Tag Archives: dessert

Health Conscious Humans: Changes in Chocolate Consumption

Dating back to the Olmec civilization starting around 1500 BCE, cacao has taken on uses in religious, cultural, and medicinal contexts (Coe & Coe, 2013). It was featured in early colonial documents alleviating fevers and treating fatigue. Global consumption of sugar and chocolate skyrocketed so that it contributed to the obesity epidemic in America. Americans now question the “healthy” snack that used to “food of the gods” (Lippi, 2009). As our society becomes more health conscious, chocolate consumption declines. Brands like Hershey’s and Mars are adjusting their products, and snackers opt for vitamin-rich dark chocolate, smoothies, and salads. For years to come in the United States, chocolate most likely will remain integral to social events but be consumed in smaller amounts and different contexts, such as protein shakes and bars, more frequently than caloric snacks off the shelves at the cash register.

           Although chocolate was consumed in religious rituals, social settings, and used for decorations, it was also applied to cure illnesses. The ancient Maya believed it had many benefits, including aphrodisiac qualities, which is why we gift it on Valentine’s day (Martin, Feb. 13 Lecture). Manuscripts featured chocolate in medical applications, such as the Badianus Codex of 1552 using cacao flowers to treat fatigue, the Florentine Codex of 1590 using cacao beans to treat hearts, and the Badianus Manuscript of 1552 applying cacao flowers to energize men in public office (Dillinger et al., 2000). The books of Chilam Balamand and The Ritual of the Bacabs are copies of codices and also feature cacao being used as medicine (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). The Maya used it during ceremonies to alleviate fevers, seizures, and skin abnormalities. Their botanical remedies typically featured cacao as the main ingredient to cure such ailments.

This image is from Codex Borgia and depicts an epidemic with vomiting and diarrhea (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008).

Alphonse de Richeliu introduced the treatment to France, and it was taken on for energy, digestion, breast milk production, kidney stones, poor appetite, and other purposes (Coe & Coe). The Spanish even believed it improved conception probability and breast milk quality (Dillinger et al., 2000). Chocolate was thought to have many nutrients, so the Church banned consuming it during religious fasts unless for medicinal purposes. Chocolate was considered a cure for almost any ailment.

Chocolate consumption grew exponentially throughout the 1900s due to several innovations that allowed mass production of cheaper chocolate and enabled it to spread beyond the elite. Incomes rose and production costs fell after the Industrial Revolution. Coenraad Johannes Van Houton invented the hydraulic press, which separated cocoa solids from cocoa butter (Coe & Coe, 2013).

This machine, the hydraulic press, led to Joseph Fry & Son creating the first chocolate bar in 1847.

As shown above, the press is comprised of cylinders, pistons, and hydraulic pipes. A piston is inserted into the small cylinder to create pressure so liquid cocoa can move through the pipes (Coe & Coe, 2013). As it goes through the press, the fat is squeezed out and the result is fat free cocoa powder. Another development was conchin, a stirring process to make chocolate smooth. These inventions allowed chocolate to change from a foamy drink only consumed by the elite to a cheap and delicious option for all classes. Fry & Nestle even created a solid form of chocolate, which further increased accessibility (Coe & Coe, 2013). Mintz noted that sugar production increased so much that it became integral to the English diet (Mintz, 1986). By 1900, sugar constituted 20% of English calories consumed and chocolate was a major part of their diets.

There are positive effects to chocolate. Dark chocolate has a high cocoa content and antioxidants. Harvard Health notes that dark chocolate can help athletes’ oxygen availability during competition (Tello, 2018). Americans adopted chocolate as a delicious treat but had difficulty consuming it in moderation. Today, chocolate mostly is seen as a contributor to obesity. Many favorite snacks are loaded with sugar and fat. Cacao butter is filled with saturated fat and harmful for cholesterol (Mintz, 1986). With America wrestling with an obesity epidemic, chocolate and sugar are identified as culprits.

People take to Twitter to vent about the terrible impact high sugar content has on health (Twitter, 2018).

