Tag Archives: history of chocolate

The Spread of Chocolate: From Elites to the Masses and Back to the Elites Again

As with many of our favorite foods, like beer, coffee, bread, etc., chocolate has also fallen prey to the recent trend of reverting away from mass production and more towards the smaller scale worlds of “craft” and “artisanal”. For many, the appeal in craft products lies in the idea that the product is made by hand, individually, with the unspoken secret ingredient- love. On the other hand, the craft movement can be understood as yet another new face of class warfare- a way for the upper echelons of society to once again prove their superiority over those who are unable to afford the “finer things in life”. And indeed, chocolate is just one of those finer things. Though not strikingly different in taste, the innate understandings we have of a dark chocolate bar from brands like Hershey’s, Mars, or Cadbury are worlds apart from those with labels from Chocolat Bonnat, Godiva, or Neuhaus. But why? Shouldn’t something as wholesome, delicious, and universally loved as chocolate be an equalizer amongst us? The answers lie in the history of chocolate consumption itself, and its journey from popularity only amongst the European and North American elite, to that of the masses.

Shortly after European colonizers “discovered” cacao and its delicious byproducts, chocolate soon made its way into the hearts of the Spanish elites. Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: chocolate was still a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Chocolate was sipped by royal lips, and only Spanish elites could afford the expensive import. Chocolate soon spread to other elite circles throughout Europe, such as those in France and England, and the demand for it quickly became greater than that which was being brought over from the New World. In order for the pace of production to meet the increased demand, Europeans had to establish colonial plantations in equatorial regions around the world to grow cacao and sugar.

Chocolate was, in every sense, a fashionable thing throughout the 18th century and only became accessible to the lower classes with the invention of a cocoa press by a Dutch chemist in the early 1800s. The cocoa press revolutionized the way Europeans made, sold, and consumed chocolate. What was once a quite labor intensive process was now easily able to be conducted on a mass scale. The cocoa press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. The product became known as “Dutch cocoa” and soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

Not long after, chocolate bars were being made and sold on a massive scale, and being enjoyed across all classes. Companies such as Cadbury, Mars and Hershey that ushered in a chocolate boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s that has yet to abate. In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers’ rations and used in lieu of wages. Today, the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually. Interestingly enough, most of what we would consider “chocolate” today tends to be made with significantly more sugar and extra additives than actual cacao.

Recently however, there’s been a new revolution in the world of chocolate: the craft food industry. Similar to its fallen brethren beer and coffee, chocolate has now begun to reverse course in its journey toward universally affordable and enjoyable. Although many artisanal brands claim an aspiration to change the chocolate industry for the better- sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods – the reality is that they have created another avenue by which class division and elitism can be fostered. Today, it is considered trendy and hip to side against Big Food corporations in favor of these homemade delicacies. This apparent rejection of candy as a commodity, with identical shapes and sizes, is also an embrace of candy as status symbol. After all, why spend a buck for a pack of M&Ms when you can spend twenty times that amount for a single bar?

While it is all well and good to pursue sustainability and support local farmers, it is also important for us as consumers to understand the societal implications of such endeavors. For all the faults of Big Food and mass production (and there are indeed many), we needn’t be so quick to forget the good that this production has done as well. In the U.S., chocolate is one of the few non-essential items nearly everyone can afford; 85 percent of consumers buy it. Whether we realize it or not, chocolate plays a massive role in our everyday lives, and we ought to think more critically about its history of exclusivity before we bemoan the incredible inclusivity we have with it today.

Works Cited:

  1. Fiegl, Amanda. A Brief History of Chocolate. Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.
  2. Kintzer, Brad. Inside The World Of Craft Chocolate. National Confectioners Association, http://www.candyusa.com/nca-news/cst/defining-craft-chocolate/.
  3. Klein, Christopher. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Feb. 2014, http://www.history.com/news/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate.
  4. Lindell, Crystal. “Mintel: U.S. Chocolate Market to Hit $25B in 2019.” Global Chocolate Report, Candy Industry, 9 June 2015, http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86698-mintel-us-chocolate-market-to-hit-25b-in-2019.
  5. Shanker, Deena. Little Chocolate’s Big Moment. Bloomberg, 7 Feb. 2017, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate.


The Molinillo: a Hybrid of Many Cultures, Not Just a “Mexican” Tool

Chocolate has a rich history in Mesoamerica, dating back to the Olmecs in 1500 BCE. However, it was not until after the Spanish invasion in the 16thcentury that chocolate traveled outside of Central America. Chocolate’s interaction with many different cultures and societies resulted in a hybridization process that spanned multiple generations, transforming it from the bitter drink consumed by the Maya and Aztecs to the sweet, sugary chocolate that dominates the world market today. Going through a similar hybridization process was the molinillo, a wooden tool used to produce froth during the chocolate-making process. A Spanish invention, the molinillo quickly became adopted in both Mesoamerica and Europe. However, today the molinillo is depicted in mass media as a distinctly Mesoamerican or Mexican tool, its Spanish and European past minimized and sometimes even neglected all together. This phenomenon can be explained by the difference in meaning attributed to the molinillo in Mesoamerican and European cultures. However, the contemporary characterization of the molinillo as solely Mexican undercuts its historical impact and significance; consequently, it is important to acknowledge the tool as a hybrid of many different cultures, not just one.

Although the molinillo was important in the chocolate making process, an entirely different method was used for hundreds of years before its introduction. The earliest known depiction of the original froth making process is the Princeton vase of the Maya, dating back to the late Classic period.

Woman creating froth by pouring chocolate from one cup to another
Princeton vase (AD 670-750)

As shown, the Maya poured chocolate from one cup to another, the height helping to froth the liquid. This was the “exclusive method” of pre-conquest Mesoamerica, as evidenced by the Codex Tudela, which depicts a similar image only eight centuries later and on an Aztec artifact rather than Mayan (Coe and Coe, 85).

It was not until the late 16thcentury that the introduction of the molinillo greatly altered this process. The molinillo, thought to be derived from the Spanish word “molino”, or little mill[1], is a wooden, grooved beater invented by the Spaniards. 

A typical molinillo

The Spaniards found that twirling a molinillo through an opening of a covered cup was a better way to produce foam. It was quickly adopted in Mesoamerica, and by the time Francesco d’Antonio Carletti, a Florentine businessman who traveled to Guatemala to observe the chocolate process, printed his official report in 1701, the molinillo was being widely used (Coe and Coe, 139). By 1780, the molinillo supplanted the former foam-making process completely, as evidenced by Francesco Saverio Claviergero’s published report on native Mexican life that describes the use of the molinillo but “totally omits the pouring from one vessel to another to produce a good head on the drink” (Coe and Coe, 85).  Clearly, the molinillo quickly became an essential part of Mesoamerican life.

At the same time the molinillo was being adopted in Central America, it was also gaining popularity in Spain and other European countries. The importance of the molinillo can be seen in a recipe published by the Spaniard Antonio Comenero de Ledesma in 1644, which stated that chocolate is best prepared with a molinillo (Coe and Coe, 133). However, the use of the molinillo was not isolated to Spain. Other European countries adapted the tool to fit their own unique ways of preparing and serving chocolate. For example, the French prepared chocolate in ornate, silver chocolatiers and the molinillo was altered to match these vessels and fit their lids. The molinillo was so widely used it was even depicted in the art of the time, as shown below (Coe and Coe, 222).

A woman reaching for a molinillo sitting atop a silver chocolatier.
“La Crainte” by Noël Le Mire (1724-1830)

Yet in contemporary media, there is little mention of the molinillo’s Spanish influences or its widespread use in Europe. Instead, it is identified as a Mexican artifact. For example, the first link that shows up after a simple Google search is a Wikipedia article that states that a molinillo is a “Mesoamerican tool”, and the only country mentioned in the article is Mexico. Although Wikipedia is not an academic source by any means, in today’s Internet age it is where most people get their information due to its convenience. Even an article that pops up from the Smithsonian magazine, the reputable written resource of the Smithsonian museum, describes the significance of the molinillo with no mention of its use in Europe. It even emphasizes that Spain contributed greatly to the chocolate process, but only in its introduction of sugar, not in its invention of the very artifact the article is about. This begs the question, why has contemporary culture diminished the importance of the Spanish and European past of the molinillo and augmented its Mexican one? Using the framework with which Sydney Mitz evaluates the spread of sugar in Great Britain in his book “Sweetness and Power” can elucidate the answer. According to Mintz, when studying food and the objects used to prepare food, it is essential to examine the meaning ascribed to them because meaning can differ substantially over time and across cultures.

For Mesoamerican civilizations, chocolate had a ritual significance. In Maya civilization, Gods were connected to cacao trees, often born of them. For the Aztecs, cacao trees were considered the center of the universe, or an axis mundil, that connected the “supernatural spheres and human spheres” (Carrasco, 92).  As such, chocolate came to have strong religious connotations, and foam was seen as an essential and sacred part of the ritual drink, or as Meredith Dreiss comments, “chocolate is for the body, but foam is for the soul” (Dreiss). Because of this, the molinillo became an essential and incredibly meaningful part of life, as the same religious and cultural emphasis that was put on foam became associated with the tool that made the foam. Yet for the Spaniards and other European countries, this ritual aspect was lacking. When chocolate traveled across the ocean, it lost some of its former meaning while simultaneously gaining new meaning. This is because the meanings associated with symbols are “historically acquired- they arise, grow, change, and die- and they are culture-specific… they have no universal meaning; they ‘mean’ because they occur in specific cultural and historical contexts” (Mintz, 153).  Once chocolate became situated in new cultures, it grew to have different contextual meaning, and none of the new meanings that Spaniards and Europeans associated with chocolate was as heavily focused on foam as it was in Mesoamerica. Consequently, to the Europeans the molinillo was simply a tool to make chocolate rather than a symbol. 

In this context, it can be argued that the cultural meaning that Mesoamerica ascribed to the molinillo is what contributes to its identification today as a distinctly Mexican tool. This is because although a Spanish invention and widely used, the molinillo did not have a significant cultural meaning like it did in Mesoamerica, and therefore it’s European past is easily disassociated. However, when analyzing the significance of the molinillo, it is important to recognize its entire historical past, rather than just its Mexican one, as its hybridization is an essential part of its identity, just as hybridization is an essential part of chocolate’s identity. 

Multimedia Sources

https://www.dandelionchocolate.com/2014/10/21/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-part/

http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1460190

http://biarritzantiquites.free.fr/gravure-18ème-le-mire-d%27après-le-prince-la-crainte.htm

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/kitchen-utensil-chocolate-stirring-from-scratch-cacao-161383020/

Works Cited

Carrasco, Davíd. Religions of Mesoamerica. Waveland Press, 1990.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013. 

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

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986. 


