Tag Archives: mancerina

Chocolate Consumption and Societal Divides

Chocolate in Europe, brought to Spain originally from Mesoamerica in the 1500s, has amassed into a staple of almost everyone’s diet today. However, the history of chocolate consumption and its social constructs have expanded and changed over the centuries since chocolate’s first venture into Europe. Chocolate began as a drink, medicine, and eventually a snack “among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe” (Coe and Coe, 125). However, as time went on, and the price and availability of chocolate began to expand to beyond the upper circles of Europe, the elitism that surrounded chocolate still existed. Even today, when majority of people consume chocolate—often times in similar forms, for example as a bar or hot beverage—there still is a separation between chocolate for commoners and chocolate for the wealthy. How come even though there have been drastic consumption changes over the centuries, in quantity and form, there is still a strong social tension amongst different types of chocolate? By looking at the history of chocolate, it will become clearer that chocolate has always had societal divisions and it is merely impossible to fully break away from those constructs that are inherent to chocolate.

Chocolate for European Elites

In order to understand how consumption in Europe has and has not changed over the centuries, it is important to start at the beginning of chocolate in Europe. Once chocolate was brought over to Europe through Spain during the Renaissance, it was immediately viewed as for elites only— “it was in Baroque palaces and mansions of the wealthy and powerful that it was elaborated and consumed” (Coe and Coe, 125). While Spaniards more or less “stripped [the chocolate beverage] of the spiritual meaning” attached to it by the Aztec and Maya, they did start by consuming the beverage as a drug or medicine for healing (Coe and Coe, 126). This consumption was often matched with mix-ins custom to Spain and Europe, such as “atole and sugar” for a colder drink or “honey and hot water” for a more soothing hot beverage (Coe and Coe, 134).

However, this beverage was still strictly for the elites of Europe even once it started to spread throughout the continent. As time progressed, the royals started to create more recipes of chocolate beverages to be served to special guest, with a princess in 1679 recalling: “There was iced chocolate, another hot, and another with Milk and Eggs; one took it with a biscuit…besides this, they take it with so much pepper and so many spices” (Coe and Coe, 136). With the spread of popularity amongst chocolate beverages, there also were technical advances to enhance the experience. For example, the Spanish royals invented mancerina, a decorative saucer and small plate that helped avoid spills on fancy clothing (Coe and Coe, 134-5).

Spanish porcelain mancerina used by royalty to avoid spilling their chocolate beverages. The cocoa drink would be placed in the middle ring of the mancerina.

Sugar Becomes a Chocolate Equalizer

Skipping ahead, with the addition of sugar mass production, chocolate became a consumable good for almost everyone around Europe and the world, breaking down many original societal barriers. During the early 1800s, the British “national consumption [of sugar] was about 300 million pounds per year,” rising to over a billion pounds in 1852 as prices continued to drop (Mintz, 143). The addition of sugar allowed for chocolate to more easily become mass produced, creating more affordability and accessibility throughout Europe. By 1856, “sugar consumption was forty times higher than it had been only 150 years earlier,” allowing for everyone—wealthy and poor alike—to enjoy such treats in different forms (Mintz, 143).

1885 Cadbury advertisement markets towards the “public,” claiming their cocoa is “exhilarating, comforting, and sustaining” as well as “guaranteed absolutely pure.”

Sugar was a major success in creating access to chocolate throughout history, giving way for major chocolate companies such as Lindt and Cadbury to become the “producers of majority of the world’s chocolate” (Martin and Sampeck, 49). For the first time in history, chocolate was being consumed in similar forms at similar price points by both the wealthy and poor because of these large manufactures—arguably stripping away many societal differences inherent to chocolate by creating a consistent form of chocolate everyone could enjoy. However, as the prices decreased, the quality of chocolate also decreased, with many large manufacturers “even cutting out…the substance that gives quality to superior chocolates: cacao butter” (Coe and Coe, 257). As lower quality chocolate created by major companies became a staple of poorer and working-class citizens, the elites often would opt to fly to specific regions of Europe—such as Switzerland or Belgium—to indulge in their high-quality chocolate from chocolatiers (Coe and Coe, 258). Therefore, even though sugar allowed for some narrowing of the social constructs surrounding chocolate, there was still a market for superior forms that are only accessible for a wealthier audience.

