Created | Updated Mar 23, 2009
Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get.
- Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump1
Chocolate is produced from the fruit of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). The cacao tree is a native of Central and South America and is grown in equatorial countries around the world.
Christopher Columbus 'discovered' chocolate on August 15, 1502, when he stole the cargo of a native trader near modern Honduras. Columbus assumed that the beans were a kind of almond, and all he really knew about them was that someone else thought they were valuable; so, for the glory of Church, State, and Christopher Columbus, he took them:
They seemed to hold these almonds at a great price; for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen.
In fact, the strange, aromatic beans were so valuable that they were used as currency by the local islanders2. The mysterious booty was taken back to Spain, where it failed utterly to make a favourable impression until 20 years later, when Hernando Cortez 're-discovered' cacao by demolishing the Aztec empire. The Aztecs had enjoyed chocolate for generations as a beverage made from crushed cacao beans mixed with water or wine. It was usually seasoned with vanilla or chillies.
The Aztecs had inherited the bitter tasting, frothy drink from the Maya people, who had started saying 'Cacao' to each other around 500 AD. To Spanish tastes, Aztec drinking chocolate was much too bitter, and they also found the muddy texture repugnant. But, on the off chance that it might turn out to be an aphrodisiac, they decided to stick with it, and chocolate has been inextricably linked to sex ever since.
In Europe a chocolate drink, now sweetened with sugar, became the drink of choice among the nobility. By the simple expedient of stealing tropical islands and enslaving their inhabitants, cacao plantations around the world (principally in Dutch and English colonies) made chocolate accessible to commoners (albeit rich ones).
In 1828, the Dutch chocolate maker Conrad J. van Houten invented a way to press the fat from roasted cacao beans, thus creating a means to economically produce what we would recognise as cocoa powder. The process of adding alkaline salts to cocoa powder to make it easier to mix with water is still known as 'Dutching'.
In 1849, the Englishman Joseph Storrs Fry mixed sugar and cocoa butter with Houten's cocoa powder to produce the world's first chocolate bar.
Milk chocolate was invented in 1879 by the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Daniel Peter, who had the idea of adding powdered milk (invented by the Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé in 1867) to the mixture.
The Chocolate Bar
How to make a chocolate bar:
Selection - A blend of perhaps as many as 12 different types of bean are selected.
Roasting - Each type of bean is roasted separately.
Winnowing - The hard outer hulls are removed from the 'nibs'.
Grinding - The roasted beans are ground under granite rollers in a machine called a melangéur. Sugar and vanilla are added. The traditional tool used for grinding and blending chocolate is called a metate; it's a large, slightly curved stone tool used like a mortar and pestle.
Conching - Chocolate liquor is blended and gently heated for up to 72 hours.
Tempering - Tempering involves heating the chocolate and cooling it in several stages. This changes the chemical structure of the chocolate to a form that will retain its shape when moulded.
Moulding - The liquid chocolate is poured into moulds then allowed to cool and set hard.
Chocolate and health
Eating chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne.
Chocolate does not promote tooth decay, although the sugar in chocolate, as in other foods, does cause cavities. There is even evidence that the cocoa butter in chocolate may inhibit the formation of plaque.
Doctors often prescribe daily aspirin usage for its cardioprotective effects. However, a percentage of the population is unable to take aspirin as required and chocolate therapy is a pleasant and beneficial alternative. Interestingly, other research has recently shown that the polyphenols in cocoa can also lower LDL (low-density lipoproteins) levels in the blood stream. The addition of as little as 15 to 20 grams of dark chocolate in the daily diet has been shown to provide the necessary benefits; and who would not, when given the choice, choose chocolate over aspirin? Although chocolate contains fat it is a fat similar to that found in olive oil whose health benefits have been well documented.
Saturated fat in chocolate increases cholesterol levels, which may lead to heart disease.
Cocoa butter contains phenolics, which are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine, phenylethylamine and anandamide. Theobromine and caffeine are stimulants. Phenylethylamine combines with dopamine in the brain to produce a mild anti-depressant effect. Anandamide produces feelings of calm and well being.