[1]There are alternative theories, such as Dr. León-Portilla’s belief that molinillo is a Spanish derivation of the Nahuatl world molinia, meaning to “shake, waggle, or move” (Coe and Coe, 120 )

Interview With A Chocolate Lover

 This interview is being conducted for the purpose of chocolate research, and to gain a deeper understanding of how chocolate affects people’s lives.  Many people enjoy the delicious, sweet substance, yet not all are aware of the history.  The interviewee will be asked a series of questions about how chocolate affects her life.  She enjoys chocolate on a daily basis, and so this interview will be beneficial to everyone. First, she will be asked about her favorite kind of chocolate, and why she chose it.  Secondly, how chocolate has affected her life, either health wise, or pleasure.  Lastly, we will discuss how chocolate has progressed, or stayed the same over the years. For example, does chocolate taste the same now, as it did hundreds of years ago?  Is chocolate as healthy now as it was in the time of the Mayans or Aztecs? The interview will give everyone a new perspective on almost every aspect of chocolate.  Without further ado, let’s begin our interview with a chocolate lover.

The interviewee was born and bred in Southeast Michigan, and is now twenty-one years old.  Her obsession with chocolate began when she was very young.  She recalls, “eating chocolate as young as two years old when my father would feed me spoonful’s of chocolate ice cream.” I laughed, responding, “Yes, chocolate ice cream is very good.  Do you still enjoy chocolate ice cream?” She replied, “Of course! Only, now I eat organic, dairy free chocolate ice cream.” At this point, it was a perfect time to move the interview toward our first question.  Obviously the interviewee has enjoyed chocolate her whole life, and it would be interesting to know what is her favorite kind of chocolate.

She replied, “My favorite chocolate comes the Endangered Speciesbrand, and my favorite flavor is Dark Chocolate, With Forest Mint.” It sounded delicious. I asked, “Why is that your favorite brand of chocolate?” Interviewee: “Well, the ingredients are healthier than something you would find in a Nestle brand for example.  This brand is a NON GMO product, Kosher, certified gluten free, and certified vegan. It also contains around 70% cocoa.”  It was refreshing to know that the interviewee had a respect for healthy, organic chocolate.  I was able to research the product, and gathered the ingredient information.  It contains, “BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE (CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, CANE SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA), NATURAL MINT FLAVOR” (Chocolatebar.com).  It also contains 5g’s of fiber, 12 g’s of sugar, and 3 g’s of protein.  The total calories per bar is 210.  The fact that the interviewee was aware of the health benefits of cacao surprised me.  Cacao is the purest form of chocolate, and to give the reader some perspective, we will explore its origins.

The following information has been qouted from my last blog post, Eat More Organic Chocolate!: “Christopher Columbus was said to have brought some back with him, after his fourth trip to the New World, but Europe was not quite ready to acknowledge its significance.  Actually, “It was his fellow explorer, the Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés, who first realized their commercial value. He brought cocoa beans back to Spain in 1528 and very gradually, the custom of drinking the chocolate spread across Europe, reaching England in the 1650s” (Cadbury).  Cacao, the ancient chocolate of the world, had just started its long journey to modern popularity.” (Wydo)

In fact, “By 1682, a British report detailed cocoa exports from Jamaica to Boston. By inference, cocoa exports into the colonies can be assumed to be used for local chocolate production, marking the beginning of chocolate production in the American colonies” (History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American ColoniesSnyder).  It became so popular in North America, that even John Adams and his wife would have some with their morning breakfast.  Snyder records, ‘“John and Abigail Adams were very fond of chocolate. In 1779, John Adams, while in Spain, wrote, “Ladies drink chocolate in the Spanish fashion. Each lady took a cup of hot chocolate and drank it, and then cakes and bread and butter were served; then each lady took another cup of cold water, and here ended the repast.” Abigail Adams, writing to John Quincy Adams in 1785, described drinking chocolate for breakfast while in London.””

Cacao has a deep and rich history.  The interviewee was read the information to give a better perspective.  In response, she said, “Wow, I thought I knew a lot about Cacao, but apparently not.  I did not know that Abigail Adams drank chocolate for breakfast in London. That is very interesting.  It seems like chocolate was a delicacy in those days.  People of high class consumed it.  They made it popular.”  Next, I wanted to move the interview towards my next question. I asked, “How has chocolate affected your life in all areas? Do you consume it for health, pleasure, or perhaps both?

The interviewee replied, “I love chocolate for many different reasons. Chocolate is not just something I eat or drink for pleasure, but something I consume for my health as well. There are many ways to consume chocolate.  You can eat it from a chocolate bar, drink it hot chocolate, enjoy some chocolate ice cream, sprinkle it on desserts, and so much more.  Chocolate is just fun to prepare. You can enjoy it so many different ways.  As I mentioned before, I only eat organic chocolate that has a high percentage of Cacao in it.  The reason for that is because cacao has numerous health benefits.  Raw cacao contains, magnesium, Iron, Flavonoids, and PEA.”

Luke: “Where did you get this information from?” Interviewee: “From a Women’s Health article. I’ll go ahead and read you some of the article now. The article reads, ‘“Raw cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium – a mineral that many of you lack from your diet. Magnesium is essential for energy production, for a healthy brain and nervous system, for our muscles and for strong bones and teeth. Magnesium may also support a healthy blood pressure. Cacao is a source of iron, which builds the blood and helps to transport oxygen around our body, as well as potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium. Cacao can also be high in flavonoids, which have antioxidant activity. Raw cacao and flavonoid-rich chocolate have been linked with heart health benefits including increasing the good form of cholesterol (HDL) in our blood, lowering blood pressure and even improving vascular function in patients with congestive heart failure. These effects are thought to be primarily due to the antioxidants contained in the cacao.In addition, cacao contains a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA for short!). PEA is thought to elevate mood and support energy, and is said to be one of the reasons that many people love chocolate! Raw cacao is also very low in sugar, and of course does not contain any milk, so is suitable for those who are milk-sensitive or following a low-sugar diet”’ (Menato).  Luke: “Yes, chocolate is very good for you! I did not know all of that information.  I actually wrote a blog post for this class, and I quoted an article written by James Howe.  I’ll read you part of the article. It reads, ‘In the mid-1990s, with funding from the Mars Company, Hollenberg set out to prove that what protected the Kuna from heart disease was chocolate. As the research has progressed since then, he and other researchers have zeroed in on a “flavanol” in chocolate called epicatechin, which, he says, may protect against diabetes and cancer as well as high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks.”’ Interviewee: “I’m glad I eat and drink plenty of chocolate! That research really makes me grateful for Cacao.  It truly does impact your health in a positive way.”

At his point in the interview, it was my intention to steer the conversation towards social issues surrounding chocolate, and it’s production.  The interviewee has a history of being very passionate about human rights, so this topic was perfect for our conversation.  First, I wanted to gauge her familiarity with the subject.  After doing research, I was astounded from what I found.

In America chocolate isn’t given a second thought. Everywhere you turn there is chocolate. From candy to desserts there is no shortage. Most often, Americans do not give a second thought to were products we use and eat come from and the effects those products have on other societies in order to produce it for our enjoyment.  Luke:“Do you mind if at this point in the interview, we discuss the effects chocolate has on society?” Interviewee: “Of course not! I love being able to talk about these things because it brings awareness to the subject.” Luke: “Let me start off by reading from an interesting news posting from the BBC. It quotes, ‘African cocoa farms are still employing hundreds of thousands of children, the BBC has discovered, 10 years after the world’s leading chocolate companies promised to tackle child labor. Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest cocoa producer with as many as 800,000 children working in the industry, often in dangerous jobs’ Humphrey Hawksley reports from Ivory Coast. Most Americans today do not know this. It’s so important that people today are educated’” (BBC News).

Luke: “Another interesting article I found from Fortune.com reads, “Child labor in West African cocoa farming first became a cause célèbre around the turn of the century when a number of pieces of investigative journalism focused the world’s attention on the plight of children who had been trafficked to Ivory Coast to farm cocoa, often from other former French colonies such as Mali and Burkina Faso, and held as slave laborers. In a documentary that aired on the BBC, filmmakers interviewed young boys in Ivory Coast who said they’d been beaten and forced to work long hours without pay. One who said he’d been working on a cocoa farm for five years was asked what he thought about people enjoying chocolate in other parts of the world. “They are enjoying something that I suffered to make,” the boy answered. “They are eating my flesh.”” (Fortune.com).”

Interviewee: “Wow.  I knew that chocolate production has posed these kinds of risk’s to kids in Africa, but I was not aware of all these facts.  It honestly breaks my heart.” Luke: “It breaks my heart too because there’s not much we can do except boycott these companies who buy their chocolate from West Africa.  However, almost everyone buys their chocolate from there.  According to the same article, around 70 percent of the worlds cacao is grown there.  This means that they produce around 60 percent of the global market in chocolate.”

Luke: “Another source reports, “Holding a single large pod in one hand, each child has to strike the pod with a machete and pry it open with the tip of the blade to expose the cocoa beans. Every strike of the machete has the potential to slice a child’s flesh. The majority of children have scars on their hands, arms, legs or shoulders from the machetes. In addition to the hazards of using machetes, children are also exposed to agricultural chemicals on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Tropical regions such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast consistently deal with prolific insect populations and choose to spray the pods with large amounts of industrial chemicals. In Ghana, children as young as 10 spray the pods with these toxins without wearing protective clothing (foodispower).” Interviewee: “That is devastating.  It really makes me rethink who I will be buying my chocolate from!”

Luke: “I hope I haven’t turned you off from chocolate altogether! The reason I bring up these issues is because we as Americans need to be more aware.  It is all about bringing awareness to the issues at hand, and doing everything we can do to help.  For example, when you go to buy your chocolate, buy brands that are committed to eco-friendly production.  This way, you know that no child is suffering in an effort to produce it.  Another thing you can do is not buy from brands that are known for importing from West Africa.  Choose another brand.  It’s all about taking small steps toward a better tomorrow.  Anyway, I was so glad you accepted my invitation for this interview. You have really brought a fun atmosphere.  I have enjoyed getting to know you and your favorite chocolate better!” Interviewee: “Thank you so much Luke.  I had fun as well. Let’s raise our chocolate bars to a great interview!”

 

Works Cited

 

  1. http://www.chocolatebar.com/products/dark-chocolate-with-forest-mint/
  2. History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies.” History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies: The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site,
  3. Menato, Francesca. “Cacao Powder Benefits | Why It’s Better Than Chocolate.” Women’s Health UK, womenshealthmag.co.uk/weight-loss/healthy-eating/2736/health-benefits-of-raw-cacao-over-chocolate/.
  4. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43–52., doi:10.1525/gfc.2012.12.1.43.
  5. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, Fortune, fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/.
  6. “Ivory Coast Cacao Farms Child Labour: Little Change.” Http://Www.bbc.com/News/World-Africa-15681986.

Model Firms and Firm Models: Fashion, Africa, and Chocolate.

