Thursday, May 17, 2012

16653--And On the Third Day...

What is that magical delight, with it's incredibly dense, complex and ancient genetic code?  It is a unique creation under the sun, still unduplicated by man's puny sciences.  It is wondrous ambrosia.  Am I gushing?  Maybe a little.  It deserves it, though.  Of course, I'm talking about Theobroma Cacao.  Chocolate.  The blessed gift that is the food of the gods (it says so right in the name). Theobroma cacao Fruit Linne.jpg  While the Mayans were dreaming up their plot to sell everyone else on the 2012 gag, the Aztecs were enjoying the seeds from paradise, eating the fruit (which they believed brought their prophet universal wisdom and knowledge), using the beans for money and also grinding them to make a nutritious, bitter beverage.  Oh, what wondrous bounty from the gods.  Cortez liked the hot drink so much that he packed boatloads of the beans to send back to Spain. 
   Now the Aztecs made their drink from cocoa beans that were grilled, crushed, mixed with maize (your people may call it corn) flour, chili pepper vanilla and hot water.  It was described as bitter yet satisfying.  Yum.  Speaking of satisfying, Montezuma would have copious amounts before servicing his women for the night.  Did I mention, food of the gods?  Anyway, bitter and satisfying wasn't the ticket for Spain.  Cortez introduced it hot, sweet and mixed with cinnamon and vanilla.  They loved it so much it became a state secret.  This meant that the French had to steal it.  It was worth the effort, of course.  After all, it was chocolate.

In 1657, chocolate shops began opening and by 1660 there were chocolate houses (like coffee houses) in several European capitals specializing in the drink.  The high import costs made it an exotic treat for the wealthy.  Even with the addition of milk in 1700, it wasn't until the 1850s that the tariffs were lowered to a penny a pound on the beans and the delicious drink's popularity became ridiculously widespread.  Still, I can't help but smile at the thought of sitting in a stylish chocolate house having a nosh and a server coming by the table with a chocolate pot offering to top off my cup.  Should this reality ever come back in vogue, all servers be on notice that you needn't ask.  Go ahead and warm that up for me.  

Sure, it's had it's detractors, but also legions of advocates from many walks of life.  Cardinals, doctors, peasants, socialites and writers have all sung its praises.  It continues to be eaten alone, included in other foods and used to coat other foods.  Why?  Because chocolate makes life better, of course.  It should come as no surprise that all the very best holidays feature...                                 

Well, you know.

Chocolate invigorates the weary.  Chocolate brings smiles to the sad and euphoria to the heartbroken.  It's loaded with flavor, nutrients and ancient wisdom (like how to appreciate both the bitter and the sweet as well as how smoothly the two combine).

What has brown done for you?

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