Sex and Chocolate
From the beginning there has been a connection between sex and chocolate. The complex relationship of consuming chocolate, feeling good, having sex, and consuming more chocolate is an intricate pattern set on a Mayan loom, and woven more deftly with every new generation in every new culture.
Twill make old women young and fresh;
Create new motions of the flesh.
And cause them long for you know what,
If they but taste of chocolate.'
- James Wadworth (1768-1844)
All men believe sex is better than chocolate. All women know chocolate is better than sex. The only way to completely satisfy both sexes is to combine the two.
It may not look good smeared around your mouth, but it can look pretty tempting if smeared over a lover's body.
You can actually buy special 'body chocolate' as well as various other types of 'derma-confectionary'.
Sex and Chocolate Unravelled
... The taste of chocolate is a sensual pleasure in itself, existing in the same world as sex... For myself, I can enjoy the wicked pleasure of chocolate... entirely by myself. Furtiveness makes it better.
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer
It is permissible to involve the consumption of chocolate in the sex act. However, many (if not most) humans would be deeply disgusted with the reverse: a sex act being involved in their chocolate.
One is much more likely to see chocolate at large gatherings of people than sex, as sex is considered in many parts of the world to be an act done in privacy instead of in public. The enjoyment of chocolate can also be seen as something which can be shared between persons who have no physical attraction to the each other.
It can be argued that the act of eating chocolate, at the proper time, may give a human more energy to perform the sex act.
It can also be argued that performing sex, at the proper time, may lead to a human being given more chocolate.
The question 'Is chocolate better than sex?' shouldn't be asked unless the questions 'Who am I to have sex with?' and 'How much chocolate?' have already been answered.
It can be safely said that chocolate is a less fickle choice than sex: Those who choose chocolate are unlikely to ask 'Which kind?'; while those who choose sex will almost always ask, 'With whom?'
Chocolate does not contain THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, but it does contain chemicals that do similar things to your brain. Most people lose interest in eating chocolate long before they have a sense of feeling 'high'. Marathon chocolate eaters are much more likely to feel nauseous.
Pharaoh Ants love nothing more than white chocolate. Once they get a whiff of that, they'll bypass everything else, including the digestives and even the chocolate brownies.
The lucky children of Denmark have 'Pålæschokolade', or sandwich chocolate. Children enjoy these thin slices of chocolate on their open sandwiches.
Chocolatiers of the city of Antwerp, Belgium are uniformly excellent. A favourite is a tiny shop in the small alleyway that leads from Grote Markt towards the Cathedral.
If your budget for romance is small, the best way to a lady's heart is a plentiful supply of good chocolate.
The Chocolate Bourbon Cream is the single most perfect object known to man3.
Take your favourite chockie; dip it in batter and deep fry. It's fab, really fab! Make sure that the batter is firm, or it will split and you will get chocolate all over your shirt.
There are hundreds of varieties of chocolate cake, including chocolate cheesecake; many types of buns and muffins; rich cakes, low-fat cakes; dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate; chocolate toffee, chocolate orange, and so on...
It's nice, it's relatively inexpensive, it isn't loud, and it tastes extremely good.
Baker's chocolate is the nastiest tasting substance to be found in the refrigerator by a young boy or girl. Many children have had the unpleasant experience of mistaking baker's chocolate for the 'real' thing... and have sorely regretted it.
Chocolate is toxic to dogs. The lethal dose for a 50 pound dog is 50oz of milk chocolate, 15oz of semisweet chocolate or 5oz of baking chocolate4.
Chocolate consumption per person per year:
Switzerland 19 pounds Norway 17.5 pounds Britain 17 pounds Germany 14 pounds USA 7.5 pounds
- 675g of bitter chocolate
- 10 whole eggs
- 575g caster sugar
- 450g unsalted butter
Beat the eggs with 1/3 of the sugar, until the quantity quadruples.
Dissolve the remaining sugar into a syrup with hot water.
Place the chocolate and butter into the syrup, and combine over heat.
Allow to cool slightly before adding the chocolate syrup to the eggs.
Pour into a cake tin, and bake for 40-60 minutes in a bain-marie.
Allow to set completely before turning out. Serves 10-12.
In order to get it just perfect, you should watch while it is cooking.