Still a Divide with Chocolate Today

Today, chocolate still holds of great importance to many peoples’ lives, with chocolate consumptions estimates for 2018/2019 at 7.7 million tons globally (“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide,” Statista). However, even with the advances in chocolate consumption over the many centuries, there are still similar societal constraints around chocolate. While the different forms of chocolate are often times similar amongst upper and lower classes—ranging from hot beverages or bars to baked goods—the quality and price ranges can heavily vary, instilling a separation and exclusivity in societal groups that existed even in the 1500s when chocolate was introduced to Europe. For example, the range in quality of chocolate products is vast: there exist fair trade chocolate sourced in more humane manners, specific species of cacao pods with better characteristics and richer flavors, granulated texture differences, and even different percentages of cacao in chocolate mixtures. One can go to a deluxe chocolatier shop somewhere in Switzerland or Belgium and purchase extreme, rare examples of certain types of chocolate—frequently at higher prices. However, these levels of chocolate are often inaccessible to others of not a higher social class because they require having more money and the ability to reach the areas where superior-quality chocolate is created—such as expensive regions in Switzerland. For these other social groups, the desire for chocolate could still be just as strong, but the more realistic options are to purchase mass-produced chocolate, such as Hershey’s chocolate bars or M&Ms, that are often associated with quick, convenient snacks that are affordable.

This social distinction around chocolate exists even in Harvard Square today, where one could purchase a quality, single source hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick from specific locations such as Ecuador (with an “earthy finish”) or Madagascar (with “fruity notes”) at a starting price of $5.50 (“Single Source Drinking Chocolate.” L.A. Burdick). On the other hand, one could instead go to CVS in Harvard Square and purchase a 10 pack of Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix for $2.79, averaging $0.28 per serving (“Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix.” CVS). There is clearly an audience for both choices, but the more accessible version is at CVS because it is drastically more affordable and easily accessible at any CVS around the world, while L.A. Burdick is a specialty chocolate shop with a much higher price point and only a few locations. So even though there have been major advances in chocolate and the levels of consumption over the last few centuries—including the expansion of different forms of consumptions and the spread of accessibility beyond the upper-class nobilities—there still persists a divide when it comes to chocolate today.

Based on the history of chocolate, it seems unlikely that societal constructs around chocolate will ever completely disappear because there will always be a market for better quality, more elaborate chocolate consumption as well as affordable, accessible chocolate. However, as the interest in “fine flavor” chocolate continues to grow in more recent decades, then more “small-batch chocolate companies” will begin to come around “with a heavy focus on batch production, flavor, quality, and perceived ethical sourcing of raw ingredients,” creating more access and maybe eventually lower prices of higher quality product for everyone to enjoy (Martin and Sampeck, 54). While the future is uncertain, one steadfast is that chocolate will still be present in most peoples’ lives because of its unifying, joyous, cherished qualities that impact people on a daily basis—no matter one’s social rank.

Works Cited

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

“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19 | Statistic.” Statista, Statista, Nov. 2015, http://www.statista.com/statistics/238849/global-chocolate-consumption/.

Martin, Carla D., and Sampeck, Kathryn E. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2016, pp. 37–60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.

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

“Single Source Drinking Chocolate.” L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolate, http://www.burdickchocolate.com/DrinkingChocolate/single-source-drinking-chocolate.aspx.

“Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix.” CVS, http://www.cvs.com/shop/swiss-miss-milk-chocolate-flavor-hot-cocoa-mix-prodid-828715?skuid=828715.

