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The Role of the Spanish Encomienda, The Pope, and Cacao in the Enslavement of Civilizations Across The Americas

In the sixteenth century, Spain and Portugal conquered the majority of the continental territory of the Americas. Civilizations that inhabited present-day Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, and other countries were conquered by Spanish conquistadors. The Spanish initially adopted traditional slavery as it had been practiced in the West Indies. But the encomienda was introduced in the early 1500s as an alternate form of forced labor as a response to a mandate emitted by Pope Paul III Farnese.  

While scholars often refer to the Spanish encomienda as a system of labor, it should be highlighted that it was a form of slavery. The encomienda was forced labor with unrealistic and abusive expectations from workers. The Spanish encomienda was a type of slavery because the encomenderos controlled the work and lifestyle of workers native to the Americas. By calling the Spanish encomienda a “system,” scholars have suggested a dangerous separation from our idea of slavery. This separation is rooted in the rhetoric used by the Spanish monarchy to justify the implementation of the encomienda.

An encomienda was an organization by which Spaniards (encomenderos) managed property rights over the land and labor of natives from the Americas. Spaniards demanded a quota or percentage of the output from the labor of natives. This could be in the form of goods, metals, currency, or other types of services. Encomenderos would provide instruction in the Catholic faith, pay taxes to the Spanish Crown, and provide military protection over the land. The encomienda was established after “Pope Paul III Farnese published the bull Sublima Deus, excommunicating any Christian who enslaved [natives to the Americas]” in 1537.

“The Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Nation” by Diego Rivera

This image above is a mural painted by Diego Rivera in Mexico’s National Palace. We see a clear depiction of the abuses that the Aztecs suffered when working to produce the output that the Spaniards demanded. There is a member of the high Spanish aristocracy in the middle of this mural receiving payment from another Spaniard, with an individual between them recording the transaction. This is probably a depiction of an encomendero paying a representative of the Spanish Crown his due taxes. The atrocities in this mural happen around this transaction and clear depictions of the involvement of Catholic instruction. Spaniards exploited and mistreated natives, as depicted in the strenuous work of Aztecs of chopping and carrying tree trunks while a friar raises the Holy Cross, with the justification of a need to spread Catholicism.

Although the rhetoric around the encomienda in the sixteenth century was that of a less brutal system to slavery, rules of the encomienda could make it even more brutal work than the slavery form of labor practiced when the conquistadores initially settled in New Spain. Encomenderos were forbidden inheritance rights. Encomiendas did not automatically transfer to future generations. They would revert to the Crown upon the death of the second-generation encomendero

Inheritance prohibition, combined with the abolition of slave ownership, lead to incentives for encomenderos to destroy human capital more quickly than before. Second-generation encomenderos had no assurance that their family members would enjoy the fruits generated by their management and their workers after their deaths. Natives were not legally owned by Spaniards. Encomenderos, therefore, had no reason to watch for the health of Aztecs, Mayans, and other people native to the Americas. The encomienda prohibited the relocation of workers by the encomenderos. While this proved beneficial for keeping families together, the inability to trade and rent people forced to work under the encomienda to other Spaniards reduced economies of scale and incentivized Spaniards to demand higher productivity—even if that meant forcing working painfully long shifts in arduous conditions.

The encomienda prevailed for a couple of centuries and was especially popular in Soconusco and its neighboring fertile regions. Soconusco—home to the world’s premier cacao in the sixteenth century—is part of a large, Pacific lowland plain which runs all the way from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec down to the border country of Guatemala and El Salvador. 

Fertile lands suited for cacao’s growth where the encomienda prevailed

“So rich was this piedmont zone in this product that highland Maya kingdoms had vied for control of these lands, and the Aztecs had made their most profitable conquest by taking over Soconusco. Lured by the cacao, the Spaniards were here soon after the Conquest.”