Rather than focusing on the medicinal qualities of chocolate, society now raises concerns about high sugar content (Twitter). Low prices of huge sharing size bags lead to some consuming excessive amounts of sugar in one sitting. A bag of Hershey’s individually wrapped chocolate bars contains up to 81 grams of sugar (Google Images). The negative health effects commercial chocolate contains are gaining media attention, and people are adjusting their eating habits accordingly.

The image shows nutrition facts and total sugars in a sharing bag of chocolate that people sometimes consume by themselves.

Consumption of chocolate is now falling in America because of trends toward being healthier and losing weight. Diet brands are raking in dollars as consumers opt for more nutritious options with less sugar. Salad chains, Weight Watchers, and workout classes such as Barry’s Boot Camp and Soul Cycle have become popular. Chocolate consumption drops. The average American ate 12.6 lbs of chocolate in 2007 but only 9.5 lbs in 2015 (Wong, 2016). Healthier brands like Atkins and Kind are selling better than Hershey’s and forcing companies to adjust to their audiences. A recent Skinny Pop commercial depicts the new trend:

The commercial shows children examining snack ingredients.

The commercial ends with a child remarking, “It’s all real, that’s pretty cool” regarding the three ingredients in Skinny Pop (popcorn, sunflower oil, salt). The next generation is being raised to be more health conscious and to consume natural ingredients rather than sugar and saturated fat.

The consumption decline is shown by dominant brands diversifying as they lose market share. More than 50% of confectionary market share was controlled by only five brands: Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Craft, and Ferrero (Coe & Coe, 2013). Hershey’s recently acquired amplify snack brands, which owns Skinny Pop, in a $1.6 billion deal (Global News Wire, 2017). Hershey’s is even beginning to produce meat bars, as their former best sellers are no longer sailing off shelves. Hershey’s isn’t the only old dominant brand struggling. Mars invested in Kind Bars, which features health conscious mottos on their labels (Global news Wire, 2017). Chocolate brands adjust their products and tailor to a changing audience, which will alter how chocolate is consumed.

Not only are Americans consuming less chocolate, but when they do it is in different contexts. Fitness spots such as Equinox still sell chocolate but offer bars that are gluten, dairy, sugar alcohol, and trans fat free.

Barry’s featured a photo of a chocolate recovery shake on Instagram (Instagram, 2018)

Chocolate is featured in low sugar bars and protein shakes more frequently than in caloric foamy drinks. The turn in society towards healthier lifestyles, less sugar consumption, and increased fitness has caused vendor diversification and is changing the way chocolate is consumed.

Despite chocolate and cacao’s widespread medicinal uses in the past, it has been demoted to a sugary dessert in America. As people fight the obesity crisis, consumers practice self-control and grab alternative foods off the shelves. Brands with “skinny” in the name have grown in number: skinny pop, skinny cow, and halo top with the number of calories in huge print. Advertisements featuring natural ingredients, such as the Skinny Pop commercial, are successful. The chocolate market may never be the same—Hershey’s with the famous brown sealed chocolate bar now is selling popcorn and even meat bars (yuck). Not only has chocolate consumption declined, but the way the population consume it has changed because it is being revamped into healthier foods and not just sweet desserts.


Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition.        London: Thames & Hudson.

Dillinger, Teresa, et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” Oxford Academic The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford University Press, 1 Aug. 2000, academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/8/2057S/4686320.

Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Edgar Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Google Search, Google, www.google.com/search?q=hersheys%2Bsharing%2Bbag%2Bnutrition%2Bfacts&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqu6TVzOzgAhWQg-AKHSS6DLkQ_AUIDigB&biw=1009&bih=658#imgrc=ovjpEWmHHdY-uM:

Google Image Search, Google, www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&biw=1418&bih=658&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=1z5_XKqZPOuxggfR-7uAAw&q=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&oq=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&gs_l=img.3…1922.4213..4249…1.0..0.206.1336.14j2j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i8i30j0i24.hcnFkDDU_Rk#imgrc=aSVPvbsdA1Cf1M:

Hershey Company. “Hershey Enters Into Agreement to Acquire Amplify Snack Brands, Inc.” GlobeNewswire News Room, “GlobeNewswire”, 18 Dec. 2017, globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/12/18/1263249/0/en/Hershey-Enters-Into-Agreement-to-Acquire-Amplify-Snack-Brands-Inc.html.

