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The On and Off Relationship Between Women and Chocolate

The stereotypical association between women and chocolate is no hidden secret; chocolate is branded as the sinful, forbidden temptation, making women aroused, irrational and unable to resist. However, the use of gender stereotypes in chocolate advertising is nothing new. Throughout history, women have been the target of chocolate advertising. As societal constraints and stereotypes of women have changed, the depiction of women in chocolate advertisements has shifted to fit these trends. One theme has remained consistent though; chocolate is the woman’s best kept “secret”, associated with love, joy and pleasure.

The modern-day portrayal of chocolate as a “feminine” food is rooted in the role of women throughout history. The True History of Chocolate cites the Aztec women as responsible for “the adoption of chocolate drink by the invaders”, —the European settlers (Coe & Coe 114). As Spanish men took Aztec women as wives and concubines, Colonial Mexican housewives became primarily Aztec and chocolate became embedded into the cuisine of New Spain and eventually all of Europe. Additionally, Spanish women are also accredited with developing an inclination towards chocolate before the men; women fancied the drinking chocolate that their female servants had introduced them to (Coe & Coe 114). Tales of female chocolate smugglers, mistresses creating early chocolate recipes and women using chocolate to make “love potions” in the 17th and 18th centuries have also contributed to the notion that the relationship between women and chocolate dates back several centuries (Lindell).

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An ad for chocolate in Victorian times. Taken from http://www.c-spot.com

In the Victorian era, women were expected to be very elegant, calm and docile. “Victorians had conduct manuals that educated elite women on how to eat in a feminine way, which forbade showing any desire for food or participating in indulgence and overeating” (Fahim 7).  Chocolate was portrayed as an indulgence that women could enjoy while maintaining this proper image. These themes are evident in 19th century chocolate advertisements, with young, dressed up women enjoy chocolate, often being served instead of serving.  The portrayal of chocolate at this time inspired the invention of the brownie. In the late 1800s,  Bertha Potter Palmer invented the brownie as a “ladies dessert’ to be used in box lunches at the Women’s Building at the Fair, edible without getting a lady’s gloved fingers dirty” (Lindell).

In this chocolate ad from the 1930s, the children are helping with baking, a responsibility typical of the mother
In this chocolate ad from the 1930s, the children are helping with baking, a responsibility typical of the mother. Taken from design.tutsplus.com

In the 1930s, chocolate advertising began targeting mothers, marketing chocolate as a “family drink”. During the Great Depression, households were often large with extended family living together and added pressure on mothers. Chocolate was marketed as not only a way to affordably please a large family, but also enhance the health of children. Rowntree introduced a “Special Mother’s Campaign”, claiming that their product was more “bone and muscle-building than ordinary cocoa” (Robertson 30). Chocolate advertisements also showed children helping their mothers with chores and household duties, alleviating some responsibility from the mother. The Great Depression also forced many women to enter the workforce to support their families. Cadbury and Kit-Kat responded to this trend with products and advertisements aimed towards female office workers. The Cadbury Dairy Milk used the slogan “At 11am do you FLIP or do you FLOP” to accompany an ad featuring two photographs of young woman at a typewriter.  In the first image, the worker is refreshed and alert, but in the second she rests her head in one hand, fatigued by the work (Robertson 24).

Chocolate ads became more romanticized in the 1940's and 1950's
Chocolate ads became more romanticized in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Taken from Pinterest.

In the 1940s and 50s, chocolate advertisements focused on more of a “housewife” figure rather than motherhood and family life. Chocolate began to involve romantic associations and cultural trends of World War II introduced the objectification women as sexual objects in these advertisements to maintain male morale (Robertson 31). If a man gave a woman chocolate as a gift, it was considered a romantic gesture and also a sign that he was the “right type of man” (Robertson 31). Women were thrilled to receive such gifts from their romantic interests and the chocolate was portrayed as the source of excitement rather than the thoughtfulness of the gift. Excitement over chocolate evolved to obsession as ads for Dairy Box began to depict women as in a relationship soleywith the chocolate. The TV series, I Love Lucy, epitomizes the stereotypes presented in these chocolate advertisements. In one episode, Lucy tries working a day at her husband’s job at Kramer’s Kitchen Kandy. Lucy and her friend are unable to hold the job because instead of packing the chocolates, the two women begin to stuff the chocolates in their mouths and blouses. When the two women reunite with their husbands, the men appropriately gift them boxes of chocolate (“A Concise History of Chocolate”). These romantic and sexual associations with chocolate marked the beginning of a trend that is still widely evident in chocolate advertising today.