Soconusco was an incredibly important region for the Spaniards not only because they needed to satisfy the growing popularity and demand for cacao in Europe, but also because cacao seeds were used as currency in parts of New Spain. The Spanish conquistadores therefore filled these regions with encomiendas that grew cacao in lands rich in conditions suited for the growth of Theobroma cacao.

The Spanish continued using the encomienda extensively in conquered lands, even by the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Sublima Deus emitted by Pope Paul III Farnese set up a path for Spanish Crown to justify the encomienda. The transition from slavery to the encomienda was surrounded by the rhetoric of a divine intervention and action. The narrative was that of a transition from brutality to a Pope-approved form of labor—even if cruelty did not cease. The Sublima Deus set up the encomienda, not because the Pope suggested such “system,” but because he affirmed that “the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it.” The Spanish Crown therefore justified this form of forced labor by offering Catholic instruction, even if thousands of natives to the Americas fought to preserve their cultures and religions.

The Sublimis Deus emitted by Pope Paul III Farnese on June 2, 1537

The Spanish Crown also justified the encomienda with the provision of “protection.” Yet the presence of Spaniards did the opposite. Spaniards brought diseases from Europe in their bodies, vessels, and cargos. The testimony of Bernal del Castillo evidenced the impact of the Spanish presence in the population of Soconusco:

“Let us turn to the province of Soconusco… it used to be peopled by more than 15,000 [heads of households]… and the whole province was a garden of cacao trees and was very pleasant, and now… it is so desolate and abandoned that there are no more than twelve hundred inhabitants in it.”

The Spanish brought diseases to the Americas to which the immune systems of the natives to the Americas had never been exposed. These diseases wiped out the vast majority of populations across New Spain, including Soconusco’s. The Spanish promised protection, but their proximity to those natives working under the encomienda proved more deadly than any war or famine these civilizations had endured.

Overall, there is no question that the encomienda was a form of slavery, even if scholars repeatedly dismiss this fact by constantly focusing on the organization of this “system” rather than its brutality. The Spanish used the spread of Catholicism to justify this form of slavery, mainly as a response to the Sublima Deus. The protection that Spaniards provided to those working under the encomienda was actually an attack on the safety and health of entire civilizations. Spaniards robbed natives to the Americas their ability to practice and pass on their culture, legacy, tradition, and religion by forcing them to work under the encomienda. And the production of cacao incentivized the spread of such form of slavery.

Works Cited

Coe, S. (2019). The True History of Chocolate.

Kaplan, Jonathan. “Cacao Heartland in the Southern Maya Region.” Research Gate.

McAlister, L. (1984). Spain and Portugal in the New World, 1492-1700 (Europe and the world in the Age of Expansion ; v. 3). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Pope Paul III Farnese. “Sublimis Deus.” Historia De México, Funación Carlos Slim, 1537.

Rivera, Diego. La Conquista Española De La Nación Azteca.

Yeager, T. (1995). Encomienda or Slavery? The Spanish Crown’s Choice of Labor Organization in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America. The Journal of Economic History, 55(4), 842-859. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2123819

Church and Chocolate – The Turbulent Relationship of the two C’s

The strength of the Catholic Church and their presence in Europe is a commonly known fact, and it’s something that still holds true today.  Through the shrewd political tactics during the turmoil of the middle ages, the Catholic Church’s religious influence over western Europe became all encompassing (Hanson, 24-26). As someone who grew up in a religious household, the idea that chocolate would be a point of contention within the church was not just fascinating, but almost incomprehensible without a deeper understanding of what chocolate stood for when it was first introduced.

With the discovery of chocolates that came from the New World, questions began emerging within the church. Was this pagan beverage something that they supported or denounced? Would this beverage be beneficial to their influence or be a thorn on their side? It should be noted that when chocolate’s influence started rising in Europe, the Catholic Church was going through their own upheaval of what we now know as the Reformation, or the religious wars (Coe, 137).  They were struggling with the emergence of the Protestant wave and trying to maintain their borders and influence over the members that were unhappy with what the church represented.