Multimedia Sources

Anonymous, Cadbury’s Cocoa advert with rower 1885. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cadbury%27s_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885.jpg. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Anonymous, Interior of a London Coffee-house, 17th century. Wikimedia Commons, 6 August 2013, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interior_of_a_London_Coffee-house,_17th_century.JPG. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Daderot. Talavera mancerina (chocolate cup holder), ceramic – Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas – Madrid, Spain. Wikimedia Commons, 10 October 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Talavera_mancerina_(chocolate_cup_holder),ceramicMuseo_Nacional_de_Artes_DecorativasMadrid,_Spain-_DSC08143.JPG. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Lam, Willis. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa. Flickr, 2 December 2014, https://www.flickr.com/photos/85567416@N03/15826425118/in/photolist-q7wyNA-4Vi3xj-2c1quQF-bAR6UB-5KXJTX-4uvVPN-e14Lxw-8Wa8AZ-nLpJvi-Cbm1VF-dqASpX-2ampJbb-Rd9TCh-2bZA3Mz-2bZ2eHi-RetAk7-7jSCz3-8h4wTf-bAqsAk-LuMes-2dotp4v-oRr31-axSjhw-98qkXu-ihJDzj-227rKBA-i2LSJm-iupoqe-5ro6Ux-HxgKn6-7qkecG-8WYapy-2ch8p7d-PkuWzx-hjPRMw-4m3SWK-2dfdft2-2cggZSf-PzRfGR-2chxsFj-2cg2pA7-Rft18y-PBbapT-PASK2P-3k8YWU-CDyBre-2dhZJb5-2diX3ZC-ReRqrL-9Sp3i. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Phelan, John. L A Burdick Chocolate, Walpole NH. Wikimedia Commons, 26 April 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L_A_Burdick_Chocolate,_Walpole_NH.jpg. Accessed 11 March 2019.

The Mancerina and Chocolate’s Place in Baroque Europe

The history of chocolate’s movement from the New World of Mesoamerica to the Old World of Europe is as much about the drink itself as it is about the customs surrounding it. When European colonial powers brought chocolate back to their home county  to be consumed by the elite, they took the preferred mode of consumption (liquid), the temperature (warm), and process of finishing (foaming). One thing they did innovate with, however, was the vessels that they consumed chocolate with.

In colonial Mexico and South America, chocolate was consumed as the people in Mesoamerica had done: with a jícara. However, the nobles of colonial Spain wouldn’t be drinking from the hollowed and dried squash vessels as the indigenous people would (Ionescu 41)—they instead updated the jicara to reflect their more elegant tastes. The European version of the jícara was to be made of clay in a Spanish method of potterymaking called mayólica (Gavin 254). These ceramic jícaras served a similar function, however, they still had the unfortunate side effects of being mildly clumsy to drink out of. This would require another innovation.

jicara
A classical style gourd jícara

 

The mancerina had a distinctive shape and two parts – a handle-less silver cup, much like the jícara, and a saucer with a ring in the middle so that the jícara cup could be held in place. While initially the goal was simply to provide a wall on the saucer to “prevent [the cup] from tipping over” (Ionescu 41), eventually these elaborate and beautiful  pieces of silver would grow to look like cups in a wide leaf or the seat of a seashell.

mancerinaslv-jpg
A precious silver seashell mancerina; the ring in the center holds the cup filled with the chocolate beverage

The evolution of this drinking vessel for Europeans, like many processes in the movement of chocolate throughout the 17th century, is convoluted. There isn’t just one true story of why it was created. The who of the matter is relatively agreed upon: the man that created it, the Marques of Mancera, gave the new cup its name. There are two versions of the reasons behind the invention of the mancerina that hint at the different places of esteem chocolate held in Baroque Europe.

marquez
A portrait of the Marquez of Mancera, Pedro de Toledo y Leyva

The first story, as put forth by Sophie and Michael Coe, involves an elegant banquet that the Marques of Mancera held at his property in Peru, somewhere between 1639 and 1648 (Gavin 254). As was custom for the time, chocolate was served and consumed by all the nobles in attendance. To his horror, one of the ladies spilled chocolate all over dress from being unable to handle the jicara (Coe and Coe 135). In order to avoid similar mishaps in the future, the Marquez invented the mancerina.