A famous episode of "I Love Lucy". Lucy cannot control herself from stuffing the chocolates into her mouth and shirt.
A famous episode of “I Love Lucy”. Lucy cannot control herself from stuffing the chocolates into her mouth and shirt. Taken from fastcompany.com

Since the 1950s, advertisements have become increasingly sexually explicit and chocolate is no exception to this trend. “Advertisers have mystified chocolate, portraying it as an intoxicant possessing the power to comfort, reward and satisfy sexual desires. In particular, advertisers portray chocolate as satisfying female sexual desires” (Fahim 4). Modern commercials for Dove, Ghiradelli, Hershey’s and Godiva depict women savoring each bite of chocolate, being completely at peace and in a state of happiness. Chocolate is not just painted as a treat, but the ultimate indulgence:“a sinful treat that women (thin, attractive women — but that’s a topic for another day) consume because they just can’t resist” (Bratskeir). In one British study of 1,500 participants, women reported prefering chocolate over sex: “while 87 per cent of men would opt for sex, 52 per cent of women would rather curl up with a bar of chocolate” ( “Women Prefer Chocolate To Sex”). The fetishization of chocolate in advertising has even exceeded the level of being a mere metaphor for sexual indulgence. Vice Cream is a ‘female-only’ ice-cream that contains plant-based pleasure enhance, Lady Prelox and promises to “give women’s sexual appetites a deliciously natural boost” (Victor). Similarly, Dorcel Store, an online adult store with a collection of chocolate sex-related toys, released an advertisement featuring a dildo-shaped chocolate creation accompanied by the slogan “Enjoy yourself without getting fat. Happy Easter ladies” (“Mademoiselle Scarlett Creates Ad for Chocolate Dildo”).  In both of these instances, chocolate has indeed become part of the sexual experience and the targeted audience is women.

A Mademoiselle Scarlett ad using chocolate and sexualization, aimed towards women
A Mademoiselle Scarlett ad using chocolate and sexualization, aimed towards women. Taken from Little Black Book online.
Part of the advertising campaign for "Vice Cream"
Part of the advertising campaign for “Vice Cream”. Taken from Metro UK.

Health concerns over the high sugar and fat content in chocolate have always existed, but, chocolate companies have managed to adapt to changing health trends. When new dietary guidelines condemning saturated fats appeared in 1977, the sugar industry capitalized and “fat-free” and “low-fat” products became popular. In today’s health and exercised-crazed society, people believe beauty is maintained by “resisting the temptation of sweet and fatty foods such as chocolate” (Robertson 35). Chocolate is labeled as a cause of acne and skin blemishes, a food that leads to obesity and symbol of poor

A stock image that embodies negative connotations about chocolate (such as laziness and obesity). The concerning caption of this image is "Fat woman choosing chocolate cake instead of doing gymnastics, smiling happily."
A stock image available on 123RF that embodies negative connotations about chocolate (such as laziness and obesity). The concerning description of this image is “Fat woman choosing chocolate cake instead of doing gymnastics, smiling happily.”

willpower.  “Women identify chocolate as prominent among components of their diet that they must reduce or omit if they wish to regulate their weight” (Durkin). In response, several chocolate products have been introduced to cater to this lifestyle followed by many women. Chocolate-flavored protein bars, meal replacement drinks and other “diet foods” like Skinny Cow chocolate icecream, satisfy the desires for both chocolate and physical fitness. There has also been a recent push on chocolate milk as the ideal workout recovery drink. However, chocolate companies still encourage the “allowance” of small amounts of chocolate candy and show that beauty can still be maintained while treating one’s self to small indulgences. Chocolate companies want to convince female consumers that they can still achieve the”unrealistically slender, facially beautiful and with flawless skin” look of the women in chocolate advertisements, as long as they do not overindulge (Durkin).

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A “diet-friendly” chocolate product. Taken from Walmart.com
A chocolate-flavored health product
A chocolate-flavored protein product. Available at Walmart.com

Despite the long history of chocolate being associated with women, this “forbidden relationship” is a “culturally-manufactured” myth used to market and sell the commodity to women. Women are not biologically more inclined towards chocolate than men and much of the attitudes that have been adopted about chocolate reflect stereotypes formed in American society. In Spain, for example, women don’t report craving chocolate perimensturally nearly as much as women in the U.S. do (Bratskeir). Hollywood movies and television have embodied the stereotypes pushed on us by chocolate companies, forming an entire culture surrounding chocolate consumption. Even though chocolate branding is much more sexually-charged and health conscious than in the past, the basic principles still exist and the target audience is still women. As the interests and roles of women have changed, chocolate culture has adapted.