This post isn’t to argue whether or not the church’s continuous changes in stance of chocolate was right or wrong, but to highlight how the discovery of chocolate brought about not just socioeconomic changes, but religious changes as well.

Fasting, Women and Poison

While there is no real record of when exactly chocolate reached Europe, but the first appearance takes place in Spain (Coe, 129-128). Making its way through the royal courts and nobility, the popularity of this beverage spiraled. This is also when the questions of chocolate and its relationship with the church began coming into question.

In 1636 Antonio de León Pinelo asked the question, “Where does chocolate fit into our moral and religious system?” (Martin, pp. 23).  Looking further back, we see that even before, there was a Dominican friar who had formally asked the pope whether or not chocolate was okay to consume during fast. It is stated that the pope merely had a good laugh with the cardinals regarding this question and did not even bother to write a response. So, why would this have been an issue? The church’s dilemma came from several issues: this was a beverage from a pagan colony that did not believe in their God, this chocolate beverage was often used as a meal substitute, and the products that were mixed in to the chocolate beverages could count as a type of food.

Treatise by Leon Pinelo. Madrid, 1636.

The question about the consumption of chocolate, which was mostly in liquid form at the time, actually became a legitimate debate as time went by.  Jesuits, who had wholly accepted chocolate and were already using it as a tool for trades and investments, were for everything chocolate. Yet, the Dominicans who were much more puritanical and traditional, argued that the whole point of fast was to purify the body of food and thirst quenching liquids and thus chocolate should not be allowed (Coe, 148). Despite the fact that chocolate (once with the addition of sugar to subdue the bitterness of it) became a favorite amongst the cardinals and the pope, who declared that it was OK to consume during fast, many puritanical priests still held on to the idea that chocolate was not okay.

There was also the issue that chocolate had such strong ties to women, and the status was women was always a point of contention in the church (Martin, Lecture 3).  Since chocolate was prepared by women, the church initially felt that it was almost inappropriate for it to be enjoyed by men, especially during fast.  The church also probably felt threatened of their power when European women in Latin Americas, who had grown up away from Europe, did not listen to the sermons that were conducted in these colonies and instead chose to gossip right outside the church drinking chocolate while the priests were speaking (Martin, Lecture 3). It isn’t hard to see why the church began to perceive the presence as a threat to their ideals and their teachings.

Raimundo_Madrazo_-_Hot_Chocolate“Hot Chocolate”. Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, 1884-1885.

Also, the idea that chocolate was not a “Gift of God”, but perhaps something more sinister came to be with with the perceived murder of Pope Clement XIV.  Because chocolate had become sweeter and the taste was so strong, it was thought as the ideal vessel for poison.  When it was rumored that the pope was slowly poisoned to death through his favorite beverage, the consumption of chocolate within the church was also soured. Even though the rumor was eventually debunked, the idea that chocolate could be used as a tool of weapon made people much more wary of it.

The Society of Jesus

However, if there was a group of strong advocates for chocolate within the church, it was the Jesuits. The Jesuits were both feared and disliked by people inside and outside the church. This was mostly linked to their history as the militant arms of the church but also due to their large success in using slavery in the New World for their own profit. They captured and used forced labor on the locals to harvest large amounts of not just tobacco and cotton, but also cacao beans for their own monetary gains (Moss, 29).

The Jesuit missionaries tried to take this success past the Americas and Europe into parts of Asia. They wanted to repeat the success they had found in the New World and expand to China and other parts of the East. While they were mostly unsuccessful, they did find large amounts of success in the Philippines. As the Philippines became a Spanish colony, using the influence of the Catholic religion, they also introduced chocolate as a source of beverage and food as well.  The country, still to this day, enjoy copious amounts of chocolate and tend to have a lot of chocolate based food and beverages during the Christmas holidays.

