I’m head over heels in love with Chocolate! Who isn’t?!? Statistics proclaim that 9 out of 10 people love chocolate, and the 10th person is lying. Ever since the movie Chocolat, not only do women swoon over Johnny Depp, we have also been captivated by the notion that chocolate is good for us. The trouble is, most confectionery given on Valentine’s Day in heart month is actually not good for the heart. Thousands of studies report that “dark chocolate” is good for the heart, but disclaimers are quick to follow. And the words “in moderation” are the last thing you want to consider during the month of amore!’
LOVE … Perhaps it started with Adam & Eve, or the thumping of a caveman’s club over the head of his woman, but I’m wondering when passionate, romantic love entered into the human emotional character.
It must be the Latin lover, with his golden skin, dark bedroom eyes and accentuated pronunciations of words that are irrelevant but sound good. It’s in his blood, an innate passion that is irresistible. The mere thought of such love has women gasping, with fantasies dancing in their minds, conjuring a smile and the slight trembling of inner thighs.
Although Christopher Columbus brought the cocoa bean to Europe in 1502, Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes discovered its true value in 1519 when introduced to a wonderful chocolate drink. Aztec Emperor Montezuma taught Cortes to turn the bean into his beloved beverage, and he was reported to consume nearly 50 golden goblets a day of the divine nectar.
“Chocolate is the divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food” ~Hernando Cortes
“Chocolate is the divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food,” he was quoted as saying. Seldom mentioned is the fact that Montezuma had 600 wives. If a single cup was all that good, we ask … did Montezuma need the additional 49 cups in order to keep his wives happy? That would make Montezuma the world’s first chocolate-fueled lover!
For the next 100 years, drinking chocolate was Spain’s secret … until it went to France. At first considered barbaric, it gained medical approval in Paris, and was elevated in social circles in 1615 when Queen Anne of Austria declared chocolat as “The drink of the French Court.” By the 1600s, chocolate had made its way into Italy, England and eventually the Americas.
In 1702, French botanist and chemist Louis Lemery (1677-1743) said regarding chocolate in his treatise on food “…its stimulant properties are calculated to excite the passions of Venus.” The 17th and 18th centuries were conducive to high consumption levels of chocolate. Most artwork of the period shows couples sipping hot chocolate. It was in great vogue and, for the time, was among the foods considered conducive to love games, libertine sexuality and lifestyles.
The most celebrated lover was Giovanni Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798).
Reportedly he consumed chocolate before each conquest. Latin legends, both fiction and fact, were born in the era of drinking chocolate. Casanova, likened to the styling of Spanish folklore’s Don Juan, was a promiscuous and unscrupulous lover. He must have known the divine drink’s powers. During his years at University, he studied philosophy, chemistry, mathematics, and showed a keen interest in medicine, frequently prescribing treatments for himself and friends. He certainly knew of chocolate’s proponents as a medico-culinary agent that was compounded, not only as a drug, but equally as an aphrodisiac.
Casanova’s memoirs, which ironically closed the chapter on the ‘lover’s era,’ went to press in 1820, eight years before Coenraad van Houten pioneered an invention which squeezed cocoa butter out of the beans.
Though the Cocoa Press opened the doors to the massive chocolate business as we know it today, it stripped away most of its lustful allure. 60 years later, a Chocolatier named Rudolphe Lindt put the cocoa butter back into the cocoa powder, resulting in a smooth, creamy chocolate that melted on the tongue, feeling much like the liquid chocolate. It brought back the romance of a bygone era in the convenience of a bite-sized morsel.
Chocolate takes charge of seduction. Anticipation is half the fun. As much as chocolate is playful and spontaneous, it is also a disciplinarian, as its medicinal “good for you” nature commands the attention of all your senses. Swallow, and then focus as it ventures its way through your body, tempting and yet healing every cell within you. Amazingly, other thoughts are pushed out of your mind as chocolate reigns supreme.
Although the commercialization of chocolate has tamed its primal nature, the romance can still be found today in the artisanal, hand-crafted dark chocolates and bite-sized creations of Chocolatiers and master bakers who have harnessed the same healthy, healing qualities of chocolates that fueled the greatest lovers of bygone eras.