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OoO SHE BAD!

Chocolate, Sex, and Passionate Indulgences

  1. A Contextual History: The Ancient Origins of Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

Introduction

In class, we discussed the relationship between Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  Because it is a Victorian-created holiday that can seem to a skeptic more of a consumerist ploy than a celebration of love, one may argue that the importance placed upon Valentine’s Day is in our culture is inflated.  Sure, maybe Valentine’s Day is just a (highly-gendered and heteronormative) convention, but nobody can deny the centrality of chocolate in its celebration. Many foods are said to have aphrodisiac qualities, but chocolate is amongst the most renowned.  The passion elicited from its indulgence dates back centuries. The Maya considered cacao sacred, encouraging its consumption during highly emotional or spiritual events like marriage and fertility rituals as well as death rites. In more transgressive accounts, Aztec emperor Montezuma consumed a gluttonous amount of chocolate each day to boost his sexual stamina.  This essay serves to trace the entwinement of chocolate, sex, and passionate indulgences through the contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry while situating it in its appropriate historical context.

The ephemeral nature of cacao consumption’s association with aphrodisiac qualities divulges a corollary truth between ancient wisdom and modern science.  While historically chocolate has been taken advantage of in the name of its spiritual effects, science, commerce, and even art contemporarily reveal there is a passion to indulgence.  Whether it is eating chocolate or having sex, fleeting benevolence. Consistent consumption of both nurtures an honest, transgressive air of ambitious pursuit that allows one to stay in tune their desires, promoting health, general well-being, and growth.  If demonstrated truthfully, this post suggests indulgence should not be understood merely as a momentary transgression, but rather an honest, consistent truth that leads to health and progress.

2. Contemporary State of the Cacao-Chocolate Industry: Modern Marketing and Cognitive Science

Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine

Melanie King’s book Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine explores the question of how contemporary culture and modern society became enamored with tea, coffee, and chocolate.  Broadly, she argues it has to do with their stimulative effects on dopamine. Specifically, King posits that drinking chocolate products benefits the consumers “sex life and physical appearance,” a wisdom that can be traced back through history.  The stimulation a consumer achieves increases their propensity to chace the transgressive desires weighing on their heart, promoting longevity and renewal.

Mood State Effects of Chocolate

Putting some science to Melanie King’s argument for ancient wisdom in the positive benefits of cacao consumption on our mood, the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry conducted an academic review on the association of chocolate consumption with enjoyment and pleasure.  Historically, dating back to the Ancient Mesoamerican origins of cacao consumption, chocolate indulgence provokes a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual effects that bestow “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” properties. Specifically, the UNSW research team focused on the mood altering traits of chocolate.  Investigating chocolate’s psychoactive positionings, the team concluded: “chocolate can provide its own hedonistic reward by satisfying cravings but, when consumed as a comfort eating or emotional eating strategy, is more likely to be associated with prolongation rather than cessation of a dysphoric mood.” Thus, their research provides implications about the ephemeral, fleeting benefits derived from one’s chocolate indulgence.  This is not to say that chocolate consumption is malevolent or harmful, but rather that the endurance of its advantageous emotional effects requires habitual consistency.

Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function

Further, Psychology Today’s article “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function” claims, “Aztec emperor Montezuma is reputed to have used chocolate in a manner akin to today’s Viagra pill.”  Nowadays, the aphrodisiac link between sex and chocolate is most visible around Valentine’s Day. Dr. Andrea Salonia, an Italian physician, piloted a research project that measured chocolate consumption against female sexual function and depression.  It was found that chocolate consumption increases the female propensity to achieve sexual satisfaction, positing a scientific legitimacy in the human inclination to sin and sin again consequently. The research team also found a correlation between age and scores on the Female Sexual Function Index. Younger women who consumed chocolate daily scored much higher, suggesting maturity impacts the desire to indulge transgressively.  

Sex, Chocolate, and Disability

The cultural perception that there is a transgressive nature to sex and chocolate consumption has influenced commerce, marketing, and media in various controversial ways.  In 2016, Mars-brand Maltesers ran a series of ads that featured disabled people discussing embarrassing intimacies while opening up over chocolate. The first ad featured a wheelchaired woman with cerebral palsy symbolically spilling a bag of Maltesers on the table as she describes an awkward sexual experience with her new boyfriend, implying her spastic disease caused a diuretic explosion during sex.  The risky ad provoked a highly controversial reception, polarizing audiences into camps of insensitivity and effervescence. Maltesers doubled-down, claiming lightheartedness and sense of humor are necessary forces of benevolence in a world of degradation, shame, and censorship. More importantly, these ads provoked public conversation about disability and suggested one ought to be optimistic about what defines their personhood.  

