Tag Archives: Blogs

“Chokola’j”, History of Chocolate Popularity on the Rise

The Mayan Society of Mesoamerica drank chocolate together and called this popular social act “Chokola’j” (C. Martin, Mesoamerica and “the food of the gods”). History is often written through landmark events that shaped it, but often without the mentioning of the common human who made it, this is especially true about the history of chocolate. The significance of chocolate came from the captivating ability of chocolate to touch hearts and transcend social, cultural, lingual, and physical barrios and dovetail the Americas and Europe with a power even mightier than that of the military and economic powers, the social power of chocolate. In Sweetness and Power, Sidney W. Mintz argues that the simple decision of the common human in post-colonial European societies to consume Mesoamerican commodities made history through changing the meaning of labor, self-identity, and commodity: “In understanding the relationship between commodity and person, we unearth anew the history of our selves” (qtd by C. Martin, Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor, Mintz, 1985, page214). Mintz is right, for unraveling the history of Chocolate’s popularity unravels the western hemisphere’s origins of wealth distribution, social habits, economic relationships, and self-identities. More importantly it can define our future path towards what is responsible, just, and right for a prosperous chocolate future that involves all stakeholders and shareholders. The beautiful moments of happiness, comfort, and love passing through the lives of millions of people eating and drinking chocolate every day lure intellectual curiosity to trace what key factors, trends, ideas, and technologies contributed to the rise of chocolate’s popularity over time.

Chocolate(Chocolate, a stack of the different kinds of chocolate, dark, milk and white) (André Karwath aka, Feb, 2005.)

In The True History of Chocolate Sophie and Michael Coe explain that “It was the Maya who first taught the Old World how to drink Chocolate, and it was the Maya who gave us the word “cacao.” They deserve recognition in the culinary history of Theobroma Cacao.”(Coe and Coe, P.66). Archeological records of historical Mayan documents and artifacts like the Maya Princeton Vase of the 8th century stands testimony to the ancient Mayan chocolate-socializing habits, it depicts a Mayan royal palace with people seated in a scene with a woman preparing chocolate (Coe and Coe, P.50). Over time chocolate spread from the Mesoamerican elites to European elites and amplified in popularity among the masses. Chocolate and coffee houses were a part of the English life in 17th century England where the Italian Lorenzo Magalotti who lived in England between 1668 and 1688 AD described these houses: “…Where coffee is sold publicly, and not just coffee, but other drinks, like chocolate.”(Coe and Coe, P.171).

800px-Maya_vase(Mayan Vase, the Princeton Vase depicting chocolate) (Unknown, Between circa 600 and circa 900 AD)

Chocolate-house-london-c1708(Socializing inside the English: White’s Chocolate House, London) (Unknown Artist, 1708)

It is academically imperative to narrate the historical change that transpired through time over what contributed to the increase in chocolate’s popularity and spread from the Mesoamerican and European elites to the different classes of society in Europe, the Americas, and transversely the world. In order to interpret colonial military, economic, and social factors that contributed to the spread of chocolate it is necessary to mention the documents, encounters, and records found in Rio Ceniza Valley, located in today’s El Salvador ( C. Martin, lecture 3 “Chocolate Expansion”, 2018). The 17th century’s “Recordation Florida of Antonio Fuentes y Guzman” was imperative as it revealed the cocoa beans-based Nahua counting system that was used by the Mayans as their local currency, which was a mammoth economic factor behind the Spanish military colonization campaigns triggered by the Spanish desire to adopt that currency system and demand part of the Mesoamerican crops (C. Martin, Lecture 3, “Chocolate Expansion”, 2018).The other significant document to illuminate on the social power factor that contributed the most to increased popularity of chocolate was the original chocolate recipe found in Rio Ceniza ( C. Martin, Chocolate Expansion). A European style drawing in the 16th century Codex Tudela shows us an Aztec woman foaming Chocolate evoking similarities to the Mayan Princeton Vase, which depicted a woman foaming chocolate eight centuries earlier (Coe and Coe, P.88).The factor of the transfer of Mesoamerican recipes will be the most powerful of all because the chocolate recipe that we know traveled through European colonists to Europe and created anew the trend of the chocolate commodity consumption in Europe. Chocolate recipes were first moved by elite catholic clergy into Spain, Italy, France, and Britain. In 1636 Antonio de Leon Pinelo, a Spanish catholic wrote a book debating the morality of chocolate and its inclusion into European diets and religious traditions (Coe and Coe, P. 152). Coe and Coe explain that “Lion Pinelo gives details on production as well as recipes for the drink, he is also extremely knowledgeable about cacao, chocolate, and various writers on chocolate.” (Coe and Coe, P.152)


