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It’s the one we’ve all been expecting. National Chocolate Week is here to remind us to celebrate the standard cacao bean altogether with its many glorious guises. Sure, a number of us might not actually require a fanatical week to recollect to demonstrate our appreciation.
Having done much research about chocolate and its history and a few theology studies, I even have found its almost impossible to separate chocolate and religion, right from the traditional beliefs of Mokaya, Olmec, Maya Aztec civilizations, to the Catholics, Muslims Quakers, and Jews it clear that Chocolate and religion have had a relationship sometimes close sometimes not.
Cocoa, tomato, corn, potato and pumpkins, all originate from the New World, first grown and employed by the indigenous people of Central America, who within the case of cocoa roasted then ground the seeds of the tree into a rough paste.
But the earliest known use of cacao was in southern Mexico around 1900 B.C where a small pot was found with cocoa residue inside. We expect it dates to the Mokaya people, (corn people) a pre-Olmec community who lived within the Soconusco region which is now southern Mexico and Guatemala.
The Olmecs used cacao for an unsweetened drink, and also brewed it into an alcoholic drink.
It was adopted by the Maya people, then by the Aztecs. Who called it xocolatl, which suggests bitter water?
The Maya consumed it for a treat but also used it in religious ceremonies. it had been not merely a sacrifice to the gods, but they believed that it gave life intelligence, wisdom and strength to the drinker.
Life Blood was very sacred to the Maya and Aztec, and xocolatl, was seen as a life-giving force that empowered human blood. Its consumption was a sacrament, which gave life to the buyer . It’s also been said to be employed by the Aztec emperors as an aphrodisiac, to put their wives in a good mood for love .
It was utilized in all areas of life from a birth offering to death as accompaniment to nourish within the afterlife.
The Aztecs were great warriors and therefore the dominant force in central Mexico, they imported cocoa from the mountain areas making it a luxury item. they were happy to extract tax from their defeated neighbours, and cacao beans were an ideal currency.
Three cacao beans would buy an avocado, ten got you a rabbit or a wife and 100 for a slave or fresh turkey.
When Columbus arrived within the New World on his fourth voyage of discovery, he encountered xocolatl, but didn’t love it so didn’t take any great interest in it.
The first European to taste the frothy elixir xocolatl, was Cortes , the important conqueror of the Aztec peoples, who noticed the good emperor Montezuma II drinking it from golden goblets after a banquet. Cortez apparently liked the things an excellent deal and after pillaging the Aztec empire made sure that he got the cacao beans also because the Aztec gold and lands fruits art gems.
From the conquistador, it came into the hands of the Franciscan friars who had come to convert the native Indians and help relieve them of their gold. The Franciscans were converted to power of xocolatl within the process, and that they brought it back to the Spanish court.
Where the nuns added sugar or honey to the drink then nutmeg and vanilla. The rest, we may say, is history.
Chocolate has overcome not only a thousand-mile journeys from its original cacao trees and centuries of evolution in preparation styles but also a grand battle with the Catholic Church .
Catholic Christianity in those days had an excellent more fasting day than today. Fridays and sometimes other days of the week were meatless and required abstinence from pleasures, like Lent and Advent.
Did chocolate violate the fast day? The religious authorities of the day debated the difficulty .
If it had been a food, it violated quickly . But if it was a drink, like water, it didn’t. Chocolate at this point was still a thick sludgy drink,
The debate went all the thanks to the very best levels and in 1662, Pope Alexander VII settled the talk over chocolate and fasting with one sentence:
“Liquidum non frangit jejunum [Liquids which might have included cocoa don’t break the fast].” and therefore the faithful could consume it on Fridays and even during Lent.
Chocolate spread across Europe and therefore the times and today may be a vast industry with songs, books and films telling religious stories.
In the book Chocolat, later a movie starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, within the film, Vianne Rocher, involves a provincial French town where she opens a chocolaterie, even as Lent is close to beginning. Chocolate wasn’t deemed sinful in Mesoamerica, it had been during a pre-Lent, Catholic context. Vianne tries to “rekindle the passion” during this town, and since of this she is at odds with the town Mayor, Comte de Reynaud. because it seems , his wife has left him, and he breaks down by giving into the temptation of chocolate symbolises his repressed humanity being unleashed.
More than $50 billion a year is formed in chocolate,
Europeans are the most important consumers of chocolate, eating, or manufacturing quite 45 percent of all chocolate. West Africa, has overtaken America, is now the most important producer of cocoa. it’s sadly still having issues with big labor in parts of West Africa, but we will purchase fairtrade chocolate. Fifty million people make their living from the chocolate industry.
And chocolate has never entirely left the religious sphere, as numerous children realize chocolate selection boxes, Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies (not entirely Christian)
Where would the Jewish home be without gold-wrapped chocolate coins for Hanukkah gelt won with a swift turn of the dreidel? And as for the chocolate given by young men to their dates on St. Valentine’s Day — well, I feel Montezuma ll would have understood why they give it.