which is a human necessity[15].  It is difficult to fathom how, when every human needs water and food to live, we have devised a system where in order to survive one must prove that they deserve the opportunity to not starve to death by producing valueless numbers for other people who have higher numbers attached to their names.  It is difficult for this writer to understand how, in a world of driverless automobiles and a medical cure for Hepatitis C at our fingertips, there are children who have been bought and sold to produce a food item that they will never in their lives get the chance to taste.

 

 

Works Cited

[1] http://www.ancient.eu/Silk_Road/

[2] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “Chocolate in the Age of Reason.” The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 218-19. Print.

[3] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The Tree of the Food of the Gods.” The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 19. Print.

[4] Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate. St Lucia, Qld.: U of Queensland, 2008. 4. Print.

[5] Off, Carol. “The Disposables.” Bitter Chocolate. St Lucia, Qld.: U of Queensland, 2008. 130-31. Print.

[6] “Iii.d.8 Ilo Convention (No 182) Concerning The Prohibition And Immediate Elimination Of The Worst Forms Of Child Labour.” International Law & World Order: Weston’s & Carlson’s Basic Documents (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

[7] Baggaley, Kate. “Why We Can’t Grasp Very Large Numbers.” Braindecoder. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[8] “Lexicon.” Fiat Money Definition from Financial Times Lexicon. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[9] Business. “One in 30 American Children Is Homeless, Report Says.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 May 2017.

[10] “Know Your World: Facts About World Hunger & Poverty.” The Hunger Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[11] “Cocoa Futures End of Day Settlement Price.” Cocoa Beans – Daily Price – Commodity Prices – Price Charts, Data, and News – IndexMundi. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[12]  “U.S. Candy and Chocolate Average Price by Segment, 2016 L Statistic.” Statista. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[13] Dvorsky, George. “Why the US May Never Pass a Food Waste Law Like France.” Gizmodo. Gizmodo.com, 05 Feb. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017.

[14] Desk, MintPress News. “Empty Homes Outnumber The Homeless 6 To 1, So Why Not Give Them Homes?” MintPress News. N.p., 02 July 2015. Web. 16 May 2017.

[15] “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 May 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.

[16] The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry. YouTube, n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

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Chocolate as Food

 

Julia Naumowicz

08 March, 2017

Nicholas Paskert

Chocolate, Culture, and The Politics of Food

The Discovery of Chocolate as Used in Food in Ancient Mesoamerica

Of all the discoveries in the New World, the one that has seen the most monumental influence over the development of the Americas as well as Europe and the rest of the world has been the cacao tree. Theobroma cacao, the scientific name for the cacao tree, is a very exacting plant that requires the most specific growing conditions, found originally only in a very small part of equatorial South America but rediscovered in certain regions of Africa for the purpose of large cacao plantations. The effort that goes into cultivating cacao lends to its value as a unit of currency in the ancient world. When Christopher Columbus wrote during his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, he made note of an encounter with a native tribe of indigenous Americans in a large dugout canoe. In this entry he describes the contents of the longboat, including “many of those almonds which in New Spain [Mexico] are used for money(Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. p109. Print.).” He mentioned the natives’ reverence for these “almonds”, remarking that “when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen(109).” It can be noted that Columbus was not aware of the existence of cacao itself, as he refers to them in his memoirs as almonds.

When Carl von Linné coined the scientific name for the cacao tree in 1753, more than two hundred years after the discovery both of the cacao tree and of the Mesoamerican civilizations which cultivated it, he settled on Theobroma cacao. Theobroma is Greek, meaning The Food of the Gods, mentioned in religious carvings dating back to the Olmecs (Coe 39). Still, it was believed in the anthropological community for decades that the classic Maya and Aztecs did not use cacao as food. The general perspective by historians regarding the ancient Mesoamerican attitude towards cacao was that the bitter bean was too valuable to be eaten by common folk. It was a special luxury and a symbol of wealthy extravagance, cherished by the noble class as well as warriors and the traveling merchants of the Aztec empire, who would frequently be met with violence on the road due to the value of their cargo and so were considered somewhat of a class of warriors themselves (Coe 98).