Lippi, D. “Chocolate and Medicine: Dangerous Liaisons?” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19818277.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 13 Feb. 2017. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.Popcorn, SkinnyPop. “SkinnyPop | Simple Tastes Better.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iCta8t7BmU.

Tello, Monique. “Can Dark Chocolate Improve Vision?” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 1 May 2018, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-dark-chocolate-improve-vision-2018050313767?utm_content=buffer4fdfe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=buffer.

Wong, Venessa. “Hershey Shifts Gears As Chocolate Consumption Slows.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 26 Apr. 2016, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/venessawong/people-just-dont-eat-chocolate-like-they-used-to.

A Magnificent Chocolate Culture: Unpacking Desserts at H Mart

It’s just starting to get dark, and the bright red sign over H Mart on Massachusetts Ave seems to give off its own glow. Patrons bustle in and out of the low-slung building, hoisting bags of groceries and pastries from the store’s in-house Korean-owned Parisian style bakery-cafe.

H Mart is an inviting spot to check out the chocolate of Korea and Japan. All photos in this post taken by the author.

H Mart is a South Korean-owned grocery chain that boasts a number of lofty aims on its website. Its mission includes the cultivation of healthy, affordable, and high-quality foods, as well as providing shoppers with the means and inspiration to create “magical” meals. It’s also distinctly aware of its status as an international grocery store, and the potential for community-building that status can provide:

“[F]or over 30 years, Hmart has worked its best to provide quality Korean food and service to communities throughout the U.S.,” writes founder Yeon Kwon on the chain’s website. “We believe the excellence of our products, encourage our fellow Koreans to have profound pride and dignity in the magnificent culture of our motherland, South Korea.”

The products at H Mart, then, serve as a bridge to home for Korean shoppers as well as an introduction to foreign food for locals. And thanks to its position in Central square, the H Mart audience is diverse. According to 2010 US Census data, Cambridge is home to the second largest Korean and Japanese populations in the state. The store is located between MIT and Harvard, and caters to students with special deals and accommodations for meal plan money, drawing another population to the busy market. Their colorful shelves are stocked with an incredibly rich variety of packaged and fresh products primarily from Korea and Japan, with other offerings from Thailand, Malaysia, and beyond. From speciality fish products and traditional desserts to myriad noodle varieties and a generous snack selection, H Mart gives Cantabrigians an opportunity to immerse themselves in Asian cuisine.

Wit this history and demography in mind, H Mart provides a perfect opportunity for exploration into the world of Japanese and Korean chocolate and confectionary. The many colorful offerings on display raise their own questions about the unique role and perception of chocolate products in Korean (and more broadly Asian) culture. Analysis of the selection and presentation of chocolate at the mart reveals a distinct Korean sensibility around chocolate, and insight into what is gained and lost when that sensibility is transplanted into Cambridge.

At H mart, chocolate is framed according to Asian contexts and tastes, which gives it a distinct identity from commercial American chocolate. That identity centers around an alternative framing of chocolate products as social, aesthetic snack foods rather than luxurious dessert indulgences. The reflections of this identity become apparent in a number of ways, from how the chocolate is packaged and arranged on the shelf to its taste and history.


Placement of any food, but especially non-essential items like chocolate, within a grocery store is critical to that product’s success or failure; it can also change the way that food is perceived. The location of chocolate products among H Mart’s colorful shelves is a first clue to the way that chocolate is framed in Korean culture.

Chocolate can be found in a number of locations in the market: the checkout aisles are lined with a combination of familiar American candy bars and less familiar Japanese and Korean products, mostly in the form of bars and small chocolate-flavored candies (One intriguing option there are tubes of Japanese Gummy Choco, which come in muscat and apple flavors). A lonely island of Lindt chocolate easter bunnies stand sentry by the shopping baskets. Chocolate also makes its way into more traditionally Asian deserts throughout the store, making appearances as a flavor option for mochi ice cream or stuffing variety for packaged doryaki.

Placement of the chocolate products in the “snack” aisle is an important element of their framing.