Much of debate surround Maltesers’ ads were concerned with “sensitivity and authenticity,” triggering empathetic ideas about vulnerability outside of oneself.  Remaining optimistic in ethos, a company representative stated, “Maltesers positions itself as a lighter way to enjoy chocolate and its ads encourage people to look on the light side of life. In three previous animated spots, comedians … relay awkward or embarrassing situations they’ve encountered, such as walking around a shop without realising you still have your umbrella up.”

Putting yourself in the shoes of the disabled, one must consider their perception of pity at odds with true equity; yet, the radical transparency of the Maltesers ads surely realized an air of bravery through creativity that encourages the disabled to exit their defensive comfort zones.  Further, Mars’ 2016 advertisements added visibility to the disabled by expanding their personal liberties through the proliferation of opportunities for employment and exposure. There is also an argument to be made about diversity. Rather than tokenism, a representative of Mars claimed, “we got better ideas by not just thinking about the white, middle-class, able-bodied family with two kids. Using a different lens has been a game changer for our creativity.”

3. Personal Analysis and Critique: Healthy Indulgences and Fleeting Flits

Beyond Veggies

Harvard Medical School published an article about the health benefits derived from unorthodox sources, such as chocolate and sex.  Typically considered a devious indulgence, the team wrote: “A steady stream of studies has won chocolate cardiovascular laurels by showing that it improves blood flow through arteries that supply the heart and the brain.”  Further, in 2008, researchers at Harvard found that “two weeks of enhanced chocolate intake quickened blood flow through the middle cerebral artery.” Additionally, Italian researchers found a feeble correlation between increased dark chocolate and reduced inflammation marked by the resultant low levels of C-reactive proteins.  However, this comes with a major caveat: the health benefits of one’s chocolate indulgence are best derived from the organic, raw, unprocessed type. Added sugars and other excessive processes only complicate the body’s ability to receive cacao’s naturally fleeting benefits. As it concerns sex, the article called it obvious that “sexual arousal and orgasm is a source of great pleasure and a sense of well-being,” noting that, “even after the immediate glow fades, there may be residual health benefits.”  While there are rare cases of sex causing heart attacks particularly in men, the effects of sexual activity regardless of gender are found to be overwhelmingly ameliorating. These benefits range from reducing the intensity of headaches and stress to the general wellness of cardiovascular and immune systems. When you put the two together, the consumption of raw chocolate and sex, there is a benevolent implication for overall health. But, it is important to tune into the fleeting nature of these benefits; to achieve a healthy balance, consistency is key.

Love and Chocolate

Love, ideally, is passionate, consistent, and true.  Due to legends involving Montezuma, Don Juan, and even Casanova himself, chocolate and love have been mythically inseparable for centuries.  The presupposition is that chocolate inspires passion. Whether in terms of sex, love, or both, it has been found that chocolate contains aphrodisiac powers of mimicry that can illude the passionate feelings of being in love.  Janet Vine of Aphrodite Chocolates reported that “chocolate contains substances called phenylethylamine and seratonin, both of which are mood lifting agents found naturally in the human brain. They are released into the nervous system by the brain when we are happy and when we are experiencing feelings of love, passion or lust. This causes rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure and increasing heart rate, inducing those feelings of well being, bordering on euphoria usually associated with being in love.”  When consumed, chocolate releases these agents into the system and boosts a certain euphoric stamina that earns its reputation as an aphrodisiac instigator of passionate action.

Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate

Love, to me, is also something you must cultivate and actively work toward.  The Grow Network video “Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate” above discusses the modern cultivation of Theobroma cacao trees.  While it is imperative the leaves stay moist, they don’t retain all the water. It is a tropical plant that, in nature, grow as an understory, shaded by other trees so they don’t get the full brunt of tropical sun.  Today, they can be grown in personal backyards or greenhouses, ideally temperature-controlled around 60 degrees. They start from seeds, but reach 5 or 6 feet in about three years when grown in rich organic soil. Once mature, pruning begins; they flower and fruit all year long.  

Chocolate Rain

Artistically too, modern culture connects the indulgence of chocolate and self-permitted growth.  In 2007, YouTuber Tay Zonday went viral with his song “Chocolate Rain.”

Culturally, it was received as a funny video, but deserves to be recognized for its profound social commentary.  Chocolate rain is a metaphor for the tears of African Americans operating in a system of racism. In a way that tugs at the heartstrings, Tay Zonday sings of the pain caused by institutional lies and deceit.  He notes the inescapability of being wronged, for instance, when he sings “the bell curve blames the baby’s DNA,” referencing Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, which argues for the innate intellectual superiority of white men.  It is again an interesting dichotomy between chocolate skin and tears of water.  The emotional act of crying, expressing vulnerability, allows renewal upon a stained existence of unjustified inferiority.  Crying, too, can be a passionate indulgence–a letting go.