Africa sells, there is not any doubt. It would be hard to estimate the time lag between Livingstone hacking his way through the jungle and the first pretty blonde in a pith helmet, posed in the swath of jungle immediately behind him, selling some consumable product; selling the very idea of Africa. Real life in Africa, offline and out of camera range, is still more than a little bit of a mystery. We consider here the exploitation of Africa and the simultaneous advertisement of the exploitation of Africa: what it means for a model to be authentic, what it means for a product to be modern, the moral responsibilities of a corporation, and how the modern chocolate bar fits into the grand scheme of all these things.

The First Chocolate Advertising.

The chocolate business is an old business, as in thirty-five centuries old. Because of the limited suitability of the cocoa tree to anywhere but the most humid and hottest part of the tropics, cocoa was a trade product from the very beginning. In Central America and the south of Mexico elaborate trade routes sprung up and cocoa was also acquired by theft and by warfare; these cocoa proto-businesses and their ethics make for an interesting comparison or even parallel to what came later. The Princeton Vase (Mayan, 8th century AD) and other antiquities depict fashionably attired and accessorized young women caught in various poses of making chocolate, and while not advertisements, they are a related form; they are examples or models connecting the food product chocolate with its various meanings. The illustrations on these early ceramic vessels can exemplify class aspirations, luxury, conspicuous consumption, and ritual. In any case, the total meaning of chocolate is not yet separated from its act of production.

Privatization and Modernization in the New World.

It was not long after conquest of the New World that the existing cocoa businesses “merged” with the Spanish enterprises, and not long after that the cocoa trade was privatized and duly licensed by the Viceroyalty. Through forced labor, warfare, European diseases, and lack of foresight the Spanish began to lose their cocoa producers and consumers at an ever increasing rate; within a century 90% of the Preconquest indigenous population was gone. Meanwhile the Spanish modernized and in their view improved the indigenous chocolate recipes, primarily through the substitution of their own spices and the addition of more and more sugar. Chocolate at this time began to lose the religious and ritual meanings it carried for the native peoples. Likewise, since here we will be interested in clothing and fashion, we note how the Spanish began a simultaneous modernization of the clothing of the indigenous peoples, for example imposing their ideas of Christian modesty, etc. on clothing that already carried religious or cultural meanings for the natives. An odd example is the banishing of a transparent huipil (blouse) worn by women in southern Mexico; for the indigenas this look had only the connotation of formality, but thanks to the Spanish, the outlawed blouse became a headdress with sleeves intact (Covarrubias, 1954).

As time went by the New World was carved out into Spanish, English, Dutch, and Portuguese colonies and the (now mostly inferior) cocoa stock was greatly expanded. With eyes cast back across the Atlantic, new markets and uses for chocolate were developed in Europe. Already at this time the necessary connection of the idea of “modernity” with evolution and civilization is called into question. At the level of the chocolate recipe, the indigenous recipes with their greater palette of spices and flavors had more in common with today’s artisanal chocolate than the Spanish recipes (Presilla, 2009).

While entire cultures were erased in the New World, it is important to note that the indigenous peoples also willingly adopted some materials and aspects of European culture, and not every effect of colonization was automatically negative and for the worse. For example, the native peoples incorporated many foods brought from Europe into their own kitchens; likewise Spanish sheep and wool, the backstrap loom, and European techniques of construction enabled new heights of creative expression in the native clothing (Schevill, 1986). Most importantly, modernized indigenous food and clothing often became the “traditional” food and clothing in a natural and inevitable process one author has called “cultural authentification” (Rabine, 2002).

The Rise of the Model.

From the 16th century onwards, as New World products began to pour back to the European markets, the chocolate drink began its infiltration of the upper class parlor and likewise the representational painting of the age. Once again, pre the age of advertising, the beautiful young woman fair of skin and fair of French or French-inspired fashion, is caught in the act of drinking or preparing chocolate; no longer nameless she is now the Artist’s Model; hardly mute, her clothing and her chocolate consumption signal her social status, her economic status, and her taste for the good life. If we enquire into her “authenticity,” she is a real young woman in a studio, possibly British or Italian or Spanish, possibly a professional model or a countess or a maid. She is also an organic synthesis of the woman who posed and the artist who posed her. With an expressively arched hand placed here, a thumb hidden there, the dress draped just so, weight placed on this leg and not that one, in a “pantomimic gesture” (Mortensen, 1956, p. 104), she is more real than a real woman in a real room. Like the chocolate that is pressed, beaten and heated into a pleasing form that is beyond the natural, the model is an improvement on nature and engenders the aspirational aspect of the painting. The viewer that wears the same dress and drinks the same chocolate becomes the particular woman in the painting; the artist’s model is the viewer’s “future self” (reference needed).

And on to Africa.

From the 16th century onwards the cocoa trade blossomed: Guns, liquor, shackles, and all manner of manufactured goods flowed to African ports, labor in the form of Africans flowed to the New World cocoa fields, and cocoa flowed back to Europe to complete the vicious circle. African slaves now substituted for the indigenous labor force mostly exterminated in the colonization. Producers and consumers were now widely separated in geography and conscience; black hands cut cocoa pods from trees in sweltering heat while porcelain white hands rested on sterling cups of chocolate in the drawing rooms of Europe. In time with great blights of disease in the New World cocoa fields, occasional slave rebellions against greatly outnumbered plantation masters, and continually increasing world-wide competition, the forced export of so much African labor became so economically unviable it was abolished in late 19th century resignation. At this time ships were pointed to the new colonies in Africa. In one sense, this was following a natural trail along an equator that provided the necessary growing conditions for cocoa; in another sense since Africans could no longer be brought to the plantations by force, the plantations would now be brought to the Africans. Direct management of slave or slave-like labor was eventually outsourced when planters became “buyers”.

The Rise of the Model Firm.

Good business or bad business? Before the 19th century the question could scarcely be asked, as any business enterprise in cocoa necessarily involved human slavery in one form or another. The moral fragility of such a long supply chain stretching back across an ocean that had barely just been crossed in the 16th century should be obvious; by the 19th century tarnishing of the chain at both ends was clearly visible. On the one end were the graves of 10-15 million Africans hauled to the New World to work in the cocoa and other plantations, on the other end of the chain was ever increasing adulteration of factory-made chocolate to increase profits. In the midst of all this, as modern society became increasingly more concerned with labor and the other conditions of production, and companies being reflections of the society at large, the chocolate trade (which by now was concentrated into a small number of very large companies) set out to improve the safety of their products and the conditions of their labor force. British companies like Rowntree and Cadbury and their counterparts in other countries sought to become “model firms” (Robertson, 2009, p. 7).

The earliest model firms, the companies of William Cadbury and Rowntree in particular, had their work cut out for them, but the literature on these two companies shows leaders with genuine empathy for their producers/laborers in Africa (Higgs, 2012; Satre, 2005). By the 19th century the cocoa business was predicated on modern advertising, and the 20th century spirit of reform which sought to unite, in a way, the production and consumption of chocolate was balanced by the nature of advertising to conceal the conditions of production. Again it was often up to the female model (freed at last from the canvas, and readily relocatable to a magazine photo or a tin of cocoa), to articulate new meanings for chocolate. In early Rowntree advertisements pretty native girls in neatly pressed exotic garb carried baskets on their heads through cocoa fields (Robertson, 2009). This model was a type from the early 20th century: in America she dressed as a Hawaiian maiden, in Mexico she wore the Tehuana skirt and roses in her hair, and in South America the basket of cocoa became a basket of fruit. She danced her way across the first glossy magazines and the first dim cinema screens, associating products like chocolate with the hard-to-get and the exotic. Not since the Mayan chocolate vessels described above had the model represented the actual producer of the chocolate (for better or worse); because she was fashionably dressed, she represented also the fashionable young woman consumer, bringing the two a little closer than they were before. This kind of advertisement, however, can never represent the actual conditions of production because of the very nature of the fashion system: fashion never refers to any reality and only refers to itself (Barthes, 1983).

 

We recall that chocolate was a luxury and a status drink that eventually trickled down through the classes, acquiring new meanings along the way. Models in chocolate advertising changed their clothes accordingly. Later, beautiful and healthy young female models on bicycles or on the way to tennis matches consumed chocolate, the health food (Kit Kat bar); as chocolate by this time was mostly sugar, and sugar at this time was still considered a healthy source of calories, the authenticity of the advertisements was not automatically a problem. Chocolate advertisements in this vein continued on through the golden age of women’s magazines and into the 1970s. Again, the model in a woman’s magazine represented the consumer’s better and future self: a better mother, a better wife, or a healthier and more alluring woman.

Ghana Today.

Above we have made only the roughest sketch of the idea of the model in the history of chocolate advertising; we conclude with a 2005 advertising campaign of the Divine Chocolate company (Britain), which appeared in magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, etc. The models used are described as owners of their own cocoa farms and part owners of the Divine Chocolate company (www.divinechocolate.com).

In the first advertisement a woman poses in a Ghana cocoa field in the noon day sun in a Western manner: her weight shifts to one leg as her hip slides out to the side, as her head tilts to the same side in a curve associated with the 18th century painter Hogarth (and used ever since in modeling). We note that Western magazines like Elle and Cosmopolitan are well known in the cities of West Africa and are frequent sources for custom dress making, while larger cities sponsor European-style fashion shows (Rabine, 2002). The off-the-shoulder dress in a yellow and green floral print is tailored in a European style, and described as a Holland print (i.e. literally from Holland) brought over from England by the advertising agency.

West Africa sets the fashion, i.e. the traditional fashion, for much of Africa, even though use of the word “traditional” is problematic. Most of what is considered traditional today by historians of dress, or better yet Africans themselves, are materials and styles that have been brought from one place to another. World-wide, the familiar cuts are long squares and rectangles with dignified straight cuts. Most traditional clothing, however, is made in one-offs by small tailoring shops who use curvilinear Western cuts; by now this is considered to be traditional. Traditional prints are dyed by hand using stitch resist (tie dye), flour resist, or wax resist methods. From the beginning of the 19th century to the present, the most sought-after materials are the wax resist dyed fabrics brought in immense quantities from Holland, and the Holland print is considered to be the most traditional and most African one can get (Rabine, 2002). Thus the model in the advertisement is actually traditionally dressed.

The Divine Chocolate ad is such a great contrast with the history of labor conditions in the cocoa trade that it gives one pause, and maybe some hope for the future. The advertising campaign at long last connects chocolate buyers with the actual producers in the field, and that cannot be but a good thing. The women may be artificially lighted and a stylist may be standing just outside of the frame, but the advertisement still manages to capture a small part of their real lives. The women seem healthy and happy, and they are beautiful by any standard. The world will only get smaller as time passes, and contacts get closer and closer, and through this West African cocoa farmers stand a chance to gain in real power and improve the conditions of their lives.

References.