(European styled drawing of Aztec Lady Preparing Chocolate, Mujer Vertiendo Chocolate – Codex Tudela) (Anonymous, circa 1553)

Knowledge of chocolate and its recipes got adopted by the masses and spread along European colonial societies including North America. In The History of Classic American Dessert, Carla Martin explains that “Newspaper advertisements for chocolate sales in the colonies have been traced back to the early eighteenth century, as have customs logs and diary entries mentioning chocolate” (C. Martin, 2012). In The New Taste of Chocolate, M.E. Presilla reveals the Xocolat familiar: “Contains recipes written in an elegant 19th century hand, giving precise measurements for chocolate blends prepared especially for local families.”(M.E. Presilla, 30, 2009). Based on the above literary and material sources it is evident that the Mesoamerican chocolate traditions were adopted by Europeans and North Americans, which induced significant change defining labor, social, and economic change. It cannot go unstated that this steered an ever increased demand, which brought about the tragedies of slavery, colonization, massive inequality in distribution of prosperity and wealth, and went all the way to restructuring the sense of western world Norms, struggles, and identities .

In The New Taste of Chocolate, M.E. Presilla reveals the 1874 invention of the Melangeur:” The Melangeur is one of the most versatile and long lasting inventions of the industrial revolution of chocolate manufacturing.” (M.E.Presilla, page 28, 2009). Historic literary and material sources evidence shows an entire technology developing from traditional Mayan recipes of preparing and processing chocolate. Images of the Mesoamericans preparing the drinks can be seen today in their thriving societies as in the historical depictions of 15 surviving documents of Dresden Codex pre-colonial documents and the ambiguous Popol Vuh, colonial documents (C. Martin, “ Mesoamerica and the “ food of the gods”). The preponderance of social power that steered the increased popularity of chocolate were driven by chocolate’s ability to touch hearts, penetrate feelings, and create taste.

Chokoversum_MelangeurChokoversum Melangeur (An-d. Nov, 2013).

Chocolademachine_Mol_D'ArtModern Chocolate Machine (Right: Oriel. Chocolate Machine, n.d.)

Knowing the key factors, trends, ideas, and technologies contributed to the rise of chocolate’s popularity over time enable us to draw the future. The social power of chocolate is galvanized to serve the powerful managerial chocolate corporations today. What is needed is a balancing approach that enables the corporations to get galvanized behind the social power of chocolate. This is especially important to achieve in Ghana and the Ivory Coast where 72% of the worlds Cocoa production is produced, often under dire circumstances (C, Martin Lecture One). Going back into these historic changes can guide us to successfully adopt changes in the future inclusive of all its stakeholders and shareholders.

This Video is mixing some historic facts, some of which were mentioned in the blog, and interestingly reasoning them with fun facts in trying to explain the ever rising popularity of chocolate.

(Talltanic Surprising facts about Chocolate video from January 16th, 2018). (Talltanic, 2018)


References-Works Cited
An-d. Chokoversum Melangeur. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 22 November 2013, 18:22:53

André Karwath aka. Chocolate. This image shows a stack of chocolate, including milk chocolate, nut chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate. Wikimedia Commons. Web.13 February 2005. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate.jpg#mw-jump-to-license
Anonymous. Mujer vertiendo chocolate – Codex Tudela. Español: Mujer azteca espumando cacao, reproducción perteneciente al folio 3-r del Códice Tudela. Source/Photographer: http://www.danielhschreiber.com/i/03-21-10/codex-tudela.jpg. Wikimedia Commons. Web. circa 1553. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela.jpg#mw-jump-to-license
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print.
Martin, Carla D. 2012. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert.” Retrieved from http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/brownies/
Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 31 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 07 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power, The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Viking Penguin Inc. Penguin Books: New York, 1985. Print.
Oriel. Chocolademachine Mol D’Art. Chocolate machine. Wikimedia Commons. Web. N.D.
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, 2009. Print.
Talltanic. (Jan 16, 2018). Surprising facts about chocolate. 2018. Taltanic. (Video file). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI_WIcpcvDA
Unknown Artist. English: White’s Chocolate House, London. Wikimedia Commons. coloured lithograph published by Cadbury. Note: Not a contemporary 1708 illustration (late 19th-century at earliest) Web. circa 1708. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate-house-london-c1708.jpg
Unknown. Photograph of a Maya vase. Wikimedia Commons. Art from late Classic c. 600 – 900 AD, per book “The Blood of Kings, Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art” by Linda Schele, Mary Ellen Miller, Justin Kerr, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1986, plate 115 Mechanical reproduction of art more than 1,000 years old. Web. Between circa 600 and circa 900 AD https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maya_vase.jpg#mw-jump-to-license