Works Cited

“A Concise History of Chocolate.” C-spot. N.p., 2015. Web.

Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger.” The Huffington Post 11 Oct. 2014: n. pag. Print.

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

Durkin, Kevin, Kirsty Rae, and Werner G.k. Stritzke. “The Effect of Images of Thin and Overweight Body Shapes on Women’s Ambivalence towards Chocolate.” Appetite 58.1 (2012): 222-26. ScienceDirect. Web.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing” 2010. Occidental College OxyScholar-Sociology Student Scholarship.

Lindell, Crystal. “Women and Chocolate: A History Lesson.” Candy Industry 180.3 (2015): 1-21. ProQuest. Web.

“Mademoiselle Scarlett Creates Ad for Chocolate Dildo | LBBOnline.” Mademoiselle Scarlett Creates Ad for Chocolate Dildo. Little Black Book, Apr. 2014. Web. 13 May 2015.
Victor, Anucyia. “Would YOU Eat ‘Viagra Ice Cream’? Women-only Chocolate Dessert Promising to Make Your Sex Life Saucier Hits Shelves in Time for Valentine’s Day.” DailyMail.com. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 11 Feb. 2015. Web.
Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate Consumption.” Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-35. Print.
“Women Prefer Chocolate to Sex; LIFESTYLE.(News).” The Birmingham Post (England). N.p., 5 June 2007. Web. 13 May 2015.
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The Charcoal Donut: Race and Gender in Asian Chocolate Advertising

The Dunkin' Donuts advert in full. Photograph: Dunkin' Donuts/Facebook
The Dunkin’ Donuts advert in full. Photograph: Dunkin’ Donuts/Facebook

 “We’re not allowed to use black to promote our donuts? I don’t get it. What’s the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white? Would that be racist?”

-Nadim Salhani, CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand

The original advertisement I chose for this assignment was a 2013 Thai poster promoting the “Charcoal Donut” by Dunkin Donuts, a chocolate cake covered in a chocolate glaze. The Charcoal Donut campaign features a young woman painted in black-face with a stereotypical 1950s beehive hairstyle and emphasized pink lips. The model, baring naked shoulders, is holding the product. In Thai, the slogan reads “Break every rule of deliciousness” (Gabott).

The advertisement is particularly disturbing because of the representation of race to promote the product. The black-face model is used as a metaphor for the chocolate, colored the same dark shade in the poster. Additionally, the name of the product, the “Charcoal Donut” suggests association with dirtiness and soot. Nadim Salhani, the CEO of Dunkin Donuts Thailand, defended the campaign, questioning “We’re not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don’t get it. What’s the big fuss?” (Babbatt). The “big fuss” is the dark past of chocolate,“deeply interwoven with the history of imperial exploitation of non-white peoples” (Robertson 172). Controversy over juxtaposing chocolate and colored people in advertising is not about color as a metaphor; the racial and historical implications are problematic, especially given the geographic placement of the ad. While such a campaign would cause “howls of outrage” in the US”,  questionable racial attitudes are widespread in Thailand, where 28% of the population would disapprove of having neighbors of a different race (Purnell). Discussing chocolate advertising in the European market, Emma Robertson writes “European racialized imaginings of cocoa are not pure coincidence; they are evidence of a shared history of European colonial exploitation…and of the complicated intertextuality of white western racist popular culture” (Robertson 180). A similar attitude holds true in Thai popular culture, where products like Unilever’s Citra Pearly White UV body lotion and Black Man household mops are commonplace (Purnell). Most concerning, such a campaign would incite public backlash and boycott of the responsible company in the US. In Thailand, sales for the Charcoal donut increased about 50% within two weeks of the campaign being launched (Gecker).

An event advertising the Charcoal Donut from Dunkin Donuts in Thailand
An event advertising the Charcoal Donut from Dunkin Donuts in Thailand

Gender and sexuality are also themes in this advertisement. The young woman in the poster is being sexualized with dramatic hair, pink, exaggerated lips curled in a closed seductive smile and completely bare shoulders. This portrayal combined with the racial representation contributes to an imperial fetishization of women of color. The slogan, “Break every rule of deliciousness” accompanies this theme. This shows a common trend amongst women in chocolate advertising, “long-standing associations with female sexuality” (Robertson 30). Originally portrayed as mothers and housewives, women in chocolate advertising have evolved to young, attractive, scantily-dressed female characters “obsessed by the product” who “project their hetreosexual yearnings and fantasies on chocolate consumption” (Robertson 35). Even if the advertisement features female characters, the “commentary to the advert takes on masculine tone of rationality and paternalism”, similar to the Dunkin Donuts ad (Robertson 33).

