Monday, September 29, 2008

A Lesson in Chocolate History - COOL!

Aztec Chocolate Hieroglyphics

Discovered Aztec Hieroglyphics from the 15th Century are in the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Germany. These relics depict the importance of the cocoa plant to the Native Americans who settled in Mexico around the 1300’s until the Spanish came in the 1500’s. Notice in the picture how the cocoa plant is drawn into the symbols of the painting. The cocoa plant is located center right. Just incase you didnt know, cocoa pods grown from the trunk of the "tree".

Chocolate as Medicine:

According to the article From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate, by Louis E. Grivetti:

From the 16th through early 19th century, numerous European travel accounts and medical texts documented the presumed merits and medicinal value of chocolate. . . Presented here is a brief “taste” of these rich chocolate-related passages from selected historical monographs. On inspection, these samples reveal that chocolate products were used to treat a myriad of human disorders:

Francisco Hernández (1577) wrote that pure cacao paste prepared as a beverage treated fever and liver disease. He also mentioned that toasted, ground cacao beans mixed with resin were effective against dysentery and that chocolate beverages were commonly prescribed to thin patients in order for them to gain “flesh.”

Agustin Farfan (1592) recorded that chili peppers, rhubarb, and vanilla were used by the Mexica as purgatives and that chocolate beverages served hot doubled as powerful laxatives.José de Acosta (1604) wrote that chili was sometimes added to chocolate beverages and that eating chocolate paste was good for stomach disorders.

Santiago de Valverde Turices (1624) concluded that chocolate drunk in great quantities was beneficial for treatment of chest ailments, but if drunk in small quantities was a satisfactory medicine for stomach disorders.

Colmenero de Ledesma (1631) reported that cacao preserved consumers’ health, made them corpulent, improved their complexions, and made their dispositions more agreeable. He wrote that drinking chocolate incited love-making, led to conception in women, and facilitated delivery. He also claimed that chocolate aided digestion and cured tuberculosis.

Henry Stubbe (1662) wrote that consumers should drink chocolate beverages once or twice each day to relieve tiredness caused by strenuous business activities. He reported that ingesting cacao oil was an effective treatment for the Fire of St. Anthony (i.e., ergot poisoning). Stubbe also described chocolate-based concoctions mixed with Jamaica pepper used to treat menstrual disorders, and other chocolate preparations blended with vanilla to strengthen the heart and to promote digestion.

The Aztec word for Chocolate:
I wrote to you about one of my new-found books, “The True History of Chocolate” by Sophie and Michael Coe in a previous post. In this book, Michael Coe, Professor of Anthropology at Yale, states that the word “chocolate” or chocolatl, has no real evidence of coming from the Aztec Language – Nahuatl. But, in citing Mexican philologist ( a person with an interest in the study of ancient text) he proposes that the “Spaniards had coined the word by taking the Maya word chocol and then replacing the Maya term for water, haa, with the Aztec word for water, atl. Coming to the combine word representing what we know today as CHOCOLATEchocolatl.

I will leave you with this drink recipe. It is as close a facsimile to the original chocolatl as I could find and you could still enjoy.

Photo from Phoenix Magazine

Mayan Hot Chocolate

Have you seen the movie, Chocolat? This is like the hot chocolate that was served in the movie.

2 cups boiling water
1 chile pepper, cut in half, seeds removed
5 cups light cream or whole or nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or
3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar or honey, or to taste
l tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine
Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper; strain water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey; whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Chocolate Quote:
"Giving chocolate to others is an intimate form of communication, a sharing of deep, dark secrets." Milton Zelman, publisher of "Chocolate News"


Happy cook said...

Wow that is a really onformative read about chocolate.
I have not seen that movie, but am going to make this drink once.

Ben said...

Great post about the history of Chocolate! I love history and posts like this make me hungry for more (chocolate) hehe


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