For the Love of Chocolate!!

On Monday evening, I taught the last class in the 2012-2013 Project Lunchbox series.  The title?  Ice Cream and Chocolate.  This blog post will focus on the latter topic, chocolate!

Good nutrition doesn’t mean excluding things you love from your diet, but it does mean that you have to read the product’s ingredient label.  In doing so, you’ll be able to tell if the ingredients have been sourced from the Earth or if they were engineered in scientific laboratories.   When you’re looking at the ingredient label on your chocolate, you want to be sure that it contains cocoa butter, because this means that it contains actual chocolate from the cacao tree.  Other ingredients you may find are milk and sugar.  Keep in mind that as the amount of sugar in the chocolate decreases, the percentage of cacao will increase, thereby creating a more intense chocolate flavor.

Speaking of the cacao tree, next I want to discuss the origins of chocolate.  The fruit of the cacao tree are cacao pods, which contain beans that are then processed into the chocolate we know and love.  The cacao tree thrives and prospers only in warm, rainy, and tropical areas, predominantly in West Africa, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.  The tree itself produces football shaped pods that when harvested and broken open, reveal a sweet white pulp surrounding approximately 50 to 60 beans.  After these beans have been harvested, they are dried out for about a week and then roasted.  Next the outer shell is removed, leaving the nib, which is then ground into chocolate liquor.  The liquor (which does not contain alcohol) is pressed to separate it from the cocoa butter and is then used to make different kinds of chocolate.

When you hear the word chocolate, what do you picture in your head?  Right, when most of us hear the word chocolate, we picture a bar, a truffle, or even a bunny.  Also, the verb that comes to mind is probably “eat,” not “drink.”  However for about 90 percent of chocolate’s long history, it was strictly a beverage, and sugar didn’t have anything to do with it. In fact, chocolate may be the best-known food that people don’t know a lot about!

Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for at least 2000 years and although it’s hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was born, it’s clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency and both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical and even divine properties.  Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. Legend has it that the Aztec King Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate. Chocolate didn’t agree with foreigners’ taste buds at first –one even described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs” – but once mixed with cane sugar or honey, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.  By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious and medicinal properties.  However, it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700s.  Joseph Fry is credited with the creation of the first modern chocolate bar in 1847.  By 1868, the Cadbury Company was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England.  Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that may ring a bell – Nestle.

Did you know that dark chocolate contains inflammation fighting properties, is rich in fiber, and can improve cognitive function?  What kind of chocolate do you enjoy?  Have you ever attended a formal chocolate tasting session or taken a chocolate tour?  Let me know!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

References

MarksDailyApple.  N.P. 2 Feb. 2013. Web. 9 April 2013.

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2 thoughts on “For the Love of Chocolate!!

  1. Dawn O'Connell

    Katie – have done the Boston Walking Chocolate Tour twice – it was great fun – interesting, informative, and of course, absolutely delicious! I would definitely recommend it. I love dark chocolate with a hint of spice in it!

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