Barthes, R. (1983). The fashion system. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Coe, M. (2013). The true history of chocolate. London, England: Thames & Hudson, Ltd.
Covarrubias, M. (1954). Mexico South: the Isthmus of Tehauntepec. New York, NY: Knopf.
Higgs, C. (2012). Chocolate Islands. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.
Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and power. New York, NY: Penguin.
Mortensen, W. (1956). How to pose the model. New York, NY: Ziff-Davis.
Powis, T. (2008). The origins of cacao use in Mesoamerica. Mexicon [sic], 30, 35-38.
Presilla, M. (2009). The new taste of chocolate. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
Rabine, L. (2002). The global circulation of African fashion. Oxford, England: Berg.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
Satre, L. (2005). Chocolate on trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Athens, OH: Ohio University
Shevill, M. (1986). Costume as communication. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

** Ava Gardner in Helen Rose dress (C) 1953 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “The cup of chocolate” by Pierre-August Renoir (1878) is in the public domain, dark-skinned beauty ad and bicycle model ad are in the public domain, “Women with attitude” ad (C) 2005 by Divine Chocolate.

History and Marketing: Chocolate References in Popular Music between 1990-2015

 

Njoroge Njoroge begins Chocolate Surrealism with the line “Music always expresses the interrelationships of movement, memory, and history” (Njoroge 2016). Music, especially popular music, is composed of many different elements of society and culture. This essay demonstrates how popular music from 1990 to 2015 reflects both chocolate’s history and the industry’s marketing of chocolate products. This exercise is thought provoking in revealing how certain pieces of chocolate’s history are found in western popular music and others are largely absent. Particularly, the elements of chocolate’s history that are unhelpful for advertisers are missing from the chocolate references in western popular music. Marketing is a powerful force in our society. “Advertising has created, and reinforced, particular uses and identities” for different chocolate products (Robertson 2009). Importantly, popular music supports these uses, identities, and histories of chocolate provided by the chocolate industry. This further uplifts some elements of chocolate’s past while suppressing other parts of it. This essay demonstrates chocolate references in western popular music from 1990 to 2015 are rooted in chocolate’s history and the industry’s marketing of chocolate.

Chocolate has historically been attributed many medical properties and health benefits. This history is reflected in “Cigarettes and Chocolate” by Rufus Wainwright (2001), “Morphine & Chocolate” by 4 Non Blondes (1992) and “Chocolate Makes You Happy” by Xiu Xiu (2010). The Aztec believed cacao could be used to combat fatigue. The Aztec Emperor Montezuma II is quoted as saying chocolate is a “… divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” (Castell et al 2013). The Europeans who took cacao and chocolate from the natives of Central America also became interested in the medical properties of cacao. M. de la Cruz, a Spanish instructor at Santa Cruz College in Mexico City, suggested that cacao “be used in case of angina, constipation, dental problems in case of tartar, dysentery, dyspepsia, indigestion, fatigue, gout, and hemorrhoids” (Lippi 2013). Between the mid-16th century and the 18th century, chocolate was considered, by various members of the European medical community, everything from a treatment for kidney disease to a universal medicine (Ibid).

More contemporary chocolate advertisements have utilized links between chocolate and various health benefits. Rowntree, the English chocolate company, targeted housewives arguing that their cocoa was “more bone and muscle building” and that good mothers should provide Rowntree cocoa for their children (Robertson 2009). Similarly, the Rowntree cartoon “Coco” was depicted battling bears while “fortified by Rowntree” products (Ibid). During World War Two, female demolition workers were pictured drinking mugs of cocoa and the caption read, “and that’s what Amazons are made of” (Ibid). This reference to the Amazons, a mythical tribe of powerful female warriors, implies that drinking chocolate makes these workers stronger, more Amazon-like.

The three song selections presented below reflect the above history and chocolate companies’ efforts to promote the purported benefits of chocolate. The 4 Non-Blondes (1992) sing:

“Morphine & chocolate are my substitute, substitutes,

morphine & chocolate can bring me up,

can warm my heart whenever I want it”

 

While Xiu Xiu (2010) sings:

Chocolate makes you happy, and it keeps you awake”

In both examples above chocolate is presented as a stimulant and a mood booster. In the 4 Non-Blondes track chocolate is equated with the drug morphine. Morphine is an opioid pain medication which is used to “treat moderate to severe pain” (Morphine 2017). This is a powerful allusion. Chocolate is depicted in this song as having a similar effect on the body as a potent pain drug. While both songs present chocolate in a positive light, Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate” does not. His lyrics go:

“Cigarettes and chocolate milk,

These are just a couple of my cravings,

 everything it seems I like’s a little bit stronger,

A little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me”

 

In this song, Wainwright recognizes the negative qualities and impacts of chocolate with the line, “A little bit harmful for me.” At the same time, Wainwright points to chocolate as a craving. Chocolate is presented as something that pulls at him like cigarettes. Cigarettes contain the incredibly addictive chemical nicotine which causes people to develop a physiological addiction to them. The highlighting of chocolate’s drug-like qualities and addictiveness in popular music reveals the influence of chocolate companies’ marketing because modern science has largely refuted the popular view of chocolate’s addictive ability and is unclear at best about whether chocolate provides the consumer with any health benefits.

In her history of the medical use of chocolate, Lippi (2013) provides an illuminating vignette about chocolate and medicine. She relays the following story about chocolate’s early years in Florence, Italy writing, “Zeti was worried that … ‘bad talking’ about chocolate could provoke a decrease of customers and … wrote a short book in defense of chocolate” (Ibid). Francesco Zeti represents an untold number of chocolate producers who strove to ensure that their products were viewed as having positive health benefits. Major chocolate companies, like Rowntree and Cadbury, have followed in this long tradition by promoting the benefits of chocolate in their advertisements and at times burying evidence that might impact their products’ sales (Satre 2005).

While chocolate advertising has perpetuated claims about its health benefits, a review of clinical evidence for chocolate’s health benefits provides a picture that is mixed at best (Castell et al. 2013). The article points out that cocoa has been linked to “enhance[d] antioxidant defenses and “a cardioprotective effect” (Ibid). These claims are tempered by their conclusion that “further studies are necessary in order to identify the active constituents in the nervous system among the various cocoa polyphenols and to understand their mechanism of action in the brain” (Ibid). This conclusion is far from a ringing endorsement and arguably evidence to suggest that marketing by chocolate companies has influenced public perception of chocolate’s health benefits and medical uses.

In addition to its medical properties, chocolate has been long associated with pleasure, romantic courtship, and female sexuality. These associations are found explicitly in popular music’s references to chocolate. These associations are rooted in both past and present chocolate marketing.

In her review of Rowntree and Cadbury advertising, Robertson (2009) argues that their “adverts… placed consumption firmly within heterosexual courtship: chocolate was to be a gift from a man to a woman.” She goes on to explain that Rowntree used snippets of love letters in their advertising of certain products (Ibid). Furthermore, early chocolate advertisements suggested that dissatisfaction in a relationship could be resolved by a gift of chocolate. An example of the above shows a woman complaining that her man is “so interested in his awful football match that he didn’t seem to notice me” (Ibid). This dissatisfaction is then alleviated by the presentation of Black Magic chocolate as a makeup gift. While Rowntree and Cadbury were using these techniques in the 1940s and 1950s, modern advertising has continued promoting the link between chocolate and romance.

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/7xlZ/russell-stover-assorted-chocolates-on-valentines-day

The above Russell Stover ad says, “give her” the chocolate in a heart shaped box. This ad encapsulates contemporary efforts to connect chocolate consumption to romance and love, continuing another marketing tradition.

This connection between chocolate and romance was the most common use of chocolate in popular music. “Chocolate” by Snow Patrol (2003), “Chocolate Box” by Cold Cut (1993), “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” by Pulp (1995), “Sweet Like Chocolate” by Shanks & Bigfoot (1999), and “Chocolate” by Kylie Minogue (2003) all provide examples of this connection.

Comparing “Chocolate Box” (Cold Cut 1993) and “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” (Pulp 1995) highlight the diverse ways in which this connection can be used in music. In this comparison, there are two contrasting uses of the iconic chocolate box, but in both chocolate boxes are explicitly connected to romantic relationships. In “Chocolate Box”, Cold Cut (1993) sings, “I send my love a note, in a chocolate box.” This line is part of larger love song with lines like, “And in that loving note, I offered him my hand, Gave him my heart, True love from the start.” In this song, the chocolate boxes are part of a positive relationship experience. In “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” by Pulp (1995), chocolate boxes are used as a positive ideal to contrast the singer’s experience. They sing:

“So what do I do?

I’ve got a slightly sick feeling in my stomach.

Like I’m standing on top of a very high building,

oh yeah, all the stuff they tell you about in the movies.

But this isn’t chocolate boxes and rose, it’s dirtier than that”

 

In these lyrics, the artist argues that life and relationships are not simply chocolate boxes and roses, the good and positive ideals. Relationships can be hard and complicated, and the chocolate box is used as a positive ideal to contrast with the challenges of reality. While in different framings, both songs use chocolate boxes in a way that connects chocolate directly with romantic relationships.

The next pairing demonstrates using chocolate as a metaphor for a positive relationship or relationship experience. In “Sweet Like Chocolate” by Shanks & Bigfoot (1999) the United Kingdom dance duo use the lyrics:

“You’re sweet like chocolate boy,

Sweet like chocolate,

You bring me so much joy,

You’re sweet like chocolate boy,

 

In a very similar vein, “Chocolate” by Australian artist Kylie Minogue (2003) features the lyrics:

“Hold me and control me and then,

melt me slowly down,

like chocolate come here,

zoom in, catch the smile,

there’s no doubt it’s from you and I’m addicted to it now”

 

In both examples chocolate represents the positive aspects of a relationship, “you are sweet like chocolate,” you are so good I am “addicted” to you. These lyrics clearly indicate chocolate’s connection to romance and courtship.

The final song in this section uses chocolate a bit more indirectly than the first four examples. “Chocolate” by Snow Patrol (2003) does not mention chocolate at all in the song’s lyrics, but still connects it to romantic relationships. This song is written from the perspective of a person who has messed up a romantic relationship and wants to start over. It features the lyrics “A simple mistake starts the hardest time, I promise I’ll do anything you ask, this time.” The song’s title alludes to the history of using chocolate as a makeup gift, an attempt to “resolve” dissatisfaction in the relationship. This example recalls the Rowntree women complaining about her husband and the company’s proposed solution of presenting her with chocolate. Chocolate companies past and present have sought to connect their products with romance and courtship. They have been incredibly successful, as popular musicians now often use chocolate in very similar ways to their advertisements.