Malagos Chocolate (Philippine Chocolate Brand). Malagos webpage.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2013.

de Madrazo y Garreta, Raimundo; featured image. 1884-1885. Private collection. Oil on canvas. http://www.artnet.com/artists/raimundo-de-madrazo-y-garreta/hot-chocolate-806TPfsQ-L3wKppXQc2LlA2

Hanson, Eric O. Catholic church in world politics. Princeton University Press, 2016.

Malagos Chocolate; featured image. 2016. Malagos Facebook Page.

Martin, Carla. 2018 AAAS E-119 Lecture Slides. February 7th, pp.23, 25.

Martin, Carla. 2018 AAAS E-119 Lecture 3. Chocolate Expansion. February 7th.

Moss, Sarah, and Alexander Badenoch. Chocolate: A Global History. Reaktion Books, 2009.

Pinelo, Leon; featured image. Madrid, 1636.

What are you giving up for Lent this year?


Chocolate ranks amongst the top list of things Christians give up for Lent, according to most recent Twitter data. For Christians, Lent is a period of fasting starting Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2017) and leading up to Easter Sunday (April 16, 2017), relating back to the 40 days Jesus fasted and prayed before he was ultimately crucified. Lent is a period of time in which to give up comfort such as sinful things and take on practices that serve others.

Considering chocolate and the Catholic church, there are two inverses that have evolved over time: Chocolate, once considered appropriate for consumption during Lent, is now amongst the top things people give up during Lent. Once deemed incredibly foreign and valuable, chocolate today is used to build a human-sized replica of the Pope.

Chocolate’s religious roots

Chocolate’s rich religious history stems from the Mayans who deemed chocolate ‘food of the gods’ (Coe, 1996) and prescribed it a high value. Mayans consumed chocolate beverages during rituals ranging from fertility to marriage and death rites. With the colonialization of the Americas, chocolate then made its way to Spain during the 16th century.

The Fasting Controversy

Back when chocolate was a foreign concept, Catholics looked to the Pope for guidance as to how to incorporate this novelty in their lives and particularly their Christian practices. An anecdote involves the Pope who did not deem the question whether or not chocolate was appropriate to be consumed while fasting worthy of any reply (Martin, 2017). The confusion around incorporating chocolate into their diets and its effect on religious practices had Catholic scholars debate this question and Popes beginning with Gregory XIII (1572-1588) stating privately that drinking Chocolate would not break the Catholic fast but there was never an official Papal statement (Squicciarini & Swinnen, 2016).

To understand this controversy, we need two more pieces of information: The nutritional and the geographic context. Chocolate was a new concept and there was no way to ‘ground’ it in older teachings as the bible was written during a time and in a geographic location where Chocolate was not yet a concept as the Cocoa tree just did not naturally grow anywhere but in the Americas and was not cultivated yet.

What the Fasting Controversy ultimately boiled down to and was dependent on was whether to view Chocolate as a drink which would be allowed to be consumed during fasts (Forrest & Najjaj, 2007), or food that would have to be given up due to nutritious benefits such as the added milk.

Tracing Popes’ involvement with chocolate from the 226th Pope to the current 266th Pope

There is a certain irony involved when in 2014 Pope Francis found himself standing in front of his life-sized chocolate replica, epitomizing the long and controversial history between chocolate and the Catholic church. One factor in this change in perception of chocolate is of course an economic evolutionary one: Food industrialization made more affordable the 1.5 tons of chocolate used for the statue.

Chocolate is deeply associated with Christian holidays

Nowadays, chocolate is very much intertwined with Christian holidays: Ranging from St. Valentines’ day heart-shaped chocolates, children searching for hidden chocolate Easter eggs of all colors, fillings and sizes and gifting chocolate Easter bunnies, Saint Nicholas giving out chocolate St. Nick figures to children, children’s advent calendars filled with little pieces of chocolate. It appears the end to a period of fasting is celebrated with consuming chocolate. The ritualistic tradition involved is traceable to the Mayan’s ritualistic chocolate. What has changed though is the way it is consumed: Chocolate nowadays is commonly consumed as food and not any longer as beverage and would thus not be deemed appropriate during Lent.