This origin story points to the close associations between class and chocolate drinking in Baroque Europe and the colonies it spawned. These practices, most prevalent in Spain, France and Italy among royal courts and nobles, are detailed throughout Chapter 5 of Coe and Coe.

The second origin story of the mancerina, one which Coe and Coe do not touch on in The True History of Chocolate, involves the Marquez’s health. The Marquez of Mancera was said to suffer from palsy, or a tremor in his hands; that tremor often prevented him from holding the jicara without spilling any chocolate on himself. Thus, the mancerina may have been created to aid the elderly or ill in consuming chocolate for their health. Most of Europe was still subscribing to Galen’s Theory of Humors as healthcare (Coe and Coe 128) at the time chocolate was introduced in the 16th century. As all of their foods had to be classified according to this system of 4 characteristics, chocolate was naturally also brought into the regime. More important than the classification itself is the immediate intimate relationship chocolate and health had. Chocolate was “prescribed” to nobles and people of ill health across Europe; many ladies in French court began to cling to the positive effects so much that they couldn’t get out of bed without their daily dose of chocolate (Coe and Coe 136). The mancerina (or trembleuse in France) made this kind of dosage in bed easier to administer to high-born ladies as well as the invalid.

The history of the mancerina is an important part of the history of chocolate not only because it is a beautiful piece of European art history and innovation, but also because the confusion surrounding its very invention is indicative of the important role chocolate grew to play in Europe. These stories and their reflection on the involvement of chocolate not only in the noble rituals of the high courts of the continent but also the esteemed place it began to held in the European (albeit misguided) system of medicine. These relationships would shape many discussions about chocolate in the centuries to come.

Works Cited

Baird, Ileana Popa, and Christina Ionescu. Eighteenth-century Thing Theory in a Global Context: From Consumerism to Celebrity Culture. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Gavin, Robin Farwell., Donna Pierce, and Alfonso Pleguezuelo Hernández. Cerámica Y Cultura: The Story of Spanish and Mexican Mayólica. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico, 2003. Print.

Lange, Amanda. “Chocolate Preparation and Early Serving Vessels.” National Museum of American History. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Images

http://www.artesanias.yucatan.gob.mx/productos/jicaraylec/19070607.jpg

http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/images/food/mancerinaslv-jpg.jpg?sfvrsn=2

http://salmoral.webcindario.com/historia/imagenes/ptole5.jpg

 

“Let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”: The mancerina

Since first reading about the mancerina used in the early 17th century by Europeans for chocolate consumption, I have been enamored of the design and the various origin stories around this historical piece. My interest in this piece is echoed by Christine Jones, author of Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. Jones shares that “small things, sometimes quite ordinary things were deemed remarkable for the unlikely composition of their bodies and how they had been molded, against all odds into such intriguing shapes” (Jones, ix – Acknowledgements).

The structure of the mancerina – usually a ceramic or porcelain (materials varied) saucer with a raised holder in the center to “sit” a cup – is simple, yet innovative. The illustrations only add to the beauty of the design. To me, the mancerina itself, is like an elegant lady, ready to come to life with skirts flared and dance the night away.

It is interesting then, that one of the “origin stories” behind this piece is around ladies indulging in chocolate. The story: the Marqués of Mancera, viceroy of Peru, while strengthening Spain’s military infrastructure within Peru, was also known for hosting tertulias, discussion parties with literary, artistic, or political overtones. It is hypothesized that at one of these events, he observed women of the aristocracy attempting to drink chocolate from regular cups and it spilling down their dresses (Coe and Coe, 135). He noted this challenge and later commissioned the first mancerina. Chocolate first made its appearance in the Spanish courts of Prince Philip in 1544. By the early 17th century, chocolate continued to be a decadent discovery, with access limited to a select few with the means and connections to indulge. In Mesoamerica, it was consumed from clay gourds or jicaras (cups); this did not meet Spanish sensibilities. The materials were common and there were concerns around spilling the beverage and burning one’s skin as well as being unable to drink properly when one was reclined. (Baird and Ionescu, 41-42). The Spanish also added sweeteners to their chocolate, such as sugar, further changing how it was consumed. The mancerina was considered a “New World design” for royalty and the aristocracy to elegantly consume this beverage, with minimal spillage. Moreover, the mancerina was another example of how chocolate was ‘adapted’ to be acceptable to European society.