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. http://corn.org/products/sweeteners/high-fructose-corn-syrup/.

Andrews, Evan. 2013. “Who Invented the Internet?” History.Com. A&E Television Networks. December 18. http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/who-invented-the-internet.

Barrett, Mike. 2014. “Mega-Corp Using GMO Ingredients Forced To Drop ‘100% Natural’ Labels.” Natural Society. Natural Society. November 25. http://naturalsociety.com/general_mills-gmo-ingredients-forced-drop-100-natural-labels/.

Bonvie, Linda. 2014. “New Research on Drinks Finds Super High Fructose Levels | Food Identity Theft.” Food Identity Theft RSS. Citizens for Health. June 10. http://foodidentitytheft.com/new-research-on-drinks-finds-super-high-fructose-levels/.

Cadbury Advertisment. 2015. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=willam%2bcadbury&view=detailv2&&id=9368f81534c3c2941037967f6e42ad7765047cfa&selectedindex=47&ccid=g5qbgwtz&simid=607987947776249378&thid=oip.m1b941b1b0b597e13c5d805ee7a2ab9d5o0&ajaxhist=0.

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. http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/11/19/3594144/general-mills-settlement/.

Consumer. 2014. “Food Labels Survey.” C ONSUMER R EPORTS ® N ATIONAL R ESEARCH C ENTER: 1–23. http://www.greenerchoices.org/pdf/consumerreportsfoodlabelingsurveyjune2014.pdf.

“Definition Of News Tickers in English.” 2016. Accessed March 11. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/news-ticker.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. 2016. “Shield Law.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/shield-law.

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. http://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/history%20of%20television%20page.htm.

Kripke, Erik, Andrew Dabb, Daniel Loflin, and Guy Norman Bee. 2012. “Supernatural Season 7 Episode 22.” Episode. Supernatural. The CW. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqmbzzjcxtm.

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. http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/centersoffices/officeoffoods/cfsan/cfsanfoiaelectronicreadingroom/ucm305226.htm.

Leiter, Brian. 2006. “Why Blogs Are Bad for Legal Scholarship.” The Yale Law Journal 116. http://www.yalelawjournal.org/forum/why-blogs-are-bad-for-legal-scholarship.

Minton, Barbara. 2014. “Corporations Have Renamed ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup’.” Natural Society. Natural Society. December 10. http://naturalsociety.com/watch-corporations-renamed-high-fructose-corn-syrup/.

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. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/natural.

“‘Natural’ On Food Labeling.” 2015. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. November 12. http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/labelingnutrition/ucm456090.htm.

Number, Prime. 2010. “Comedy Central Pulled South Park Episode ‘201’ Off The Air Amidst Controversy.” 37prime.News. 37primenews. April 23. http://37prime.com/news/2010/04/23/comedy-central-pulled-south-park-episode-201-off-the-air-amidst-controversy/.

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. http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/general-mills-settlement-agreement.pdf.

“System Of A Down – Hypnotize.” 2009. YouTube. Vevo. October 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lohecz4t2xc.

“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. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/yellow-journalism.

Vanilla Chex Nutrition Information. 2015. http://www.leanitup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/chex_vanilla.jpg.

“Vault Of the Secret Formula.” 2016. World Of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola. https://www.worldofcoca-cola.com/explore/explore-inside/explore-vault-secret-formula/.

“What Are Radio’s Basic Problems And Future Prospects?” 2013. American Historical Association. American Historical Association. https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/gi-roundtable-series/pamphlets/how-far-should-the-government-control-radio/what-are-radios-basic-problems-and-future-prospects.

“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. http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/transparency/basics/ucm214868.htm.

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. https://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/contemporaryamericansociety/chapter%2019%20–%20the%20media%20–%20norton%20august.pdf.