Social media challenges chocolate’s top-rank

Giving up chocolate seems to be a health-conscious and quick fix to what is meant to be a devout period of introspection by giving up what is hard and usually comforting. What this is, can and does change over time. The Twitter analysis also encompasses increasingly modern ‘sins’ to give up, such as social media consumption. It seems that for many Twitter users nowadays social media has taken chocolate’s sinful place. Maybe because it is seen as equally or even more addicting than chocolate and therefore giving it up is seen to be a difficult and conscious choice.

The contemporary Pope’s message

So, what are you giving up for Lent and how does chocolate’s historic significance inform your decision, if at all? While it ultimately boils down to a personal decision, there is inspiration to be found in turning to the Pope who today reaches us through the medium of Twitter along the lines of reconsidering what Lent is about and how superficial it may have become. Detaching it from only superficial food choices to something deeper and more meaningful, Pope Francis appeals to higher virtues such as reaching out to our fellow humans and neighbors.



Works Cited

Coe, S. D., Coe, M. D., & Huxtable, R. J. (1996). The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson.

Forrest, B. M., & Najjaj, A. L. (2007). Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain. Food and Foodways15(1-2), 31-52.

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

Squicciarini, M. P., & Swinnen, J. (2016). The Economics of Chocolate. Oxford University Press.

Multimedia Sources

Image 1: https://www.openbible.info/blog/2017/03/what-twitterers-are-giving-up-for-lent-2017-edition/

Image 2: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/pope-francis-meets-life-sized-chocolate-replica-article-1.1604406

Tweets: https://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/840181704056684545 https://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/837641210583928832


Chocoholic Catholics: A Match Made in Heaven or a Sinful Union?

As European explorers trekked on journeys beyond the confines of their continent and encountered diverse climates, people, and cultures, they were exposed to a variety of goods and foods for the first time. Integrating aspects of the so-called “New World” cultures and practices into European norms proved challenging for both explorers and the European institutions that were exposed to the new goods upon the explorers’ returns. One institution, the Catholic Church, attempted to incorporate rules about chocolate, one of the most popular food additions from the new colonies, into its canon. However, tensions arose during the church’s attempts to control its followers’ relationships to the food. The consumption of chocolate by devout Catholics remains as controversial, and at times contradictory, today as it was to Catholics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when they first encountered the treat.

White Catholics living in both Europe and Mesoamerica in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries readily embraced the native Mesoamerican’s love of chocolate consumption, and chocolate came to be a significant part of their lives in a relatively short period of time. In South America, Jesuit missionaries and laypeople eagerly adopted the native population’s chocolate drink. Upper-class women of European descent living in South America in the seventeenth century “claimed to suffer from such weak stomachs that they were unable to get through a prayer mass… without taking a jícara of very hot chocolate… to fortify themselves” (Coe 181). Despite not having been familiar with the drink a century earlier, these white settlers in Mesoamerica became so attached to chocolate that they were accused of murdering a bishop who tried to ban chocolate during mass (Dreiss 150). Chocolate became an integral part of white Catholic life in Mesoamerica and experienced a similar rise in popularity in European Catholic circles. Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz writes that for many clergy members in Europe, “Chocolate became an instrument of adulation, an offering for the greater glory of God.”