In addition to songs that connect chocolate to romantic relationships, there are another set of popular songs that explicitly relate chocolate and sex, at times specifically to sex with a black person. This connection also has roots in chocolate’s history and company marketing. The below link is to the music video for “Ms. Chocolate” by Lil’Jon, featuring R. Kelly and Mario (2010).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SIetxPjTBs

This song features lyrics such as “This is for the chocolate girls, all around the world”, “So sweet, so round, so thick, so nasty… so smooth, so creamy,” and “So hot you gon’ melt, eat you all up by myself… It’s a chocolate fix I’m after” (Lil’ Jon 2010). As seen in the video, the artists are shown with several scantily clad black women. Interspersed throughout the video are pictures of chocolate bars and other chocolate products. This song objectifies the black female body and uses the word chocolate to describe that body as a sex object.

In addition to Lil’ Jon’s work, there are less explicitly sexual songs that do not directly objectify the black body. Soul Control’s (2004) “Chocolate” includes the lyrics:

“Everybody in the world likes chocolate,

Hmm we love it,

Oh it makes you happy,

Yeah it gets you sexy,

It makes you fat…

but we don’t care about that”

And this is followed by:

“Everybody wants a chocolate (A choco choco)

All the girls want candy candy,

All the boys get randy randy

Everybody want a chocolate”

In a live performance of this piece, as shown in the below link, the singers thrust their hips suggestively with each “All the boys get randy randy.” This song is less explicitly about sex but it is largely implied through the lyrics and chocolate is a thinly veiled metaphor for sex.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjIn6SJK5Y

The use of chocolate as a metaphor for the black body has been satirized by the creators of the American adult sitcom South Park. “Chocolate Salty Balls” (1998) is a song performed by American artist Isaac Hayes on South Park. While originally featured on the show, “Chocolate Salty Balls” (1998) received international radio time, hitting #1 on the United Kingdom Singles charts (Official Charts 2017). Isaac Hayes sings:

“Say everybody, have you seen my balls?

They’re big and salty and brown,

 If you ever need a quick pick me up,

Just stick my balls in your mouth

Ooh, suck on my chocolate salted balls

Stick ‘em in your mouth, and suck ‘em

Suck on my chocolate salted balls

They’re packed full of vitamins and good for you

So suck on my balls”

 In this case, the lyrics are absurd. They are exaggerating the very sexualization seen in Lil’ Jon’s “Ms. Chocolate” (2010) with comedic intent.

            The metaphors seen in the above songs again have their roots in chocolate marketing. Women in Dairy Box rhymes were frequently referred to as ‘sweet’ themselves, “implying that they may be consumed following the courtship gifting ritual” (Robertson 2009). In addition, this was a clearly observable strategy during the Second World War as chocolate companies “objectified women as sexual objects to maintain male morale” (Ibid). This technique of equating chocolate with sex can be seen in a substantial amount of contemporary chocolate advertising.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzOchsY4RhQ

The above link is for a chocolate ad by the French company Chocolat Poulian and features a woman sensually enjoying the touch of cacao beans. It is directly playing on the connection between chocolate and sex. This connection is promoted by chocolate companies through advertisements, is then picked up by popular music artists, and in turn gets reinforced through their music.

In the above examples from popular music, chocolate was used as a metaphor for sex with the black body, extolled for its stimulating properties, and celebrated for its taste. These uses at times reflect chocolate’s history and at others reflect chocolate industry’s marketing techniques. There are also instances when the history is a product of marketing techniques as seen in the example of chocolate’s connection to romance and courtship. It is critical to notice who and what is missing from the above references. Robertson (2009) argued that “Imperial violence seems to have no place in the past of such a pleasurable commodity.” She is right and it is apparent from the fact that there is no mention of the cacao worker in these examples from western popular music. A celebration of chocolate in western popular music does not acknowledge its actual production or its colonial history. It is helpful that Rufus Wainwright (2001) at least recognizes that milk-chocolate is not healthy, but even his references to chocolate leave the people behind chocolate invisible. Much of chocolate industry marketing presents chocolate a certain way and ignores the people who provide the raw cacao and struggle to make chocolate available to the developed world. Popular music artists pick up on these marketing themes and continue to ignore the darker side of the chocolate industry. This invisibility makes it much easier for cacao workers to be exploited by companies thousands of miles away.

 

 

 

Work Cited

4 Non Blondes. 1992. Morphine & Chocolate.

Castell, Margarida, Francisco Jose Pérez-Cano, and Jean-François Bisson. 2013. “Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview.” In Chocolate in Health and Nutrition, edited by Ronald Ross Watson, Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-61779-803-0.

Cold Cut. 1993. Chocolate Box.

Hayes, Isaac. 1998. Chocolate Salty Balls.

Lil’ Jon. 2010. Ms. Chocolate.

Lippi, Donatella. 2013. “History of the Medical Use of Chocolate.” In Chocolate in Health and Nutrition, edited by Ronald Ross Watson, Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-61779-803-0.

Minogue, Kylie. 2003. Chocolate.

“Morphine: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Warnings.” 2017. Drugs.com. Accessed May 4. https://www.drugs.com/morphine.html.

Njoroge, Njoroge. 2016. Chocolate Surrealism: Music, Movement, Memory, and History in the Circum-Caribbean. Caribbean Studies Series (Jackson, Miss.). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

“Official Charts Company.” 2017. Accessed May 6. http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/39995/chef/.

Pulp. 1995. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.

Robertson, Emma. 2009. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Studies in Imperialism (Manchester, England). Manchester ; New York : New York: Manchester University Press ; Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Satre, Lowell J. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. 1st ed. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Shanks & Bigfoot. 1999. Sweet Like Chocolate.

Snow Patrol. 2003. Chocolate.

Soul Control. 2004. Chocolate.

Wainwright, Rufus. 2001. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.

Xiu Xiu. 2010. Chocolate Makes You Happy.

 

Chocolate at CVS

CVS calls itself a “pharmacy innovation company,” so it is not the first place one thinks of when considering places to buy chocolate. However, the options for chocolate products in the 24-hour Cambridge, MA location claim a surprisingly large section of aisle space. More than half of the candy aisle is taken up by chocolate, and their aisle dedicated to holiday and seasonal products is also predominantly filled with holiday-themed chocolate items. There’s a tantalizing array of similar chocolate products lined up in the checkout line, neatly packaged for individual, one-time consumption. And for a customer who wants to try something fancier, there is an aisle endcap labeled “Premium Chocolates.” There are some interesting trends in the options available for purchase. With the exception of the small premium chocolate selection, all the chocolate is milk chocolate, most of it consists of chocolate in combination with another food such as peanut butter, caramel, or fruit, and all the options that I could find were produced by one of the four largest chocolate companies: Mars, Nestle, Hershey, and Cadbury. In fact, a lot of the options were simply the same product in different forms. A customer can buy a 2-pound bag of individually wrapped mini Reeses, or a bag of even smaller unwrapped Reeses, or an 8-pack of large Reeses, or an individually-wrapped large Reeses, or a bag of Easter-themed Reeses shaped like bunnies or eggs. It’s all peanut butter surrounded by a milk chocolate layer, but the customer can choose at least six different forms in which they’d enjoy eating this product. Additionally, most of these chocolate products were on the lower end of the price range. For only about two dollars, a customer can buy individually-wrapped chocolate items of up to eight ounces. Even the premium chocolate endcap is dominated by yellow stickers denoting huge sales. A picture of this is shown below.

premiumchocolate

(image taken by me)

A customer can buy two chocolate bars and get the third for free, and the most expensive bar was eight dollars.

Compiling these observations, we can see that CVS primarily sells inexpensive, sugary milk chocolate products produced by huge chocolate companies who are very focused on packaging, and that CVS branches out a little bit with their premium chocolate selection but still focuses on keeping the price down. Why is this? CVS is a drugstore where people shop to find household conveniences, health products, and snacks. According to one article, CVS tries to sell to all Americans because everyone needs pharmaceuticals, but its target market is the elderly. CVS is not primarily a food store, so it makes sense that CVS would try to sell chocolate products that are most likely to appeal to its target demographic of middle-class and elderly Americans. CVS is doing well as a company, so its products must be selling well. We can see, then, that the average American enjoys buying milk chocolate that is sugary, brightly packaged, and produced by Nestle, Mars, Hershey, or Cadbury. The explanation for why Americans prefer this style of chocolate lies in our history. Sugar production, industrialization, and aggressive marketing all contributed to the way our chocolate industry looks today.

Until the 1700s, sugar was a luxury product in Europe. People knew of its existence, but it was too expensive to eat frequently and was consumed primarily by the upper classes. Demand for sugar continued to grow, however, so from the 1500s onwards, European powers established sugar plantations in the Caribbean, imported slaves from west Africa to labor on them, and competed with one another to become the foremost sugar exporters. Britain, France, and Portugal were the most successful with sugar production and trade. Most of the sugar produced in their colonies was consumed back in Europe as demand continued to grow and grow. By the mid-1700s, sugar was a regular feature of most Europeans’ diets (Mintz 5-45). By 1850, the price of sugar in Britain dropped sharply due to new economic policies that navigated away from protectionist policies for colonies and towards free trade (Mintz 61). This decrease allowed sugar to become even more of a necessity to English diets, and since sugar was cheap, it served as a substitute for other, more expensive foodstuffs for working class people (Mintz 161). These same trends happened in the United States. The combination of the facts that sugar is cheap and that humans have a strong sweet tooth have contributed to the fact that more and more of our diet consisted of sugar until we have gotten to where we are now: a society that adds sugar to nearly all processed foods.   This explains why we like our chocolate so sugary; we like everything sugary.

This still doesn’t explain, however, why only four chocolate companies produce the chocolate we see in CVS. This limited brand choice is due to two main, overlapping factors: first, American industrialization allowed for huge economies of scale, allowing factories to mass-produce items such as chocolate at low prices. Second, a couple chocolate factories captured the American market while chocolate was still a new item and the American taste for chocolate was still forming, causing Americans to crave a certain flavor of chocolate that only those companies could produce. In the mid-1800s, the Industrial Revolution took off in the United States as people figured out how to use non-human sources of energy to power large factories that used automated processes to mass-produce items on great scale. This led to the rise of the working class and their mass demand for affordable foods. The mass manufacture of foods, then, became very important where it had previously been a small market (Goody 85). There were massive improvements in “four basic areas: (1) preserving; (2) mechanization; (3) retailing (and wholesaling); and (4) transport” (Goody 72). All of these innovations allowed for food to be produced and processed on a larger scale than ever before, shipped everywhere in the country for consumption, and sold at the lowest prices it had ever been. Processed food became a necessity in the working class diet, and mass production of foods by large-scale companies is still the way that most of our food is produced today. Chocolate is one of these foods that became mass-produced, and the first company to mass-produce chocolate in the United States was Hershey.