The mendicant Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún recorded the preparation of cacao water, or cacahuatl, in his General History of The Things of New Spain, an encyclopedia written partly in Nahuatl, the native language of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, and partly in Spanish. The drink is typically roasted cacao nibs that are finely ground in a metate, or grinding stone, mixed with ground maize, then stirred into water; the chocolate seller would then stand upright and pour the cacao water from one vessel to another, gradually producing a bubbling froth. At the same time cacao would be ground up with maize and

other seeds, then compressed into a thin wafer that would be put in Aztec soldiers’ food rations (98).

After the Spanish conquest of the New World, beginning in Central America and spreading both north and south, the use of so-called “new world” spices, such as allspice and vanilla, were being introduced to common Old World spices such as black pepper and basil in creative new culinary inventions. The most popular of this is the mole sauce, a rich marriage of savory and sweet with a signature heat that pairs well with most meats and other savory dishes. Much like the meztiso people who were originally credited with inventing this sauce, the mole is considered to be the first blend of Spanish and Nahuatl customs into a new culture of itself. For decades academics believed that it was the meztiso population of the newly established state of Mexico that first mixed cacao with food, however new studies have proven that cacao was eaten as part of dishes as early as 450 CE (Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. p15. Print.).

During an excavation of the Copan ruins in Honduras in 2009, researchers Cameron McNeil and Jeffrey Hurst discovered traces of theobromine in a vessel containing capsaicin, the chemical marker for capsicum peppers, and turkey bones. Theobromine was also found on a dish that had once held tamales, found in the same site (15).

Before McNeil and Hurst made their discovery, it was believed by anthropologists that cacao drinks were specifically marked by a certain set of hieroglyphs, called the Primary Standard Sequence.

It has been long established that the presence of the Primary Standard Sequence would indicate the presence of cacao in a drinking vessel, because the drinking of cacao water, or cacahuatl, was a sacred rite reserved for the Aztec elite as well as those soon to be sacrificed. The Primary Standard Sequence is a formula of Classic or at times post-Classic Mayan hieroglyphs, the first few pictures describe the shape of the vessel and dedicating the vessel itself, either to a patron or to the gods, then the middle of the Sequence describes the contents of the vessel, and the final few glyphs were a series of noble titles (Coe, p45). It was David Stuart, an expert on Mayan hieroglyphics, who discovered that the symbol in Classic and post-Classic Mayan for cacao was a fin or comb and a fish, with the comb indicating ka-, which, combined with the fin of the fish beside it, becomes kaka- with the symbol for –w following it (45) When the Primary Standard Sequence was identified, only then was a drinking vessel or liquid storage vessel sent off for chemical testing. The presence of theobromine, an alkaloid closely related to caffeine, would determine whether or not cacao was drunk out of a particular vessel. With McNeil and Hurst’s discovery, more and more items are being tested for cacao residue (Presilla 15).

In the modern world, cacao is most commonly consumed in the form of sweetened chocolate bars, mixed with palm oil rather than cocoa butter in order to maximize profits. When it comes to savory dishes, the mole sauces enjoyed by Mexico’s ancestors has remained largely unchanged, but there are also subtle regional variations as well as personal touches which vary from household to household.

The first recipe which will be explored has been found was told to Sahagún in this manner, speaking of the cacahuatl sellers in the streets:

She grinds cacao [beans]; she crushes, breaks, pulverizes them. She chooses, selects, separates them. She drenches, soaks, steeps them. She adds water, sparingly, conservatively; aerates it, filters it, strains it, pours it back and forth, aerates it; she makes it form a head, makes foam; she removes the head, makes it thicken, make it dry, pours water into it, stirs water into it (Coe 98).

Well-made cacahuatl was cherished by the upper class, who would serve it at parties. At times it would be mixed with other spices, such as vanilla or black pepper, or the ever popular chipotle chili.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “How The Aztecs Made Chocolate.” The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 84. Print.