Despite the widespread rise in popularity of chocolate among members of the Catholic Church during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, some Catholic leaders and philosophers of the time were adamantly against the consumption of chocolate, especially during Lenten and fasting periods (Forrest). In 1591 a Catholic philosopher posited that consuming chocolate is equivalent to breaking a fast, reasoning that it quenched thirst, provided nourishment, and served as an aphrodisiac (Coe 149 – 150). That criticism of chocolate did not directly attribute negative qualities to chocolate; instead, it stigmatized chocolate consumption during various hours of the day, going so far as to deem those who consumed it at certain times “sinners.” The oft-posed question of whether or not chocolate could be consumed during a fast underscored the importance that some Catholics placed on classifying chocolate as either good or bad. Chocolate emerged as a polarizing item, and debate around the righteousness of its consumption placed it in a class separate from all other foods and drinks.

In addition to deeming it ineligible for consumption during fasts, many Catholics feared a literal death by chocolate. The thick liquid was notorious for its ability to conceal the taste of poison, and for centuries claims circulated that Pope Clement XIV, who is shown in the picture below, was poisoned by a bowl of chocolate (Coe 211). Though the claims were unfounded, the story of Pope Clement XIV’s chocolate-caused death was widely spread. Tales of chocolate poison inspired fear in the masses of drinking their beloved beverage, and the dark side of chocolate created a large source of tension when considered with its widespread popularity.

Stories abounded that Pope Clement XIV (pictured) died by drinking poisoned chocolate

Today, chocolate enjoys near-ubiquitous consumption in Catholic countries and is
considered by many to be a necessary part of Catholic holiday celebrations. Chocolate lindt_bunniescompanies like Lindt and Hershey’s create special marketing campaigns around
Catholic holidays to sell chocolate, like these pictures below of advertisements featuring rabbit-shaped chocolates at Easter (left image) and red, white, and green Hershey’s 10627887824_a124435fd6_bkisses shaped into a wreath around Christmas (right image). While some may argue that for-profit companies will use any
holiday as an excuse to sell their product, individual consumers also consistently include chocolate in their homemade desserts during the holiday season. Pictured below is a Buche Nöel, a cake traditionally made with many types of chocolate that is one of the most popular desserts in France during the Christmas season (“13 Desserts”). Commercial enterprises’ focus on using Catholic holidays to sell chocolate and Catholic consumers seeking out chocolate treats to celebrate Catholic holidays show the enthusiasm with which chocolate has not only been embraced by Catholics broadly, and how it has specifically been embraced to further celebrate their religious beliefs.

Buche Nöel

Notwithstanding chocolate’s modern-day popularity, many members of the Catholic Church consider chocolate consumption a luxurious vice that should be avoided. This is made incredibly apparent when examining modern-day Catholics perception of chocolate during Lent, the forty-day period in observed by Catholics between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday during which Catholics give up something important to them in order to repent and diminish sinful tendencies. According to an analysis of Lent-related tweets, chocolate ranked as the number one most commonly forgone item (Mortimer). Pop culture references to the difficulty of going without chocolate during Lent abound, including, for example, an article on the website Buzzfeed entitled “The 21 Stages of Giving Up Chocolate for Lent.” But just what does giving up something for Lent say about that object? An article on Catholic Online explains that Lent “always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever” (“FAQs about Lent”). Applying this definition of Lent to the popularity of giving up chocolate, one can confidently infer that consuming chocolate is considered sinful by the non-negligible number of Catholics who choose to abstain from chocolate during Lent. Through considering Lent and holiday practices, the contradiction between celebrating and vilifying chocolate becomes striking. Many of the same people who use chocolate to observe joyful occasions arguably consider that very same chocolate to be one of their worst vices.

Despite the fact that modern-day Catholic laypeople consume a large amount of chocolate and that the Catholic Church has not issued formal criticism of chocolate in centuries, the tension and conflicting opinions that were present in the early days of Catholic chocolate consumption remains. While time-specific contradictions have changed, Catholics’ consistent attempts to classify chocolate as predominantly good or bad have remained both constant and ultimately unsuccessful. Chocolate remains a sinful, beloved luxury.

Works Cited

“13 Desserts: A French Christmas Tradition.” Analida’s Ethnic Spoon. N.p., 08 Dec. 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.