Hershey conceived a new business strategy that was previously unused by sweet-makers: he produced vast amounts of his products at low prices instead of making a lot of products at varying prices. This allowed him to sell his Hershey Kisses and bars to nearly “every grocer, druggist, and candy store owner in America” (D’Antonio 123). His strategy worked, and Americans liked the candy so much that Hershey made $3.6 million dollars in sales in 1911 and $5 million dollars in sales in 1912 (D’Antonio 123). Hershey has been a permanent fixture in American culture ever since. One explanation for why Hershey chocolate has stayed so popular in the United States is because it introduced a distinct flavor of chocolate to Americans before they had tried any other flavor of chocolate. Americans came to associate the Hershey flavor with true chocolate, and would be reluctant to try anything else. Europeans, meanwhile, often dislike the slightly sour taste of Hershey chocolate (D’Antonio 108). Other chocolate companies had to come up with their own innovations to compete successfully with Hershey’s initial chocolate monopoly. Mars company, for example, was mainly successful because it came up with the idea of enrobing other sweets in chocolate and selling it as a chocolate bar. This allowed Mars to sell a much larger “chocolate” bar than Hershey for the same price because other ingredients were cheaper than the chocolate, and this larger bar for the same price was very appealing to consumers (Brenner 57-59). The original Mars bar consisted of chocolate-covered nougat and caramel, and looked about three times as thick as a Hershey bar. We can see an advertisement below for the original chocolate Mars bar, where it emphasizes that it consists of 3 flavors.

Mars had the same flavor of chocolate as Hershey-in fact, Mars initially bought its chocolate from Hershey- so the only difference in products was the added nougat and caramel. Mars quickly became as successful as Hershey and competed for market share. These large companies were able to produce chocolate extremely efficiently, so they were able to sell their products at lower prices than local confectioners (Brenner 188). The large companies soon outcompeted smaller ones, and thus most of our chocolate today is produced by massive companies that can sell us chocolate for the lowest prices.

There are signs, however, that consumers are starting to pay more attention to factors other than flavor and price when purchasing chocolate. Now that chocolate is so affordable, Americans are starting to be concerned with the way in which chocolate is produced: is it fair to the cacao growers? Is it ecologically sustainable? Does it have health benefits? According to Kristy Leissle, demand for organic, healthier chocolate is on the rise (23), which is reflected by the resurgence of artisan chocolate makers. The number of bean-to-bar chocolate artisans has risen from one to thirty-seven from the 1970s until now (Leissle 23), and the number keeps growing. Recently, there has been an emphasis on how organic, dark chocolate has health benefits and is tastier than mass-produced milk chocolate. More and more Americans are buying “premium,” especially dark, chocolate (Bean to Bar 167). This growing interest in fine chocolate is reflected in CVS’s small “Premium Chocolate” section. CVS itself is attempting to become a more health-oriented drugstore. It stopped selling cigarettes and is stocking its shelves with healthier options overall (Thau). This could explain why CVS is selling some darker, higher quality chocolates. However, all of the premium chocolate that CVS sells is still made by large companies that put their chocolate through a lot of processing. The brands available are Ghiradelli, Lindt, and Chuao: all large and well-known companies with not much of an emphasis on producing their products in an ecologically and ethically sound manner. This is likely because although CVS is making steps to sell more healthy, environmentally conscious products, it still must appeal to its target audience, which wants inexpensive and convenient snacks. These brands of premium chocolate are more expensive than typical American milk chocolate, but they are still much less expensive on average than artisan bean-to-bar chocolate, or than organically produced chocolate. CVS is thus striking the balance between healthier, socially conscious options and low price options. Overall, the options at CVS are a fairly accurate reflection of American trends towards chocolate overall. Americans are still hooked on extremely sugary, processed chocolate and are not willing to pay high prices for candy, but are starting to demand more dark chocolate due to its health benefits and common linkage with socially conscious initiatives.

Works Cited

“About.” CVS Health. CVS, n.d. Web. 5 May 2017.

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The emperors of chocolate: inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. New York, NY: Broadway , 2000. Print.

Convex Strategies. “CVS: Demographics And Business Model Mean Tons Of Upside For The Stock.” Seeking Alpha. N.p., 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007. Print.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 2013. 72-89. Print.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31. JSTOR. Web. 5 May 2017.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and power: the place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin , 1987. Print.

Thau, Barbara. “Can CVS Become The Whole Foods Of Drugstore Retailing?” Forbes. N.p., 22 Apr. 2017. Web. 5 May 2017.

Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. Raising the bar: the future of fine chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Publishing Corporation, 2012. Print.

Mars advertisement image link: http://robinthecandygirl.blogspot.com/2009/01/where-have-all-mars-bars-gone.html

The first image of Premium Chocolate was taken by me.

Ration D-day: Chocolate’s role in Warfare

hungry-d-day-rations-E

When you think of warfare, you probably think of soldiers, tanks, or guns; you probably do not think of chocolate, however, chocolate played an integral part in World War II. The military in the first half of the 20th century had a problem. Men were fighting on the front lines were in conditions where field kitchens could not be established. Sustenance would have to be shipped in and it would have to be compact and portable. It was to this end that Captain Paul Logan, of the office of the U.S. Army Quartermaster General, turned to chocolate. He met with William Murrie, then president of Hershey Chocolate Corporation, and Sam Hinkle, his chief scientist, in 1937 about developing a chocolate bar emergency ration that could stand up to the rigorous military standards required for field rations[1]. Chocolate was uniquely qualified as a choice for rations as it is not only lightweight and portable but it is also is a stimulant, provides a quick burst of energy and is fairly nutritious. There were, however, some technical issues that need to be dealt with before chocolate was ready for duty on the front lines.Nestle's 1943 Ad

As anyone who has left a chocolate bar in their pocket on a summer’s day knows, chocolate tends to melt in moderately high temperatures. This gives chocolate its wonderful mouthfeel but also makes it a challenge to transport it hot climates. This is due to one of chocolate main ingredients; cocoa butter, which has a melting point of 78 degrees Fahrenheit[2], turning any chocolate above that mark, whether in your mouth or in your pocket, from a solid bar to a mushy mess.

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Furthermore, as it was to be an emergency ration, this chocolate couldn’t be the tempting treat you usually think of when you think chocolate bar. According to Sam Hinkle, chief scientist at Hershey at the time, “Captain Logan said that he wanted it to taste not too good, because, if so, the soldier would eat it before he faced an emergency and have nothing to eat when the emergency came,” Hinkle said. “So he said, ‘Make it taste about like a boiled potato.'”[3]

chocolate propaganda

Hershey scientists and the US Army Quartermaster Corps set out together to engineer a chocolate that could stand up to the military’s exacting standards. As Joel Glenn Brenner states in her book, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, “The result was the famous Field Ration D, nutrition-packed “subsistence” chocolate made from a thick paste of chocolate liquor, sugar, oat flour, powdered milk and vitamins …it could withstand temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and contained 600 calories in a single serving.” (Brenner 8). That was all well and good but the military needed to make sure that these Ration D bars could stand up to the challenge of the harsh environment of war. According to the Hershey Community Archives, “The first of the Field Ration D bars were used for field tests in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, the Texas border, and at various Army posts and depots throughout the United States. These bars also found their way to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd’s last expedition in 1939. The results of the test were satisfactory and Field Ration D was approved for wartime use.”

pow_D_Bar_2

Once assured of these chocolate bars being up to snuff, the military put them into production. In her book, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, Anastacia Marx de Salcedo describes the packaging process: “The finished bars were sealed in foil and then paper-wrapped in sets of three, for a total of 1,800 calories, enough to sustain a man for a day. (Later, when foil became scarce during World War II and the use of chemical weapons seemed imminent—mustard and chlorine gas had been used frequently in World War I—waterproof cellophane and wax coated boxes were used [to prevent any deadly chemicals from leaching into the soldiers’ food]). By the end of 1945 Hershey was producing 24 million bars a week[4].

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As for what the soldiers thought of them, their thoughts can be seen in the nickname they gave it; “Hitler’s secret weapon”. In his article, “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!”, Terry W. Burger interviews John Otto, a platoon leader in Company A of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 505th Parachute Regiment, for his experience with the Ration D bars, “They were awful,” “They were big, thick things, and they weren’t any good. I tried ’em, but I had to be awful hungry after I tried them once…. Whatever they put in didn’t make them taste any better.” Nevertheless, the Ration D bars kept the soldiers alive on the battlefield and in other precarious situations. Not only that, because chocolate contains stimulants such as theobromine and caffeine, it kept the soldiers awake and alert, which was vital to their survival and success, especially in hostile territories like Nazi-occupied France. Some of the soldiers dislikes of the bar may have stem from their quick consumption; the instructions clearly stated the bars are to be eaten slowly (in about half an hour the label says), so a soldier on the move who consumed his Ration D bar a little too quickly may have experienced quite a bit of gastronomic distress.

1943 chocolate Life Magazine

Either way, the Ration D bars served also as a diplomatic tool, turning many starving Europeans into friends of the United States[5], as described by 82nd Airborne Veteran John Otto, “People wanted them, You’d give them to kids. In some places they were very hungry. And they sure helped relax people about American soldiers.”

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Chocolate has been part of the military ever since. In 1943, Hershey created the Tropical Bar, the Ration D’s ever-so-slightly better tasting cousin, for consuming in the hot and humid Pacific[6]. This bar saw action during the Korean War (1950-53) up through the early days of the Vietnam War[7].  In 1990 Hershey created the Desert Bar, which tasted like an original Hershey bar but could withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit[8]. Not that Hershey was the only game in town; Forrest Mars introduced M&M’s in 1940; just in time for the chocolate candy that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” to be added to soldiers rations[9]. Today soldiers receive chocolate in a variety of places, whether it’s in a MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat)[10] ration or a care package that boosts their spirit and gives them a little taste of home.

thecuriousg-yelllow-m-m-vintage-poster

Footnotes:

[1] Hershey Community Archives

[2] Joel Glenn Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, page 11

[3] Terry W. Burger, “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!”

[4] Hershey Community Archives

[5] Terry W. Burger, “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!”

[6] Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, page 87

[7] Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, page 87

[8] Joel Glenn Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, page 10

[9] Joel Glenn Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, page 46

[10] John C. Fisher and Carol Fisher, Food in the American Military, page 183

Works Cited

Marx de Salcedo, Anastacia. Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat. Penguin. 2015.

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey And Mars. Random House, Inc. 1999.

Fisher, John C., and Carol Fisher. Food in the American Military: A History. McFarlan & Company, Inc. 2011.

Burger, Terry W. “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!” America in WWII, Feb. 2007, p. 36+. General OneFile, libraries.state.ma.us/login?gwurl=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GPS&sw=w&u=ntn&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA400957701&asid=4593f3eb2321afb7732288b7e5322620. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

“Ration D Bars” Hershey Community Archives. http://www.hersheyarchives.org/essay/details.aspx?EssayId=26. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Schumm, Laura. “The Wartime Origins of the M&M”, June 2, 2014.  History.com. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/the-wartime-origins-of-the-mm. Accessed  3 Mar. 2017.

Butler, Stephanie. “D-Day Rations: How Chocolate Helped Win the War”, June 6, 2014. History.com. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/d-day-rations-how-chocolate-helped-win-the-war. Accessed  3 Mar. 2017.