For my advertisement, I made a “white” version of the same controversial donut ad, substituting the black-face model with a white woman and the chocolate donut with a vanilla donut. I renamed the product the “Ivory Donut”. This advertisement posed new concerns regarding race and gender in advertising.

Advertisement for the "Ivory Donut"
Advertisement for the “Ivory Donut”

The faux “Ivory Donut” had racist undertones even though the ad did not include a colored model or reference colored people. The light skin of the model would be used as a metaphor for a product portrayed as light, delectable, fun and sweet. The new name, the “Ivory Donut” would also indicate “whiteness” but also luxury, purity and wealth. Additionally, I believe that this advertisement would be problematic in the Thai market because it would be promoting Western constraints of beauty in a society that struggles with race relations and glorifies fair-skinned people (Gecker). The new poster also incorporates female sexuality and the feminine obsession with desserts; this donut also has a bite taken out of it, as if the woman could not control her urge and ate it.

I believe these ads represent a new trend in the role of race and gender in chocolate and dessert advertising, especially in the Asian market. Perhaps the blatant racism of the ad would not be tolerated in the United States but the inappropriate representation of race and gender seems international. However, I believe more ads like this will appear in Thailand other Asian countries given their society’s glorification of Western beauty, widespread racial discrimination and fairly new and experimental chocolate market.

Race is often incorporated into Thai advertising
Race is often incorporated into Thai advertising
Works Cited
Gabbatt, Adam. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologises for ‘bizarre and Racist’ Thai Advert.” The Guardian. N.p., 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
GECKER, By JOCELYN. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes for Blackface Advert.” AP Online. Associated Press, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Purnell, Newley. “Images Spark Racism Debate in Thailand.” The New Yorker 31 Oct. 2013: n. pag. Print.
Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate Consumption.” Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-31. Print.
Robertson, Emma, Michael Pickering, Anandi Ramamurthy, and Wulf D. Hund. Bittersweet Temptations: Race and the Advertising of CocoaColonial Advertising & Commodity Racism. N.p.: n.p., 2013. 171-96. Print.

Chocolate Houses: Then and Now

The Enlightenment marked a period of intellectual and scientific questioning, discovery and analysis. Academic discussion became more publicized and accessible, even amongst women and middle-class citizens. The development and rise of chocolate houses in London is parallel with the trends of this era and served as the public meeting place for discussion, socializing and enjoying the fashionable, exotic, new chocolate drink.

The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657 and attracted curious guests by advertising chocolate as “an excellent West India drink”, possessing “excellent qualities so esteemed in all places” and able to “cure and preserve the body of many diseases” (Coe and Coe 165). Chocolate itself was an exotic and unknown concept and with the arrival of coffee in London only five years earlier, hot beverages were not yet a solidified tradition (Choat). Affordable and accessible to Britain’s large population of middle-class shopkeepers and businessmen, the rise of the chocolate house “democratized” chocolate in Britain. Unlike Paris and Madrid, where chocolate was reserved for the socially elite, anyone with sufficient money could enjoy chocolate in the British houses. Described as a place “where one hears what is and what is believed to be new, be it true or false”, the reputation of chocolate-houses spread as an ideal gathering place for political and social interaction (Coe and Coe 167). Following this mold, White’s Chocolate House was opened in 1693 by Italian immigrant, Frances White. Originally known as Mrs.White’s Chocolate House, White’s became the most famous chocolate house in London (Warber).

Inside White's Chocolate House Taken from BenjaminSmithFineArt.com
Inside White’s Chocolate House
Taken from BenjaminSmithFineArt.com

The hot chocolate served in these British chocolate-houses was an “extravagant brew infused with citrus peel, jasmine, vanilla, musk and ambegris (Choat). However, chocolate was not the only option on the menu. Other beverages like coffee, tea, sherbert, cock ale, “ale with pieces of boiled fowl” and cider were also available “according to the season” (Coe and Coe 167). Adapted from the hot Mesoamerican chocolate drinks, the British adopted their own way of preparing chocolate “adjusting it to their own means by transforming the taste with spices and sugar as well as modifying traditional drinking vessels to fit their own preferences” (Scribner 474). British chocolate was made by boiling blocks of cocoa with water and “some to make it more dainty, though less wholesome, use therein Eggs and Milk” (Coe 169). Unsatisfied with this recipe, Philippe S. Dufour further developed the beverage, adding sugar (Coe and Coe169). “The British, furthermore, assimilated coffee, tea, and chocolate into the tavern and coffeehouse themselves products of Anglo-French relations and various other global impulses” (Scribner 474).