But the majority of H Mart’s chocolate confections—many of which take the form of specialized cookies, cakes, and other snacks—are located in aisle 3, under the heading “Korean Snack” and “Japanese Snack.” In contrast to an American framing of chocolate, the chocolate products aren’t segregated into a dessert section. Instead, they rub shoulders with seaweed snacks and salty chips and crackers. Many of those offerings, as well, blur the line between snack and dessert, savory and sweet. Some soy or rice crackers are dusted with sugar, placing them into much the same ambiguously sweet-salty categories as chocolate-covered pretzels and the like. In contrast, traditional deserts like mochi and Japanese roll cakes are located several aisles away, in their own concentrated section.

Traditional Japanese and Korean snacks, many of which include ingredients such as rice flour and bean paste, at home in a separate section of H Mart.

The blending of sweet and savory flavors in Korean snacks, and classification of chocolate products as a snack, reflects a distinct desert culture in which chocolate understandably has a unique and unusual role. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, traditional  Korean sweets are typically consumed as a supplementary snack to tea. They are often “healthy snacks made with nutritious ingredients like beans, rice flour, varied nuts and seeds,” in other words; a shifted flavor profile from the American conception of dessert and candy (Korean Tourism Organization). Traditional desserts like Gangjeong or Tteok utilize rice flour and rice paste, while other common ingredients include bean paste, ginger, sesame, honey, and fruit. Many deserts are intentionally only mildly sweet, allowing them to be consumed in larger quantities as a snack or compliment to tea. More contemporary versions may also incorporate chocolate while still retaining traditional aesthetics and flavors (Korean Tourism Organization).

The snack aisle at H Mart offers plenty of chocolates, cookies, crackers, chips, and a great deal in between.

Traditional Korean focus on more savory flavors, social aspects of desserting, and aesthetic considerations all help to explain the chocolate offerings on display at H Mart. Instead of marketing chocolate as a highly concentrated, luxurious dessert in much the way an American company might, Korean confectionary brands use chocolate in more snack-like configurations to reflect the role of dessert in Korean culture. A prime example is Pepero, a long, thin biscuit-like cookie dipped in milk chocolate. Though the thin chocolate coating provides a note of sweetness, the biscuit itself is unsweetened, producing an overall more subdued effect. The packaging itself invites snacking: with a handy re-openable flap at one end and an inner package that holds the Pepero sticks in place, uncoated end-up and ready for snacking.


In addition to their ambiguous status as both sweets and snacks exemplified by their presentation in the store, the Korean chocolate product on display are part of a broader culture that frames such snacks as social.

Where an American chocolate campaign might frame the desert in question as a solitary indulgence or a seductive romantic offering, the framing of Korean chocolate as a social snack allows it to be presented as a gift for friends. In Korea, a number of gift-oriented holidays, including Valentine’s Day and White day, when couples may give each other gifts of chocolate, spur the production and purchasing of specialty chocolate (Yoon). Those holidays encourage the giving of specialty foods including chocolates to friends and coworkers.

A prime example of this is Pepero Day, a genius stroke of marketing that emphasizes the chocolate snack’s shareable qualities. On 11/11 each year, boxes of the long, thin biscuit are given away as gifts in a celebration of love, friendship, and luck. The Wall street journal reports that nearly two thirds of annual Pepero sales (which account for 38 % of parent company Lotte’s annual $2.5 billion revenue) occur in the the two months preceding Pepero Day. The popularity holiday has also inspired the company to produce more specialty varieties of Pepero, evident today in the range of flavors on H Mart’s shelves (Yoon). In Korea, gift giving practices drive the production of chocolate confections centered around cute packaging and presentation.

The Pepero Day phenomenon may also be a reflection of chocolate’s origins in Asia. As Lawrence Allen writes in Chocolate Fortunes, chocolate as a higher-quality, novel, imported good was originally perceived by many Chinese consumers as an ideal product for gift-giving (25). Combined with the wider culture of gift giving prevalent in China (and other Asian countries like Japan), these perceptions of chocolate provided a canvas for the development of chocolate products centered around giving and sharing. In contrast, in other chocolate markets around the world, writes Allen, gift-giving accounts for less than 10 percent of sales (26). As chocolate moved from being an imported luxury good to an ingredient of Asian-manufactured sweets, its versatility and aesthetic value as a gift remained important elements of its design and use.