Like Water for Chocolate

In other artistic representation of passion and chocolate, it is imperative to reference Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which is one of my favorite all time works of literature.  Symbolically, the title itself poses water’s purity against chocolate’s mercy; water is eternal like love, while mercy is fleeting like lust:

“it seemed Pedro’s rage dominated the thoughts and actions of everyone in the house. Tita was literally ‘like water for chocolate’—she was on the verge of boiling over.”

The real passion in Like Water for Chocolate exists between Pedro and Tita, star-crossed forbidden lovers. Esquivel’s style of prose, magical realism, portrays the otherworldliness of true love; it is a nature that defies reality and works in an irrational way. The quote above speaks to Tita’s divine feminity, and her arousal, showing her readiness to transgress and receive Pedro’s divine masculinity–she ultimately runs toward him. The novel positions true love as a life-giving force, requiring a nurturing attitude toward spiritual honesty, which brings happiness to pain. The story shows the ways in which truth, to oneself, is freedom.  It is an interesting act of balancing that operates over the twelve months of the book, revealing true love, water, is capable to remedy intermittent affairs and external romance, chocolate. It took a long time for Pedro and Tita to actively run toward the cultivation of a serious relationship. In the final scenes of the book, they let go of their fearful resistance:

“Little by little her vision began to brighten until the tunnel again appeared before her eyes. There at its entrance was the luminous figure of Pedro waiting for her. Tita did not hesitate. She let herself go to the encounter, and they wrapped each other in a long embrace; again experiencing an amorous climax, they left together for the lost Eden. Never again would they be apart.”

Thus, true love is proven an enduring force, but it requires the crossing of boundaries and ultimate indulgence in true passion.  Water’s solvent powers allow the indulgence of soluble chocolate to make for a greater drink, which, as we’ve learned in class, produces “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” effects that renew the soul.

Bibliography

“Beyond Veggies: The Health Benefits of Chocolate, Sex, Sleep and Social Networks, from the Harvard Health Letter.” Harvard Health Publishing. April 2009. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/beyond-veggies-the-health-benefits-of-chocolate-sex-sleep-and-social-networks.

Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. London: Black Swan, 1998.

Goldstein, Kay. “Love and Chocolate.” HuffPost. May 25, 2011. Accessed May 04, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/love-and-chocolate_n_165040.

Hagi, Sarah. “10 Years Later, ‘Chocolate Rain’ Is Still the Wokest Song Ever.” Vice. April 25, 2017. Accessed May 05, 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/qkqewv/10-years-later-chocolate-rain-is-more-woke-than-ever.

Kiefer, Brittaney. “Sex, Chocolate and Disability.” Campaign (Sep 09, 2016): 14. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1825218631?accountid=11311.

King, Melanie. Tea, Coffee & Chocolate: How We Fell in Love with Caffeine. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2015.

Parker, Gordon, Parker, Isabella, and Brotchie, Heather. “Mood State Effects of Chocolate.” Journal of Affective Disorders 92, no. 2 (2006): 149-59.

Saad, Gad. “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function.” Psychology Today. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201002/chocolate-consumption-and-women-s-sexual-function

The Chocolate Process and the Inconsistency of Consistency

What are some descriptors that pop into your head when you think about chocolate? Smooth? Creamy? Velvety? Those are some of the feelings Dove wants you to imagine when you are viewing their ads like the one above which show gleaming liquid chocolate on and even comparing their chocolate to silk throughout. Though these are some of the modern connotations of chocolate, its origins were anything but. As technologies improved, the goal of chocolate makers moved towards smoother and smoother chocolate, that is, until technologies allowed for chocolate to become “too smooth,” after which consistency became more of a conscious choice by chocolate makers.

Evidence of cacao consumption dates back to as early as 1900 BC according to tests on pre-Olmec vessels found at archeological sites in Mexico and Central America. The word cacao is sometimes thought to come from the Olmec word “kakawa.” The Olmecs, whose civilization prospered from approximately 1500 BC to 400 BC, likely used cacao for religious and medicinal purposes. They were also possible ancestors of the Mayans who are thoroughly documented—primarily from the Dresden Codex—as having used cacao in many aspects of their lives. When the Maya consumed cacao, it was often in the form of a frothy beverage, often mixed with maize and spices. One technique involved grinding the cacao nibs with a metate, a curved volcanic stone slab. The individual grinding the nibs uses a stone roller with a curvature almost matching that of the metate. Then, while the nibs are being ground, small amounts of water are tossed in, creating a sort of cacao paste. When this is mixed with other ingredients in water, granules are still very much present and noticeable. There will not be any whole nibs, but particles will still be distinguishable. In the video below, at approximately the 2 minute mark, we can see a woman, affectionately referred to as Señora Ruiz, grinding roasted beans on a metate. Usually, the beans would be deshelled, or winnowed, which leaves only the nibs, but this is not necessarily a mandatory step. We can see that even after she grinds it into a “fine” powder, the cacao paste is still visibly granular. In addition, in the video, Señora Ruiz adds sugar—among other ingredients—to the cacao paste. Sugar was not introduced in Mesoamerica until the Europeans brought it over during colonization, thus the recipe that Señora Ruiz is concocting is, in fact, not a true ancient Mesoamerican recipe.