Chocolate-houses were a place for political discourse and debate  Taken from Eighteenth Century Collections Online
Chocolate-houses were a place for political discourse and debate
Taken from Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Chocolate consumption and White’s and other chocolate-houses was just as much valued as a social entity as it was for its taste. Chocolate was symbolic and represented class and sophistication. The exotic characteristics and flavors of chocolate combined with it’s accessibility gave the middle-class insight into a priorly unattainable lifestyle. Discussing the social value of taverns and coffeehouses, Vaughn Scribner discusses how

“aspiring cosmopolites could barricade themselves in private tavern rooms…to engage in sophisticated clubs, debate cosmopolitan matters with men from across the globe, sip exotic beverages such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and wine, and above all distinguish themselves as separate, superior members of the world community (Scribner 469).

These institutions made the elite experience available and widespread; chocolate houses were a place where books were read, letters were written and ideas were discussed. Considering these chocolate establishments “hotbeds of sedition”, Charles II tried to ban the practice of chocolate houses and the subsequent political discussion they evoked with the “Proclamation for the Suppression of Coffee Houses” in 1675 (Coe 168). Public outcry ensued and Charles granted permission for coffee-houses to stay open for an additional six months. However, this law was unenforced and soon forgotten in the increasingly democratic England (Coe and Coe168).

Mutari products Taken from Mutari Hot Chocolate Facebook page
Mutari “sipping” products
Taken from Mutari Hot Chocolate Facebook page

The popularity of chocolate-houses declined in the 18th century and a few, including White’s, survive today as smart gentlemen’s clubs.  However, given the modern trend of bean-to-bar chocolate production and an increasing appreciation for historic chocolate practices, modern day chocolate-houses have started popping up. In March 2015, Mutari became the first chocolate-house in Santa Cruz, California (Carnes). Owned by Adam Armstrong, Mutari specializes in European-styled “sipping chocolates” including a Himalayan pink salt hot chocolate and a bitter, nutty 100% cacao sipping chocolate as well as unique cacao fruit smoothies (Carnes). Similarly, Mörk Chocolate, Australia’s “brew house dedicated to liquid chocolate”, focuses on small-batch, authentic, high-quality drinking chocolates (Clancey).  Founders, Kiril Shaginov and Josefin Zernell consider themselves “cacao artisans” and serve exquisite concoctions in their converted 1950s bakery warehouse, including a Breakfast chocolate blended with “house-made oat milk, dark chocolate and cinnamon”(Clancey).

Inside Mork Chocolate Brew House Taken from GoodFood
Inside Mork Chocolate Brew House
Taken from GoodFood
Works Cited
Carnes, Aaron. “Dining Reviews: Mutari.” Good Times [Santa Cruz] 11 Mar. 2015: n. pag. Print.
Choat, Isabel. “A Chocolate Tour of London: A Taste of the past.” The Guardian [London] 23 Dec. 2013: n. pag. Print.
Clancey, Leanne. “Just Open: Mörk Chocolate Brew House, North Melbourne.” Good Food [Australia] 6 Mar. 2015: n. pag. Print.
Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.
Scribner, Vaughn. “Cosmopolitan Colonists: Gentlemen’s Pursuit of Cosmopolitanism and Hierarchy in British American Taverns.” Atlantic Studies 10.4 (2013): 467-96. Web.
Warber, Adrienne. “History of White’s.” Web log post. Suite. N.p., 2010. Web.

A Chocolate Fetish: How The Candy Industry is Molding Our View of Mayan and Aztec Culture

Marketed as a pure, healthy and an ancient delicacy, the recent trend in chocolate consumption is largely influenced by the sweet treat’s Mesoamerican origins. Citing the Aztecs and Mayans as “inspirations”, chocolate brands are making products flavored with honey, chiles, fruits and spices to recreate the flavors and texture consumed in these civilizations. While most chocolate lovers know that the Hershey bar has undergone quite an evolution since the Mayans first brought chocolate making to a high art, few have any accurate depiction of the food’s history. Fueled by stereotypes gathered from high school history class, branding certain chocolate products as “Mayan”, “Mexican” and “Aztec” when they are only reminiscent of ancient creations contributes to a fetishization of the Mayan and Aztec culture.