Mancerina collage
Mancerina collage

The other “origin story” around the creation of the mancerina is based within the namesake himself; Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Leiva, Marqués of Mancera and viceroy of Peru from 1639-1648. This story tells us that the Marqués suffered from palsy and that a rim was specifically built into his saucer in order to prevent him from spilling the beverage when he picked it up. (Gavin, Pierce and Pleguezuelo, 68).

This is interesting because of the correlation between innovation and health. For the people of Mesoamerica, cacao and chocolate had many healing properties and held a distinguished place for medicinal usage (Lippi, Chocolate in History). Without further information about the Marques, a definitive statement cannot be made that this was one of the reasons that he consumed chocolate. However, with the acknowledgement that some of these medicinal beliefs crossed the Atlantic back to the Spanish, one could infer that along with the prestige he gained from having access to this delicacy, the possibility of chocolate ameliorating some of the effects he suffered from the disease, also influenced his desire for a container to ease his consumption and limit waste.

Title page from Colmenero’s Curioso Tratado de la Naturaleza y Calidad del Chocolate
Title page from Colmenero’s Curioso Tratado de la Naturaleza y Calidad del Chocolate

Finally, shifting perspectives, I share an aside on the mancerina design and its implications on the erasure of Mesoamerican culture; an interesting view provided by Christine Jones in Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. The book is a study of the cultural impacts of porcelain within French society and on French nationalism, though it acknowledges that some designs were adapted from other cultures (e.g. Spain, China) and explores these objects history and usage. Jones notes that:

“Hypotheses about the social purpose of the saucer – to sophisticate and stabilize gourd-style cups for fine ladies – historicize it quaintly, but the story of the mancerina calls out for a more culturally suspicious read. The lexicon of modesty around the new saucer situates it among the technologies brought to the New World to discipline native impropriety, from the corset to Christian baptism. Saved from the instability of Mesoamerican gourds and spared the need for better balance, ladies sipped the drink without fear of indelicacy. But the object of fear here is as much the liquid itself as concern about spilling it. Symbolically, the mancerina mitigated the impertinence of chocolate – a curiously invigorating pleasure deemed a heretical cure. Making native exoticism tame and safe might well sum up Spain’s colonial project, but the fear that inspired such imperial campaigns went beyond the borders of Spain and its Inquisition” (Jones, 125).

Her assertion is provocative, in the possibility that a third “origin story” could exist behind the creation of the mancerina and that this was another way in which Mesoamerican culture was deemed to be inferior, barbarian, and an opportunity for the Mesoamerican people to be saved and shown the path to “civilized humanity”. At least, that is my interpretation of this quote. What is yours?

Regardless of “how” or “why” the mancerina was created; it is noted as a historical artifact that not only highlights European gentrification of chocolate consumption, but also the status of chocolate – a delicacy so exotic that it deserved the creation of its own container to ease and accentuate one’s drinking experience.

References:

Baird, Ileana and Ionescu, Christina. Eighteenth-Century Thing Theory in a Global Context: From Consumerism to Celebrity Culture. Ashgate Publishing Company, Surrey. 2013. Print.

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

Disney Songs. “Beauty and the Beast – Be our Guest.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 09 December 2008. Web. 20 February 2015.

Gavin, Robin Farwell, Pierce, Donna, and Pleguezuelo, Alfonso.  Cerámica Y Cultura: The Story of Spanish and Mexican Mayólica. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 2003. Print.

Jones, Christine. Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. University of Delaware Press, Newark. 2013. Print.

Lippi, Donnatella. “Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food” National Institute of Health, Journal – Nutrients (2013): n. pag. Web. 20 February 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708337/