            The metate and other instruments like it were among the only ways to grind cacao until around the early 1800s as the industrial revolution ushered in new mechanized methods for refining chocolate past what was possibly by hand. The first major breakthrough in this was when Coenraad Johannes van Houten patented the hydraulic press in 1828. The hydraulic press allowed cocoa powder to be separated from the cocoa butter, “a peculiar mild fat…to the amount of 43 per cent according to Bousingault, and 53 per cent according to Lampadius” (Scientific American 3). Not only could this process separate the two which allowed the cocoa powder to become finer, the cocoa butter could then be added later in different quantities which alters consistency and texture. The same Scientific American article that described the proportion of cocoa butter per bean also outlines another new technology of the time, a granite cacao milling machine, “a machine consisting of an annular trough of granite, in which two speroidal granite millstones are turned by machinery” (Scientific American 3). This is yet another step in the road to finer, smoother chocolate. The technology is not immensely complicated. It is still, at its core, a stone that is grinding cacao, just like the metate, yet this machine can do the process more intensely, more efficiently, and with more precision.

            1879 brought the concept of conching into the world of chocolate thanks to Rudolphe Lindt (yes, the same Lindt as Lindt Chocolate). Conching involves the cocoa butter being re-added and the chocolate liquor being continuously turned in a large vat, evenly distributing the cocoa butter and any other ingredients that are added at this stage. According to F. H. Banfield, Director of Research at the British Food Manufacturing Industries, conching along with controlled grinding “can standardize the smooth-eating qualities of his product” (Banfield 299). It is interesting to note that in this article, he mentions chocolate as a couverture, in which the consistency matters a great deal as flow rate and viscosity are vital factors due to the chocolate not flowing evenly if it is too thick and draining off if it is too thin. Thus, consistency is not only important for the mouthfeel it gives a consumer eating it straight, but also with its performance around other food items.

           Lastly, an invention that debuted in 1912 but is still widely used to this day is the three-roll mill (or five-roll mill depending on the preferred end consistency). During this process, the chocolate liquor is run through a number of tightly spaced rollers that squeeze the liquor through, reducing its particle size. The more times this process is run, the finer the texture of the chocolate gets. Most chocolate makers today aim for 18-20 microns for their particle size. Particle size is a delicate balance. A particle size too large and the consumer can feel individual granules within the chocolate—which is not necessarily a bad thing and at times done intentionally, especially by more artisanal chocolate makers. A particle size too small and the consistency of the chocolate comes off as almost gooey. The video below shows the chocolate process as a whole but does a good job of describing the rolling process and its significance with consistency. Not only does it get the particles to a desired size, it shapes them into almost “pearl-like” spheres so that they roll, instead of sticking to the palette.

            In ancient Mesopotamia, the most advanced form of chocolate grinding came in the form of the metate resulting in cacao products and beverages with rough and gritty cacao particles. The Industrial Revolution was the impetus for many chocolate related inventions, the first of which being van Houton’s hydraulic press which allowed for the separation of cocoa butter from cocoa powder. The conching process, invented by Rudolph Lindt, allowed for a smoother chocolate by re-adding cocoa butter and thoroughly mixing the chocolate liquor. The final game changer with regards to consistency was the three-roll mill. It was this invention that allowed for the chocolate liquor to become not only fine enough where individual particles are indistinguishable by the tongue, but too fine to where the chocolate feels gooey. Whereas originally, chocolate consistency was a factor of the present technology, after many inventions and adaptations of technologies, consistency has become a conscious choice.

Works Cited

Banfield, F. H. “FROM COCOA BEAN TO CHOCOLATE.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 105, no. 4998, 1957, pp. 298–300. JSTOR.

“Chocolate.” Scientific American, vol. 8, no. 1, 1852, pp. 3. JSTOR.

Edgar, Blake. “The Power of Chocolate.” Archaeology, vol. 63, no. 6, 2010, pp. 20–25. JSTOR.

Lee, Owen. “Preparing Drinking Chocolate near Oaxaca, Mexico.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Apr. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlAg7zIR57k.

Mars, Incorporated. “Dove Chocolate Commercial – Senses.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 May 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8.

Tasty. “How Chocolate Is Made.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Nov. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPe1jMuX32s.