Like its Korean offerings, the Japanese confectionary and chocolate products available at H Mart also emphasize shareability and snacking over sensibilities of chocolate quality, luxury, or purity. Instead, the products center around specific design and combinations of flavors to produce a fun chocolate experience for target audiences to collect and share with friends.

Meiji’s specialized bars share space with European and American chocolate by the checkout aisle.

Meiji chocolate, based in Japan, has oriented their product design and advertisement around the creation of novel, shareable snacks and innovative combinations of flavors. (Much like Lotte’s Pepero, which comes in a variety of flavors from cookies and cream to less internationally transplantable durian.)  According to a swathe of food industry press briefs released by the company from the 1990s-2000s, innovative, highly affordable chocolate snacks were a priority: in 2003, the company released Kurogama Pucca, “a lovely bite-sized chocolate snack made by filling chocolate kneaded with black sesame paste in a fragrant pretzel.” In 2003, the company released Meiji Hyotenka, a “new type of chocolate” that was meant to be dissolved slowly on the tongue after being frozen. Flavors included strawberry and banana. Earlier that year, the company re-launched “Chocolate Koka [Effect],” branded as a “healthy yet delicious chocolate product for adults.” The product claimed to help “prevent arteriosclerosis and the occurrence of cancer.” All of these products were priced at 100-150 yen and came in shareable packages, which would have made them accessible and appealing to children, teens, and anyone hoping to give or share the inexpensive product. The press releases emphasize how new and different each new combination of flavors and designs is, creating a food landscape in which consumers are encouraged to collect and try new Meiji products.

These launches reveal a few key elements of Meiji strategy, reflected in the products available at H Mart. A focus on hyper-targeted marketing results in the creation of highly innovative and unique products (like 1999’s “Fooa,” a white chocolate and strawberry product aimed at “female consumers in general and those of high school age in particular;” which was created as a foil to the more austere Chocolate Koka [Effect] product) that touted the benefits of different kinds of chocolate products for different people and different settings.

This also results in a detailed focus on aesthetics, for both packaging and the products themselves. These concerns are critical, given that, as Allen notes, some 70 percent of chocolate purchases are on impulse, and so “packaging must make an immediate and distinctive impression” (31). Sometimes, those aesthetic concerns can seem to outweigh the chocolate content itself. One such example is Meiji’s Black Chocolate, a sleekly packaged bar that boldly stands out from Meji’s other, more brightly colored offerings. Online, the chocolate is advertised as “irresistible dark chocolate with a sharp, high quality bitterness and an extravagant cacao aroma.” The dark colors of the package seem to reflect Meiji’s association of higher cacao content chocolate with seriousness, adulthood, and quality. However, the chocolate within is sweet and milky, and seems to be only slightly darker than Meiji’s classic milk bar. If anything, the most pervasive scent and taste is of sweetness, rather than bitter cacao.


The diverse and fascinating chocolate products on display at H Mart reflect the ways in which chocolate has been adapted to Korean and Japanese dessert traditions and tastes, and in turn transformed into a component of a diverse world of carefully designed snack products. They are unique and intentional in their framing of chocolate, generating a distinct ethos of chocolate creation and consumption entirely separate from the American sensibility; namely, promoting a dessert culture formed around snacking and sociability. These products also challenge some of the more radical assertions made by Allen in Chocolate Fortunes. Allen paints China as a “xenophobic land of austerity and deprivation,” ripe for exploitation by big chocolate companies. In that view, it is difficult to reconcile the hyper-designed and fun-oriented products of Korea and Japan with an Asian market resistant to change. There is no room in Allen’s interpretation for innovative, hybridized sweets arising from Asian companies like Lotte and Meiji; products which celebrate chocolate’s mutability and the innovative possibilities of sweet snackery.

In an increasingly global food culture, where access to global chocolate products is increasingly easy and prevalent, it is both exciting and important to consider the different orientations of chocolate products within different food cultures. A short trip to H Mart provides a brief glimpse into one such context.

Chocolate sweets at H Mart defy easy categorization, but their analysis provides a window into Korean dessert culture.

Works Cited

A Bite of Sweetness! Korean Desserts | Official Korea Tourism Organization. Korea Tourism Organization, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 05 May 2017.