The first mole sauce to be presented is the reimagination of the turkey dish in which McNeil and Hurst first discovered cacao’s use as an ingredient in Mayan cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 9 ancho chiles (4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
  • 11 pasilla chiles (4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
  • 12 mulato chiles (4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
  • 1 large white onion, unpeeled
  • 1 medium head of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 (one inch) stick true cinnamon (soft Ceylon cinnamon, sold as canela in Hispanic markets)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon aniseed
  • 1 medium-sized corn tortilla
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) dry-roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) blanched sliced almonds
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) hulled green pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) sesame seeds
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil from Arbequina olives or freshly rendered lard
  • 1 medium-sized ripe plantain, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • cup (about 2 ounces) pitted prunes
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) dark raisins
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, preferably El Rey Bucare (58.5% cacao), Askinosie Soconusco (75% cacao), an artisanal Mexican chocolate, or Ibarra brand table chocolate
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup (about 2 ounces) grated Latin American brown loaf sugar (piloncillo), muscovado sugar, or packed dark brown sugar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Well-flavored chicken broth

To roast the chiles

Wipe [the chiles] clean with a damp cloth. Heat a large griddle, comal, or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Dry-roast the chiles on the griddle in about 6 batches, allowing about 1 minute on each side and pressing them down with a spatula. Transfer them to a large bowl as they are done; cover with about 4 cups warm water and leave them to soak for about 20 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the soaking liquid

For the rest of the sauce

Dry-roast the onion and the whole head of garlic on the griddle, stirring occasionally, until blackened and blistered, about 8 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Lightly dry-roast the cinnamon, black peppercorns, and aniseed (do not scorch). Frind them to a fine powder om a spice mill or a coffee mill and set aside.

Lightly toast the tortilla on the griddle, allowing about 30 seconds per sidel set aside. Dry-roast the peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, stirring or shaking the griddle, for about 1 minute. Set aside in a small bowl. Toast the sesame seeds for about 30 seconds, stirring or shaking the griddle; scrape out into the same bowl. When cool, finely grind the nuts, seeds, and tortilla in a food processor.

Heat the lard in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the plantain slices and sauté until golden brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels; set aside the skillet with the fat.

Peel the cooled onion and garlic, chop the onion coarsely, and set aside. Combine all of the roasted ingredients, plantain slices, prunes, and raisins in a large bowl or pot with the reserved chile soaking liquid. Working in 3 or more batches, process the mixture in a blender or food processor to make a purée, adding more chile soaking liquid as needed if the mixture is too thick to process easily. Repeat until all has been processed.

Heat the preserved olive oil or lard in the skillet over medium heat until fragrant. When it ripples, as the purée and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

If you are planning to use the paste immediately, dilute it by stirring in chicken broth until it is the consistency of thin tomato sauce. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but the consistency will be much silkier if you fore the thinned mixture through a fine-mesh sieve by pushing with a wooden spoon. If you are not using it immediately, cool the mole paste to room temperature, transfer to storafe containers, and pour a thin film of melted lard over the surface to help keep it from spoiling. Seal tightly and store it in a cool place or the refrigerator. It will keep well for several months.

  • “Xalapa-Style Mole (Mole Xalapeño).” The New Taste of Chocolate. Maricel E. Presilla. 193-95. Print.

Below is a video found on YouTube of a modern Steak with Chocolate recipe, found on the Phantom Gourmet’s channel:

Chocolate as Food in Mesoamerica

Julia Naumowicz

08 March, 2017

Nicholas Paskert

Chocolate, Culture, and The Politics of Food

The Discovery of Chocolate as Used in Food in Ancient Mesoamerica

Of all the discoveries in the New World, the one that has seen the most monumental influence over the development of the Americas as well as Europe and the rest of the world has been the cacao tree. Theobroma cacao, the scientific name for the cacao tree, is a very exacting plant that requires the most specific growing conditions, found originally only in a very small part of equatorial South America but rediscovered in certain regions of Africa for the purpose of large cacao plantations. The effort that goes into cultivating cacao lends to its value as a unit of currency in the ancient world. When Christopher Columbus wrote during his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, he made note of an encounter with a native tribe of indigenous Americans in a large dugout canoe. In this entry he describes the contents of the longboat, including “many of those almonds which in New Spain [Mexico] are used for money(Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. p109. Print.).” He mentioned the natives’ reverence for these “almonds”, remarking that “when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen(109).” It can be noted that Columbus was not aware of the existence of cacao itself, as he refers to them in his memoirs as almonds.