An Aztec chocolate bar, made by Cadbury
An Aztec chocolate bar, made by Cadbury (Taken from the Cadbury UK website)

This new chocolate trend is generally characterized as “earthier, spicier and generally made with less sugar than sweet, creamy, European-style chocolate” (Dizik). Employing the lengthy process of roasting and hand-grinding cocoa nibs with a metate, a mortar like vessel, craft chocolate companies like Taza Chocolate in Somerville, MA and Xocoatl in Taos, NM are able to make small batches of authentic stone-ground chocolate. The end product is a “consistency a bit like crunchy dirt” (Dizik) and a “vaguely smoky, cherrylike flavor that’s deeper and more lingering than the usual Swiss stuff” (Clark). Although the products of these companies come closer to depicting the ancient origins of chocolate when compared to products like Cadbury’s Aztec bar, a milk chocolate bar with a caramel filling, it is important to remember that Mexican-style eating chocolate does not really exist. Chocolate was consumed as a bitter, frothed beverage.

Advertising and marketing depicting stereotypes of Aztec and Mayan culture is also a  concerning aspect of these new chocolate products. “Aztec”, “Maya” and “Mexican” are often used interchangeably in labeling, merging the identity of these three unique cultures.

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Taken from the Copper Kettle website
haagen-dazs-ice-cream-95433
Taken from the Haagen-Dazs website
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Taken from Amazon.com
Taken from Amazon.com
Taken from Amazon.com

“Spicy” and “Pure” are also common packaging labels along with images of chile peppers, cinnamon sticks, suns, and Mayan glyphs. This advertising is not limited to candy bar products, but includes chocolate-flavored products such as beer and ice-cream.

After conducting this research, I decided to do my own search in my local Whole Foods to see what Aztec, Mexican and Mayan “inspired” products were available on the shelves. I found several that fit the stereotypical model described above; here are some of my findings:

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As this trend becomes more popular,  the chocolate industry is responding to please these curious and excited consumers. However, instead of providing accurate and informative resources, the chocolate industry is sharing a history “based on a true story”, creating a breeding ground for stereotypes surrounding Mayan and Aztec civilization. For example, the Hotel Maya in Los Angeles is hosting a cooking class for couples focusing on chocolates-based dishes including mole chicken and stuffed crepes. The class itself is not problematic; however, the hotel advertising the course’s inspiration as “celebrating the Mayan’s discovery of cocoa for cooking” suggests numerous historical inaccuracies (Bennett). Not only did the Maya have nothing to do with the two dishes listed above, but they were not the first to use cacao for consumption; Mesoamerican cultures first discovered and used the plant.

Cadbury World in the United Kingdom also hosts a popular event called Aztec Weekend at the popular chocolate-themed tourist attraction. Visitors can walk through displays of the “Aztec jungle” with actors portraying Montezuma and other Aztecs dressed in stereotypical animal-print robes and feathered headdresses. Other highlights of the exhibit include sampling  “special chilli con carne with a chocolatey twist” and learning about the “exotic origins of the cocoa bean”(Godsall). Aside from historical inaccuracies, the portrayal of Aztec civilization makes this event controversial. Targeting primarily children, the exhibit is heavily covered in faux plants and dimly lit portraying Aztec civilization as mysterious, wild and exotic.

For so many people, chocolate is associated with fun, holidays and childhood memories. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction when learning something we have an emotional attachment to. I do not want my intentions to be misunderstood—there is nothing wrong with enjoying a spicy hot chocolate or chicken with mole sauce. However, we should exercise caution when trusting chocolate companies to provide us with history lessons.

A family experiencing Aztec Weekend at Cadbury World. Taken from Edge Magazine.
A family experiencing Aztec Weekend at Cadbury World. Taken from Edge Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited
Bennett, Sarah. “Mayan Chocolate for Couples Culinary Class.” LA Weekly. N.p., Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
Clark, Melissa. “Riffs on a Chocolate Theme.” New York Times 29 Jan. 2003: n. pag. Print.
Dizik, Alina. “Stone-Ground Chocolate Gets Hate Mail and Lots of Love.” Wall Street Journal. N.p., 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
Godsall, David. “Cadbury World’s Aztec Weekend Blasts Away Winter Blues – Edge Magazine.” Edge Magazine. N.p., 07 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
McNeil, Cameron L. Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao. Gainesville: U of Florida, 2006. Print.