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes the Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York, American Management Association, 2010.

Current topics: Meiji goes on white chocolate offensive. (1999). New Food Products in Japan, , 1.

“Home Page NJ.” Magento Commerce. HMart, 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.

Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “Institute for Asian American Studies.” University of Massachusetts Boston. University of Massachusetts Boston, 2017. Web. 05 May 2017.

Pacific, R. C. (2003). New chocolate snack from meiji seika. New Food Products in Japan, 28(6), 1.

Pacific, R. C. (2003). New freezing chocolate from meiji seika. New Food Products in Japan, 28(6), 1. R

Yoon, L. (2006, Nov 10). ‘My funny pepero?’ long, thin cookies turn 11/11 into a South Korean holiday. Wall Street Journal.

The Enlightenment’s Influence on Chocolate Traditions

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)

Aquatint by Noel Le Mire ( 1724-1830) La Crainte (‘Fear’) The young woman gestures toward a silver chocolatiere, complete with moulinet, (Coe, 222)

The Four Temperments (image , hearthsidehealing.com)


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)

chocolate as medicine, image from google images.







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)


Chocolate /Coffee Houses were popular gathering spots for elite and upper middle classes.(image from googleimages.com)

The Bedford Coffee House, Covent Garden, in the middle of the eighteenth century
political discussion while drinking chocolate was encouraged during the enlightenment (googleimages.com)



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)

ground cacao (stock photo google images)

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.)


cacao beans ( stock photo google images)

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.

Chocolate Cookbook (image from googleimages.com)

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)

A new tradition- candy bars ( image from google images.com)

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.

hot chocolate  ( image from google images.com)




silver chocolatier (image from google images.com)




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.

classic chocolate cake ( photo from cookingnewyorktimes.com)

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson. Print


Dessert: An Embodiment of Societal Values

Illustrated by Carmen Naujokat, this phrase is displayed in kitchens of rebellious dessert enthusiasts. However, it was not until the late seventeenth century that sweets were commonly served at the end of meals (Mintz 131). By looking at the definition of dessert, it is clear that we first gave meaning to the word, and then the word gave structure to our daily routines.
Illustrated by Carmen Naujokat, this phrase is displayed in kitchens of rebellious dessert enthusiasts. However, it was not until the late seventeenth century that sweets were commonly served at the end of meals (Mintz 131). By looking at the definition of dessert, it is clear that we first gave meaning to the word, and then the word gave structure to our daily routines.

If one ever wanted a fast way of determining the values a society holds in highest regard, he may not have to look farther than the chocolate cupcake on the kitchen counter – or in the case of sixteenth century England, the sugar sculpture on the mantle. Dessert is defined as “the sweet, usually last course of a meal” (“Dessert”). Broken down, this definition provides us with two key elements involved in the historical formulation of dessert. Firstly, it is sweet, as dessert evolved from sugar. Secondly, it is usually the last course of a meal. Dessert’s enjoyment is heavily centered upon its meaning. By examining dessert’s historical evolution in England we see how throughout eras, the meaning attached to dessert has consistently changed to match what society views as most important in life.

Life events are surrounded by dessert related connotations. Pop culture and societal norms reinforce these, making them even stronger and more widely accepted.

Today it is considered commonsense that sugar is sweet; nonetheless, upon its arrival to Europe in 1100 A.D., sugar was classified as a spice (Mintz 79). Grouped together with flavors like ginger and nutmeg, sugar made its first appearances in English cuisine in savory meat and vegetable dishes.

 ManCakes Bakery’s “Buffalo Wing” cupcake involves a “spice base filled with tangy blue cheese cheesecake mousse, topped with a hot sauce buttercream and crispy chicken crumble” (The Cupcakes). Although savory desserts are considered a 2015 food trend (Blair), the union of sugar, spices, and meat dates back to the 12th century.
ManCakes Bakery’s “Buffalo Wing” cupcake involves a “spice base filled with tangy blue cheese cheesecake mousse, topped with a hot sauce buttercream and crispy chicken crumble” (The Cupcakes). Although savory desserts are considered a 2015 food trend (Blair), the union of sugar, spices, and meat dates back to the 12th century.