When Carl von Linné coined the scientific name for the cacao tree in 1753, more than two hundred years after the discovery both of the cacao tree and of the Mesoamerican civilizations which cultivated it, he settled on Theobroma cacao. Theobroma is Greek, meaning The Food of the Gods, mentioned in religious carvings dating back to the Olmecs (Coe 39). Still, it was believed in the anthropological community for decades that the classic Maya and Aztecs did not use cacao as food. The general perspective by historians regarding the ancient Mesoamerican attitude towards cacao was that the bitter bean was too valuable to be eaten by common folk. It was a special luxury and a symbol of wealthy extravagance, cherished by the noble class as well as warriors and the traveling merchants of the Aztec empire, who would frequently be met with violence on the road due to the value of their cargo and so were considered somewhat of a class of warriors themselves (Coe 98).

The mendicant Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún recorded the preparation of cacao water, or cacahuatl, in his General History of The Things of New Spain, an encyclopedia written partly in Nahuatl, the native language of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, and partly in Spanish. The drink is typically roasted cacao nibs that are finely ground in a metate, or grinding stone, mixed with ground maize, then stirred into water; the chocolate seller would then stand upright and pour the cacao water from one vessel to another, gradually producing a bubbling froth. At the same time cacao would be ground up with maize and other seeds, then compressed into a thin wafer that would be put in Aztec soldiers’ food rations (98).

After the Spanish conquest of the New World, beginning in Central America and spreading both north and south, the use of so-called “new world” spices, such as allspice and vanilla, were being introduced to common Old World spices such as black pepper and basil in creative new culinary inventions. The most popular of this is the mole sauce, a rich marriage of savory and sweet with a signature heat that pairs well with most meats and other savory dishes. Much like the meztiso people who were originally credited with inventing this sauce, the mole is considered to be the first blend of Spanish and Nahuatl customs into a new culture of itself. For decades academics believed that it was the meztiso population of the newly established state of Mexico that first mixed cacao with food, however new studies have proven that cacao was eaten as part of dishes as early as 450 CE (Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. p15. Print.).

During an excavation of the Copan ruins in Honduras in 2009, researchers Cameron McNeil and Jeffrey Hurst discovered traces of theobromine in a vessel containing capsaicin, the chemical marker for capsicum peppers, and turkey bones. Theobromine was also found on a dish that had once held tamales, found in the same site (15).

Before McNeil and Hurst made their discovery, it was believed by anthropologists that cacao drinks were specifically marked by a certain set of hieroglyphs, called the Primary Standard Sequence.6168271

It has been long established that the presence of the Primary Standard Sequence would indicate the presence of cacao in a drinking vessel, because the drinking of cacao water, or cacahuatl, was a sacred rite reserved for the Aztec elite as well as those soon to be sacrificed. The Primary Standard Sequence is a formula of Classic or at times post-Classic Mayan hieroglyphs, the first few pictures describe the shape of the vessel and dedicating the vessel itself, either to a
patron or to the gods, then the middle of the Sequence describes the contents of the vessel, and the final few glyphs were a series of noble titles (Coe, p45). It was David Stuart, an expert on Mayan hieroglyphics, who discovered that the symbol in Classic and post-Classic Mayan for cacao was a fin or comb and a fish, with the comb indicating ka-, which, combined with the fin of the fish beside it, becomes kaka- with the symbol for –following it (45) When the Primary Standard Sequence was identified, only then was a drinking 688_02_2vessel or liquid storage vessel sent off for chemical testing. The presence of theobromine, an alkaloid closely related to caffeine, would determine whether or not cacao was drunk out of a particular vessel. With McNeil and Hurst’s discovery, more and more items are being tested for cacao residue (Presilla 15).

In the modern world, cacao is most commonly consumed in the form of sweetened chocolate bars, mixed with palm oil rather than cocoa butter in order to maximize profits. When it comes to savory dishes, the mole sauces enjoyed by Mexico’s ancestors has remained largely unchanged, but there are also subtle regional variations as well as personal touches which vary from household to household.

