In Europe and the America’s during the Enlightenment Period of 1685-1815 chocolate traditions expanded dramatically. The Enlightenment was a period in time when traditional authority such as the Roman Catholic Church was questioned and scientific process and free thinking were introduced and encouraged. This shift in attitude and thinking also influenced chocolate traditions in Europe and the Americas.
During the beginning of the Enlightenment period (1685-1730) chocolate was consumed mostly by the elite. The chocolate drink would be prepared in silver chocolatiers complete with molonillos to create the beloved foam so that a person could consume the beverage upon waking as well as throughout the day for enjoyment and nourishment.(Coe, 222)
During this period, chocolate was still used for medicinal purposes as part of the Galenic Theory of Humors. Common medical uses for chocolate were to soothe the stomach or increase a person’s sexual appetite. The tradition of drinking chocolate daily to improve ones health became a casualty of the scientific method introduced during the Enlightenment. Many scientists disproving the medical benefits of drinking chocolate daily as lauded by the Galenic Humoral theory. (Coe, 203)
As the Enlightenment period progressed so did chocolate traditions. Once, sipping on a hot chocolate drink was enjoyed only in the comfort of private homes of the elite upper class until public Chocolate and Coffee houses sprang up around London. These houses offered coffee, tea, chocolate and cider drinks to more than the elite upper class. Anyone who could afford the cost of chocolate or other drinks was welcome to drink whilst discussing politics and gossip. (Coe,167)
During this period the tradition of drinking chocolate at home or with others in a small group in an intimate setting transformed to enjoying drinking chocolate socially in large groups.
The Enlightenment Era was a time of free thinking and experimentation to create new traditions or improve upon the existing traditions. This included the use of chocolate in food. It was during the Enlightenment Era that chocolate consumption increased and went from being mainly consumed as a drink to being “ eaten in the form of bars, pastilles, as ices, and included in recipes for desserts, main dishes, and even pastas and soups.” (Coe, 203)
The culinary and other experimentation of chocolate became so widespread during this period that the Poet Francesco Arisi , an apparent cacao purist , upset at the level of cacao misuse wrote a poem listing his complaints including “ those who put an egg and yolk into it as well as he who “dirties his nose” by taking snuff with it. ” (Coe, 214.)
In the North of Italy the cooks were very adventurous with their use of chocolate in their recipes and included it in their pasta and meat dishes.
One particular recipe for lasagna mentioned in the 1786 manuscipt frm Macerata includes a “sauce made of almonds, anchovies, walnuts and chocolate.” ( Coe, 215) As a big fan of pasta sauce, lasagna and chocolate, I must admit the thought of chocolate and anchovies in the sauce on my lasagna does not appeal to me. Thankfully, the tradition of using chocolate in main dishes that include meat and fish did not last. However, the tradition of chocolate as an ingredient in desserts with flour , sugar, fruits and nuts has continued to be popular in Europe and the Americas.
We can thank the J.S. Fry & Sons for the tradition of eating solid chocolate as bars. It was in 1847 that the Fry firm discovered how to “mix cocoa powder, sugar and melted cocoa butter into a mold to create a solid bar of chocolate. (Coe, 241). The solid bars could be manufactured in large quantities and therefore be available to a larger audience of people. Fry , Cadbury, Hersey and Mars took the bar chocolate to the next level by adding ingredients to the chocolate bars including peanuts, peanut butter, caramel and cream filling. ( Martin, class lecture, March 9,2016)
Many of the chocolate traditions of the Enlightenment era continue today including chocolate confections, baked goods and drinks.
We still enjoy chocolate as a hot drink, although today we drink it from ceramic mugs and do not usually use a molonillo to whip up a froth.
Desserts and chocolate continue to be a perfect combination and includes such delicious treats as chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, chocolate bars , nuts covered in chocolate and chocolate biscuits to name a few.
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson. Print