In sugar’s infancy, it represented status and wealth, which was most sought after at this time. Nobility displayed sugar décor, showcasing how it was expensive and rare. These displays, called “subtleties”, were served in between courses and came in various shapes and sizes (88-89). Sugar’s transformation began as it worked its way down the socio economic ladder into the lives of the upper-middle class whose values were more centered in family and comfort. “As a decoration, sugar was obviously important in ceremonial contexts, such as weddings, birthday parties, and funerals, where sculptured sugar could serve to memorialize” (Mintz 122), demonstrating that it is not our love for sweets that motivates us to place them at the center of special occasions, but our desire to attach meaning to everything we do. Little variation amongst recipes existed until Mrs. Glasse published The Compleat Confectioner in 1760, marking a new era for sweets. This time subtleties were more elaborate, and were decorated with “fruits, nuts of all kinds, creams, jellies, syllabubs, biscuits, etc.” (94). As sugar became inexpensive and abundant, a diversification of sweets occurred, which led to the creation of dessert.

Desserts today, like this croquembouche cake, are still decorative. Few sweet dishes are served without consideration of aesthetic appeal, despite the fact that they are no longer used to showcase wealth. Without status as our motivator, what meaning must we attach to dessert that so inclines us to embellish it?

In addition to decorative sugar, sugar existed in three forms: “spices and dragées, sweet and sweetened alcoholic drinks, and baked sweet dishes” (131). Sweet alcoholic drinks, such as ale, and sweetened alcoholic drinks, such as distilled honey, largely conditioned the English sweet tooth (132), making them more receptive to the concept of dessert. Baked sweets, which began to appear in English cookbooks in the fifteenth century, are of interest to us, as they are primarily responsible for the standardization of a dessert meal. In England, dessert started out as pudding (133) and was served at the end of the meal in imitation of the French custom. Hence, the word dessert is likely derived from the French “desservir” meaning, “to clear the table” (“Dessert”).

This still does not explain the reasoning behind dessert’s placement at the end of the meal. From a sociological perspective, this order would ensure that dessert is the most remembered dish, as nobility used it to flaunt their fortunes when sugar was scarce. Scientifically speaking, glucose found in sweets increases energy levels when metabolized, producing an energy boost after consuming heavy foods. As mentioned previously, sugar was served as a spice, and food was so heavily mashed “that its distinctive taste was concealed” (Mintz 85). From a culinary standpoint, it was likely served last as flavors and textures became separated in English cuisine. Regardless of the correct explanation, dessert’s role as the final course is vital to its identity. A brownie eaten while running to work does not invoke the same positive response or significance that a true, after-dinner dessert does.

Nowadays, dessert symbolizes what present day society values most. It is difficult to imagine a birthday without cake or a Christmas without pie. Weddings are a perfect example of our dedication to dessert, as we spend approximately five hundred dollars on these confections (Naylor). The desserts we serve legitimize holidays and provide us with tradition, which brings us comfort. We care which dessert is paired with each special occasion because we have attached significance to these desserts.

One would think that most would prefer to indulge on any other day, as on these days cheesecake, cream-puffs, and brownies are all equally appropriate. However, this is not true for most people, as it is the meaning attached to desserts we eat on special occasions and at structured times, that makes them so entirely enjoyable. Dessert always symbolized what society held as life’s most important values. In historical times this was power and status. Today, it is the appreciation of family, tradition, and life accomplishments, such as Christmas gatherings and marriages.


Works Cited

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Buffalo Wing Cupcake, ManCakes Bakery. Personal photograph by author. 2015.

Croquembouche. N.d. New York. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Google Images Advanced Search. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4026/4583927923_01c6fc333d.jpg&gt;.

Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.           <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dessert&gt;.

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Life is short. Eat Dessert first. Illustration., Vancouver. Personal photograph by author. 2015.

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York:   Penguin, 1985. Print.

Naylor, Sharon. “Wedding Cake Prices: 20 Ways To Save Big.” The Huffington Post.         TheHuffingtonPost.com, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.             <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/wedding-cake-  prices_n_3423921.html>.

“The Cupcakes.” MancakesBakery. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.       <http://mancakesbakery.com/the-cupcakes/&gt;.