The first recipe which will be explored has been found was told to Sahagún in this manner, speaking of the cacahuatl sellers in the streets:

She grinds cacao [beans]; she crushes, breaks, pulverizes them. She chooses, selects, separates them. She drenches, soaks, steeps them. She adds water, sparingly, conservatively; aerates it, filters it, strains it, pours it back and forth, aerates it; she makes it form a head, makes foam; she removes the head, makes it thicken, make it dry, pours water into it, stirs water into it (Coe 98)

.132_01_2

Well-made cacahuatl was cherished by the upper class, who would serve it at parties. At times it would be mixed with other spices, such as vanilla or black pepper, or the ever popular chipotle chili.

-Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “How The Aztecs Made Chocolate.” The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 84. Print.

The first mole sauce to be presented is the reimagination of the turkey dish in which McNeil and Hurst first discovered cacao’s use as an ingredient in Mayan cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 9 ancho chiles (4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
  • 11 pasilla chiles (4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
  • 12 mulato chiles (4 ounces), stemmed and seeded
  • 1 large white onion, unpeeled
  • 1 medium head of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 (one inch) stick true cinnamon (soft Ceylon cinnamon, sold as canela in Hispanic markets)
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon aniseed
  • 1 medium-sized corn tortilla
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) dry-roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) blanched sliced almonds
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) hulled green pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) sesame seeds
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil from Arbequina olives or freshly rendered lard
  • 1 medium-sized ripe plantain, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • ⅓ cup (about 2 ounces) pitted prunes
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) dark raisins
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, preferably El Rey Bucare (58.5% cacao), Askinosie Soconusco (75% cacao), an artisanal Mexican chocolate, or Ibarra brand table chocolate
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup (about 2 ounces) grated Latin American brown loaf sugar (piloncillo), muscovado sugar, or packed dark brown sugar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Well-flavored chicken broth

To roast the chiles

Wipe [the chiles] clean with a damp cloth. Heat a large griddle, comal, or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Dry-roast the chiles on the griddle in about 6 batches, allowing about 1 minute on each side and pressing them down with a spatula. Transfer them to a large bowl as they are done; cover with about 4 cups warm water and leave them to soak for about 20 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the soaking liquid

For the rest of the sauce

Dry-roast the onion and the whole head of garlic on the griddle, stirring occasionally, until blackened and blistered, about 8 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Lightly dry-roast the cinnamon, black peppercorns, and aniseed (do not scorch). Frind them to a fine powder om a spice mill or a coffee mill and set aside.

Lightly toast the tortilla on the griddle, allowing about 30 seconds per sidel set aside. Dry-roast the peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, stirring or shaking the griddle, for about 1 minute. Set aside in a small bowl. Toast the sesame seeds for about 30 seconds, stirring or shaking the griddle; scrape out into the same bowl. When cool, finely grind the nuts, seeds, and tortilla in a food processor.

Heat the lard in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the plantain slices and sauté until golden brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels; set aside the skillet with the fat.

Peel the cooled onion and garlic, chop the onion coarsely, and set aside. Combine all of the roasted ingredients, plantain slices, prunes, and raisins in a large bowl or pot with the reserved chile soaking liquid. Working in 3 or more batches, process the mixture in a blender or food processor to make a purée, adding more chile soaking liquid as needed if the mixture is too thick to process easily. Repeat until all has been processed.

Heat the preserved olive oil or lard in the skillet over medium heat until fragrant. When it ripples, as the purée and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

If you are planning to use the paste immediately, dilute it by stirring in chicken broth until it is the consistency of thin tomato sauce. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but the consistency will be much silkier if you fore the thinned mixture through a fine-mesh sieve by pushing with a wooden spoon. If you are not using it immediately, cool the mole paste to room temperature, transfer to storafe containers, and pour a thin film of melted lard over the surface to help keep it from spoiling. Seal tightly and store it in a cool place or the refrigerator. It will keep well for several months.

  • “Xalapa-Style Mole (Mole Xalapeño).” The New Taste of Chocolate. Maricel E. Presilla. 193-95. Print.

Below is a video found on YouTube of a modern Steak with Chocolate recipe, found on the Phantom Gourmet’s channel:

Works Cited

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
  • “Chocolate Steak Recipe (Phantom Gourmet).” YouTube. N.p., 17 July 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  • Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.