Graber, Cynthia and Twilley, Nicola. (2017, Jan 30). We Heart Chocolate. Gastropod. Podcast retrieved from https://gastropod.com/we-heart-chocolate/

Image Credits

(in descending order)

http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/d-day-rations-how-chocolate-helped-win-the-war

http://dyingforchocolate.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

http://pocketsofdelight.blogspot.com/2013_06_01_archive.html

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/319192692320412964/

http://users.psln.com/~pete/pow_D-Bar.htm

http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/world-war-ii/

http://dyingforchocolate.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

http://www.hersheyarchives.org/essay/details.aspx?EssayId=26

http://www.thecuriousg.com/blog/2016/03/03/mmmmm-mms-75/

Sweet Relief: A History of Chocolate as Medicine

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of chocolate in the media as a means of weight loss, body transformation, and pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Individuals have flocked to this fad, willing to integrate chocolate into their diet in the hopes of physical improvement. The Flat Belly Diet states, “The Flat Belly diet does not offer magic….but it does offer science” (xi) and proceeds to coin the term “MUFAS”, mono unsaturated fatty acids, as the science behind the subject (5), citing dark chocolate specifically as a MUFA to be utilized on a daily basis throughout the diet program (27). Before and after pictures of thrilled women, finally rid of their belly fat once and for all wave gleefully from the pages of the self-help book.

For many, this may seem like a wholly novel idea. However, in light of deeper research, it becomes clear that the authors of this diet plan are simply tapping into the age-old penchant that humans have for turning to chocolate for medicinal purposes. In the following blog post, I will examine that phenomenon, tracing chocolate’s journey as a medical agent throughout history. I theorize that this continued use is due to both its chemical makeup and its esteemed position in social history.

To begin, it is crucial to look at the beginning of chocolate’s historical journey as a remedy. Presilla and de los Santos explain that chocolate was used for religious offerings and elite ceremonies by the Aztec and Mayan communities pre-European invasion (20). By making offerings to the gods and drinking cacao at ceremonies, the Mayans and Aztecs implicitly indicated an association of chocolate use with longevity and health. Additionally, as explained by Dillinger et al., missionary Bernardino de Sahagún’s Florentine Codex explicitly named chocolate as an Aztec remedy. In his written account of Aztec customs, he named chocolate as a therapy used by the civilization for everything from infection and fever to diarrhea or excessive phlegm (2060). However, Europeans took this practice to an even further level. Historians Sophie and Michael Coe describe how the Europeans “stripped it [chocolate] of the spiritual meaning which it had for the Mesoamericans, and imbued it with qualities altogether absent among the Aztecs and Maya… it was a drug, a medicine” (Chapter 5).

chocolate world digital
Image of Florentine Codex section detailing Aztec medicine. Source

With medicine in the 16th century being speculative at best, incorporating this holy, revered substance into the medical repertoire was an attractive option. When chocolate was discovered, the medical world at the time revolved around bleeding, deadly surgery without anesthetic, and other foul remedies meant to balance the “humors” (Dillinger, 2059). Therefore, the reports of Aztec medical expertise were more than enough to catch the attention of King Phillip II, who sent his royal physician, Francisco Hernández to investigate (Coe and Coe, Chapter 4). Hernández quickly adapted the Aztec rituals to fit within the European system of the four humors. This publicity caused many others to follow suit. Notable Spanish doctor Antonio Comero de Ladesma claimed that it “preserved health” and made the user “amiable” while Englishmen Thomas Gage and Adam Stubbes also endorsed the product ((Dillinger et al 2064). Thanks to this widespread publicity touting the efficacy of chocolate, by the Baroque period, chocolate, had fanned across Europe as a viable medication, endorsed by royalty and beloved by individuals of the highest class (Coe and Coe, Chapter 5). Of course, this was soon met with controversy, as by the 18th century medical professionals were also warning the public of the dangers of chocolate, claiming that excessive use could result in hyperactivity, discomfort, and even death (Coe and Coe, Chapter 7). While these claims were eventually disputed, chocolate’s role as a medicine was beginning to be contested.

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A London doctor warns of the dangers of chocolate. Source

By the turn of the 19th century, modern medicine was on the rise and chocolate’s medicinal value was in a nosedive. As data and facts replaced assumptions and ideas, chocolate was replaced by the scientifically supported medicines we see today (Coe and Coe, Chapter 8). This is due to the fact that modern science found the health benefits of chocolate to be modest. However it is important to note that chocolate can cause several physical effects. First of all, its chemical makeup which include caffeine means that chocolate consumption does give a slight energy boost, and it is addicting (Presilla and De Los Santos, 10). Additionally, a recent study conducted by Joke van Wensen and colleagues found that over time, certain doses of dark chocolate can have health benefits such as lower blood pressure (1). Another study found that chocolate consumption increases total plasma antioxidant capacity (Halliwell 787).  However, in these studies, and many more, the effect of chocolate is minimal, and it is yet to be seen if the results are long lasting and prove causation rather than simply correlation.

In light of these facts, it is incredible that situations like the one in this article are still occurring. How is it possible that chocolate keeps on being disproved as a healthcare option, but continues making dramatic resurgences as medicine?  First of all, it seems clear that chocolate’s chemical makeup is a huge contributor. It has addictive qualities and does give a small boost of energy, so it is easy for a consumer to fall into the habit of eating it, and to believe that they are physically benefitting. However, cocaine, cigarettes and french fries are all products that give a physical boost and are addicting, but no one operates under the assumption that they are medically valuable. The crucial difference here is that, as described above, chocolate has been revered and storied by experts and the highest castes of society for centuries, from the Aztec warriors to the Kings and Queens of European society. Chocolate has carried social power for centuries, and this is a powerful thing in the human brain. It is a treasured part of Western culture, and it seems clear that the social context of chocolate continues to outweigh medical opinion. For this combination of reasons, it is very likely that chocolate will never lose its allure as a healthcare option.

References

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Cohen, Paula. “How the “chocolate Diet” Hoax Fooled Millions.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 29 May 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2017

Dillinger, Teresa L., Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escárcega, Jimenez Martha, Diana Salazar Lowe, and Louis Gravetti. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.”The Journal of Nutrition 130.8 (2000): 2057S-072S. Journal of Nutrition. The Journal of Nutrition, 01 Aug. 2000. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.

Duncan, M. Wholesome Advice against the Abuse of Hot Liquors. Digital image. Folger Digital Collection. Printed for H. Rhodes, and A. Bell, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.

“General History of the Things of New Spain by Fray Bernardino De Sahagún: The Florentine Codex. Book X: The People, Their Virtues and Vices, and Other Nations.” WDL RSS. World Digital Library, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.

Halliwell, Barry. “Health Benefits of Eating Chocolate?” Nature, vol. 426, no. 6968, 2003, pp. 787-787; discussion 788 Advanced Technologies & Aerospace Database; Agricultural & Environmental Science Database; Earth, Atmospheric & Aquatic Science Database, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/204509938?accountid=11311.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.

Vaccariello, Liz, and Cynthia Sass. Flat Belly Diet!: A Flat Belly Is about Food & Attitude, Period. (not a Single Crunch Required). New York, NY: St. Martin’s, 2012. Print.

van Wensem, J. (2015), Overview of scientific evidence for chocolate health benefits. Integr Environ Assess Manag, 11: 176–177. doi:10.1002/ieam.1594

 

 

 

Significance of Cacao in Mayan Civilization: Exposing the Divine Origins of Chocolate and its Mysticism

Cacao and chocolate were important aspects of Mesoamerican civilizations’ customs and beliefs. In addition to drinking chocolate, Mayan societies utilized cacao for ritualistic purposes, an interesting aspect of chocolate’s history that deserves further exploration. While the Olmecs, active from 1500 to 400 BCE, were most likely the first to make chocolate from cacao beans, the focus will be on the Mayans’ utilization of chocolate. Evidence suggests that cacao was an integral part of their society as it was embedded in their religious beliefs. Understanding these historical uses and origins of cacao illuminates the reasons chocolate is represented as a luxurious item in today’s society. The representation of cacao in the Mayan religion established chocolate as a powerful entity, which shaped the ways that chocolate was utilized, and contributed to its essence of purity.

            The common association of cacao with godly figures derives from its origin story. According to Mayan religious beliefs, their gods discovered cacao.[1] Consequently, cacao, or chocolate, is termed “food of the gods.”[2] There are two Mayan Gods worth mentioning to emphasize the importance of cacao in their society. The first, Ek Chuah, was supposedly honored by the Maya in an annual festival.[3] While some chocolate historians term Ek Chuah the Maya Merchant God, others refer to Ek Chuah as the Cacao God.[4][5] Regardless, Ek Chuah was an important deity to the Mayans, and commonly presented with cacao or a cacao tree.[6] The second, the Maize God, was an important deity, as maize was necessary to sustain life.[7] The image below illustrates the Maize God, on the right, presumably conversing with the figure on the left (Image 1). The Maize God is depicted as older and in control of the discussion, compared to the younger, timid being on the left, suggests he is authoritative in the Mayan religion. In another recreation of the Maize God, he is portrayed as a cacao tree.[8] That cacao is associated with this powerful god signifies the importance of cacao in Mayan religion and justifies its use in significant Mayan rituals.

maize_god_and_itzamnc3a1

(Image 1)

            The strong connection between cacao and the gods established chocolate as a mystical and highly valued substance. Records from Mayan society, written in hieroglyphics, reveal the significance of cacao in the Mayan rituals. One document, called the Dresden Codex, describes rituals in which the gods consume cacao.[9] Another document, called Popol Vuh, also mentions cacao in combination with godly rituals.[10] That cacao was used by divine beings qualifies chocolate as a divine entity as well. Labeling chocolate as “food of the gods” implicates cacao as a substance worthy to unworldly beings, which has resulted in mystical and pure connotations being attached to cacao. These associations have extended to the present-day, demonstrated by the chocolate named “Food of the Gods,” displayed in the image below (Image 2). This brand name implies this chocolate is pure and of high quality. That this phrase and idea is employed in chocolate marketing strategies today validates the historical significance of cacao’s divine origins, and is representative of expectations that chocolate is pure and of high value.

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(Image 2)

            The symbolic importance of cacao is exemplified by the Mayas’ incorporation of chocolate pottery vessels in their burial rituals. Cacao was included in numerous different ceremonies in Mayan society, including baptisms, banquets, weddings, and funerals.[11] Fascinatingly, archaeological excavation of ancient Mayan graves found tombs filled with chocolate pottery vessels.[12] Noteworthy, these vessels are only found in tombs of the Mayan elite presumably because only those in the highest social circles consumed chocolate.[13] The image below pictures a pottery vessel from Classic Maya society that contained chocolate (Image 3).[14] This presents a characteristic chocolate pottery vessel buried in a tomb of a Mayan elite. The delicate shape and intricacy of the images on the side of the vessel indicate that not only was chocolate highly valued, but the container the substance was consumed from was also of high value, probably only affordable by the wealthiest Mayans. The purpose of burying these formerly cacao-filled pottery vessels with the deceased resided in the Mayan belief that chocolate assisted the soul’s travel to death.[15] Perhaps Mayan society only buried these pottery vessels with the elite because they were the only individuals worthy of cacao’s powers in the afterlife. Again, this represents the mystical abilities of cacao, attributable to its divine origins and association with the gods.