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

Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. Tucson: U of Arizona, 2008. Print.

Forrest, Beth Marie, and April L. Najjaj. “Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain.” Food and Foodways 15.1-2 (2007): 31-52. Web.

Mortimer, Caroline. “Lent 2016: 10 Things Most People Will (try) to Give up.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.

“FAQs About Lent – Easter / Lent.” Catholic Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.

Prinz, Rabbi Deborah R. “Fathering Chocolate.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 June 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.

Image Links


One Man’s Treat, Another Man’s “Temporary Heaven”

For many, chocolate is a delightful treat for the occasional indulgence, but for Buster it is his every day meditation. Chocolate is the favorite part of his day because with one bite Buster says he is put into his “temporary heaven”. He also noted that “if there is no chocolate in heaven, [he] will not be happy.” When asked about his first experience with chocolate he remembers going to the store and sticking a penny into a gum machine and getting a gum ball with speckles. If you got a gum ball with speckles you got to trade it in for a nickel to purchase a small candy bar. Little Buster had the time of his life choosing that Snickers bar and sharing it with his grandmother. It is experiences like this that show the true relationship that people can have with food. One brand of chocolate can bring forth a multitude of emotions and memories.

When Buster was a child, one Snickers cost only one nickel. 

The store Buster visited had one cent, speckled gum balls that you could trade in for a Nickel to buy  a candy bar. 


While interviewing Buster, I discovered that some of his memories of chocolate brought tears to his eyes. His “darling sweetheart Cheryl” and he would only argue about how she spoiled her two daughters, unless he came home with a Hershey’s Symphony chocolate bar. That was  the one treat “she wouldn’t share with her kids”. Sadly, Cherly passed away before they could get married, but this memory they shared with chocolate still lives on with Buster today. Chocolate is a truly amazing part of our world because one combination of flavors can hold the dearest memories in peoples’ hearts.


The favorite treat of Buster’s sweetheart. Hershey’s Symphony is milk chocolate filled with almonds and toffee chips. 


The nutritional value of chocolate and the healthy amount of chocolate people should consume daily has been debated over the years. Though chocolate is not labeled as a health food is has been proven to have benefits to people’s health. The Mayo Clinic states, “Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease (Zeratsky)”. Zeratsky goes into more detail to explain that,  “flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease,” and “Flavanols — which are more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate — also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function.” It is these benefits of chocolate that avid chocolate eaters attribute as an “excuse” for their chocolate addictions. When Buster was asked if chocolate was healthy in a day-to-day diet, he answered, “yes most, and if it’s not I don’t care!” Buster eats chocolate every day and loves to journey into his favorite section of the candy aisle at Food Lion. The nutritional benefits of chocolate exist and though too much can cause weight gain and other health risks, a daily dose of chocolate certainly does not hurt with Buster being a true example.

Some people’s favorite part of chocolate is the delicious taste, but for Buster it is the benefit of meditation. With one piece of chocolate, he is able to “take [his] mind off [his] problems temporarily”. Chocolate has been proven to alleviate stress of many types. In 2009, a study found that the “consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate per day for two weeks decreased urinary  cortisol (an indicator of physiological stress levels) in participants with chronic stress (Osdoba, 242)”. Another study of chocolate consumption showed, “just three days of dark chocolate consumption resulted in decrease levels of psychological street captured by self-reported anxiety and depression (Osdoba, 242)”. The chocolate Buster uses to meditate is Hershey’s special dark chocolate with almonds nuggets. Chocolate is a perfect tool for meditation because not only is meditating helpful in reliving stress, but the combination of chocolate is only added to the major benefits of the stress relief.


One nugget can be the perfect amount of chocolate for a short and relaxing meditation. 


Even today, Chocolate labels can be seen with the Pope on them. This is one example of a chocolate covered Oreo with the Pope on the packaging. 