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(Image 3)

            The use of chocolate for medicinal purposes in Mayan society also exemplifies the mystical abilities associated with cacao, attributable to its discovery by the gods. In most modern western societies today, chocolate is not used as a medical treatment, but rather is detrimental to health when consumed in large quantities. The Mayans utilized chocolate for health ailments such as digestive issues, fatigue, and inflammation.[16] Similar to the argument made for chocolate’s powers in the afterlife, the belief in cacao’s healing powers also arguably originates from its divine origins. The belief that chocolate possessed healing abilities portrays it as a mystical substance. This is historically significant because while the Mayans may have been the first society to utilize cacao for medicinal purposes, it is certainly not unique to their society now, as this treatment was adopted by cultures and societies as cacao spread throughout the world in subsequent centuries.[17] The Aztecs and even doctors in 16th and 17th century Europe placed faith in the healing powers of cacao.[18] The medicinal use of cacao helped cement the illusion of chocolate as a pure, mystical, and powerful substance, These mystical abilities established chocolate as a special, highly-valued, and pure substance, perceptions of cacao that have persisted to the present-day.

Thinking of chocolate probably triggers happy memories for most people, but for most individuals in modern western societies today, it most likely does not elicit symbolic or religious meaning. However, for the Mayans, chocolate was strongly associated with their gods and played an active role in their rituals. Cacao possessed powerful skills, able to help the dead pass into the afterlife, and cure health ailments. The association of cacao with divine beings established chocolate as a special substance, and set a precedent for it as a highly-valued, pure, and luxurious item, only to be consumed by worthy, elite individuals. The symbolic significance and use of cacao in Mayan society plays an important historical role in how chocolate would be used and by whom in the following centuries, and the connotations attached to it in present-day cultures.

[1] Teresa L. Dillinger, Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escarcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Salazar Lowe, and Louis E. Grivetti, “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate,” The American Society for Nutritional Sciences 130 (2000): 2057-72, accessed March 7, 2017, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/8/2057S.full.pdf+html.

[2] Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, “The Tree of the Food of the Gods,” in The True History of Chocolate, (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2013), 33-64.

[3] Dillinger et al., “Food of the Gods.”

[4] Coe and Coe, “The Tree.”

[5] Dillinger et al., “Food of the Gods.”

[6] Coe and Coe, “The Tree.”

[7] Donatella Lippi, “Sin and Pleasure: The History of Chocolate in Medicine,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 63 (2015): 9936-9941, accessed March 7, 2017, doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b00829.

[8] Coe and Coe, “The Tree,” 43.

[9] Coe and Coe, “The Tree.”

[10] Ibid.

[11] Carla D. Martin, “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods,’” lecture for Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food course, Cambridge, MA, February, 1, 2017.

[12] Coe and Coe, “The Tree.”

[13] Ibid.

[14] Coe and Coe, “The Tree,” 47.

[15] Martin, “Mesoamerica.”

[16] Ibid.

[17] Lippi, “Sin and Pleasure.”

[18] Dillinger, “Food of the Gods.”

References

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The Tree of the Food of the Gods.” In The True History  of Chocolate, 33-64. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2013.

Dillinger, Teresa L., Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escarcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Salazar Lowe, and Louis E. Grivetti. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” The American Society for Nutritional Sciences 130 (2000): 2057-72. Accessed March 7, 2017. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/8/2057S.full.pdf+html.

Lippi, Donatella. “Sin and Pleasure: The History of Chocolate in Medicine.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 63 (2015): 9936-9941. Accessed March 7, 2017. Doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b00829.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods.’” Lecture for Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food course, Cambridge, MA, February, 1, 2017.

Multimedia sources

Image 1: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maize_God_and_Itzamn%C3%A1.JPG

Image 2: http://www.foodofthegods.org.uk/

Image 3: http://www.artehistoria.com/v2/contextos/3850.htm

Cooking Chocolate: Cacao and Colonial Values

From Hershey’s kisses to Snickers bars, the chocolate circulating contemporary culture tends to be sweet. Contrary to modern times, the Aztecs prepared savory chocolate drinks used for sustenance, religious ceremonies, and special occasions. Aztec people came to the Valley of Mexico by the early 1300s and, after being cast out into small islands, utilized warfare to eventually rule many parts of Mesoamerica. Cacao became integrated into the Aztec way of life following the conquest of the Xoconusco province during the late fifteenth century.

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Heavy cacao production occurred in this part of southeast Mesoamerica. By the time Spaniards came to Mexico’s interior, the Aztecs had solidified a sprawling, socially stratified society thriving from the tribute required of provinces. The Aztecs had a rich, amalgamated culture drawing from the land’s natives and the extinct Mayans. In addition to the importance of chocolate in Aztec culture, a close analysis of a recipe narrated by an anonymous conquistador reveals colonialist thinking and ultimately foreshadows the exploitation of Mesoamerican lands and peoples to sustain Europeans’ hunger for chocolate during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

Drinking cacao-derived beverages was reserved for elites in Aztec culture, as most likely noticed by an anonymous conquistador when he published his description of Tenochtitlan in 1556. The recipe he provided in his composition mentioned

“seeds which are called almonds or cacao are ground and made into powder, and other small seeds are ground, and this powder is put into certain basins with a point [whatever that may mean], and then they put water on it and mix it with a spoon. And after having mixed it very well, they change it from one basin to another, so that a foam is raised which they put in a vessel made for the purpose” (Coe and Coe 84).

The way chocolate permeated economic and social customs explains why the Aztecs had vessels specially made for chocolate and made sure to foam the liquid for a luxurious feel. Cacao functioned as money, a noble beverage, a sustaining drink for warriors, and a metaphor for the heart or blood, giving it use in sacrificial rituals. The recipe hints at cacao’s high status by mentioning the specialized, precious silverware involved in the formalized process. However, this recipe from the “gentleman of Hérnan Cortés” leaves out some information (84). After carefully extracting the almond-like cacao seeds from the mucilaginous pulp in cacao tree pods, they had to be fermented and winnowed from their shells. The vague “other small seeds” mentioned are most likely maize, as the plant was common in food preparation due to its versatile and filling nature.

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Above is an image of an Aztec “woman gently dropping shucked corn into boiling water” (Maite Gomez-Rejon 1). Maize was a crucial food item, as the woman is blowing on maize to calm it before cooking it in a fire. Unlike the hot chocolate drinks of the Mayans, the Aztecs served their cacao mixtures cold and incorporated a variety of flavors and spices.

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The most common addition was chili, a sharp peppery taste well-known to the Aztecs. Though other portions of the conquistador’s publication are not mentioned, the recipe cited by Coe is interesting for what it does and does not contain. Cacao’s significance is implied, but the lack of detail regarding cacao’s preparation and the type of grains or seasonings added suggest and defend a colonialist mentality.

In order to justify plundering lands, killing natives, disrupting cultures, and stealing natural resources from distant lands, European conquistadors had to label locals as inferior savages in need of civilization and Christianity. This entailed disparaging the Aztecs and trivializing their ways of life. The anonymous conquistador implies that chocolate is significant to the Aztecs, yet cannot be bothered to supply thorough information despite having ties to Mesoamerica through Cortés. He ambiguously refers to additives as “other small seeds,” leaving out the important, widespread uses of other flavorings (84). The conquistador snidely comments “whatever that may mean,” dismissing the Aztec people’s socially constructed realities and thereby encouraging his readers to do the same (84). The recipe’s cavalier tone and shortcomings in capturing Aztec chocolate traditions reflect views shared by other conquistadors. Hernán Cortés officially claimed Tenochtitlan for Spain in 1521 using violence and deception, aided by beliefs in European superiority over the Aztecs.

Cortés acted on behalf of Spain, a country that sanctioned these measures because of colonialist ideas. The anonymous conquistador, and later the Western world, praised the chocolate drink rather than the culture that created it, removing the Aztecs’ agency and shifting the focus to the product rather than the producer. A close reading of this recipe is limited by the scarce context about the conquistador and his writings, though the telling language he used has historical significance.

The rest of the recipe contains passionate praise of the chocolate drink with exaggerated language that fed into the European chocolate frenzy and justified cacao’s expansive cultivation after conquistadors destroyed the Aztecs. The gentleman of Cortés found that

“This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else. … It is better in hot weather than in cool, being cold in its nature” (84).

Hyperbole litters his description, for while the alkaloids and caffeine provide ample energy, the maize-chocolate beverage was not the “greatest sustenance” one could drink “in the world” to sustain him “no matter how far he walks” (84). By embellishing the effects of the Aztec cacao recipe, the conquistador encourages Europeans to greedily consume chocolate. As cacao became firmly ensconced in European appetites, forced labor disrupted indigenous populations and tied them to perpetual debt as they tried to keep pace with demand. The conquistador comments that the drink is “cold by nature” to classify the drink according to the humoral theory of disease and nutrition that was popular in Europe until the 1800s (84).

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According to the system, health “depended on a proper balance among four bodily humors” – blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm  (Presilla 27). An example of achieving this stability is to “correct excessively ‘warm’ and ‘dry’ tendencies” through “doses of ‘cold’ and ‘moist’ foods” (27). The Aztec chocolate drink had to fit into this humoral theory in order to be adopted by Europeans, so its designation as cold asserts its place in the Western world and gives Europeans more reason to eagerly consume it at the expense of Mesoamerican peoples and lands. Alternatively, this classification empties the drink of the intrinsic meanings it had within the community that created it in order to fill the beverage with palatable European ideals.

The limited analysis of the Aztec cacao drink recipe provided by an anonymous conquistador exposes a harmful colonialist worldview. Through dismissive comments, a contemptuous disregard for the full picture of Aztec life, and exaggerations of the drink, the conquistador sheds light on beliefs that justified colonial ventures. Chocolate’s relationship with European violence is a horrifying reality evident in the sixteenth century retelling of an Aztec recipe.

 

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Gomez-Rejon, Maite. “Cooking Art History: The Aztecs.” The Huffington Post. 3 May 2010. Web. 5 Mar. 2017.

“Hernan Cortes: Conquered the Aztec Empire.” The History Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P_euomdHOU

“Indulge in Our Mayan Chocolate Stout and Spicy Aztec Chocolate Cake.” Airways Brewing Company. Kent Brewing Company LLC, n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2017.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.

“The Humoral Theory.” Medical website. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2017.