Chocolate consumption can make people happy and feel good; that’s just one of the major benefits of it. For Buster, chocolate makes him “feel like [he is] enjoying one of the better aspects of life”. Buster even recalled from the Food Channel, that the Pope for years he was the only one to consume most of the chocolate. In fact, “in the 18th-century Italy, chocolate was the preferred drink of the Cardinals and they even had it brought in while they were electing a new Pope (Belardo)”. Though this was a special treat for the Cardinals, “chocolate was also rumored to have disguised a poison that killed Pope Clement XIV in 1774 (Belardo)”. In most cases, chocolate was always a great pleasure for the Pope and it was one “of the better aspects of life”. Historically, chocolate was only consumed by the elites at first because it was considered a high treat only for the best to consume. Chocolate is massed produced today and massed consumed, but the quality and enjoyment of it still remains in high status of many chocolate lovers’ lives.

While interviewing Buster, there was no doubt that he truly loved chocolate. He rated his favorite chocolate bar the Snickers a 10 out of 10; with all other chocolate bars having a score of 9 out of 10. Chocolate has helped in his favorite past time as well. Buster is an avid golfer and he finds the Snickers Bars to be a good source of energy on the golf course. “you eat them at the turn and have energy on the backside” while playing a round of golf. The only part of chocolate he does not like is when “you leave them in your golf bag too long in the summer time it melts and its hard to eat”. As one can easily see, Buster is dedicated to his chocolate consumption regularly and the only down fall is he craves it all the time.

Funny images like these are made by people to show the feelings of people who crave chocolate and must have it immediately.

Chocolate cravings are very common for many people, and there is science behind why people crave this delicious delight. The Journal of Nutrition cites that, “chocolate is the most frequently craved food in North America (Yanovski)”. There are ingredients in chocolate that explain why this is true.  Several “studies describe psychoactive substances in chocolate, including theobromine (a weak central nervous system stimulant), anandamide (an endogenous cannabinoid), phenylethylamine (an amphetamine-like compound) and caffeine (Yanovski)”. Though the content of these substances is very low in chocolate it can still affect craving slightly. Chocolate cravings can also occur when the body is going through hormonal changes, for example women on their menstrual cycle (Yanovski). Cravings of chocolate are not people simply wanting their favorite treat, the science behind it shows that chocolate cravings are real and can happen to anyone. Simply watching a chocolate commercial can spark the cravings for many, but for Buster’s case he craves chocolate all the time.

1169124_1358297761063_full.jpgPreferences for the time when people eat chocolate can vary among consumers. Most would argue that people eat chocolate generally as a dessert after meals. While others enjoy chocolate as a snack, usually as an impulse buy at the cash register. Buster noted that he enjoyed eating chocolate after meals because the flavor lasts longer in his mouth. Much to everyone’s disappoint though, too much chocolate can be very bad for you all at once. One story Buster shared with me was how he made a record of eating eleven chocolate milkshakes in one day. Needless to say, he did get quite sick for a moment. Chocolate can be healthy for you and the amount you eat can all depend on when you eat it, but be sure you eat just the right amount to enjoy chocolate at its best.

Some of the greatest aspects of chocolate can be hidden behind the ingredients and packing. Food is a delight and basic necessity for living, and the most powerful part of it is that it has the power to bring people together. Chocolate is able to bring people together to form friendships that may not have happened without the bond of chocolate.Though Buster and I share a work place (and he had to pass my desk to get to his working space), we did not become great friends until he stumbled upon my chocolate textbook on my desk. I found him reading the cover and telling me how fascinated he is with chocolate and how much he absolutely loves eating it. From that day forward, several times a week he would leave chocolate on my desk or hand me some chocolate nuggets from his pockets. Sometimes we even end up exchanging chocolate bars. We now share a unique friendship bonded by our love of chocolate and the enjoyment of consuming the amazing taste of it.


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