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Post: Aphrodisiac, currency, medicine: the history of forbidden chocolate


MOSCOW, September 13 – RIA Novosti, Tatyana Ryzhkova. Money, sacrifice to the gods, medicine: it’s all about the familiar delicacy of cocoa beans. Until the 19th century, it could only be used by priests, kings and nobles. Today, World Chocolate Day, RIA Novosti is investigating who, when and why tried to ban this dessert, and why women played a key role in its distribution.

Money and food of the gods

“Chocolate was once a currency and was so valuable that they even managed to imitate it using candles and earth,” explains Anastasia Barashkova, author of “A Tasty Guide for Every Occasion.”

The first to meet the cacao tree were the South American Indians. In the 18th century BC, the Olmec tribes made alcohol from the pulp of chocolate berries. Beans were directly appreciated by the Mayans and Aztecs, who learned from them how to cook “chocolate” – “sparkling water” or “brackish water”.

Cocoa pot (Mayan culture, around 4th century AD) - RIA Novosti, 1920, 09/12/2022
Cocoa jar (Maya culture, circa 4th century AD)

For these tribes, the drink was a medicine – it was given to lung patients and those who lost their strength after bleeding. In addition, the bean served as a coin analogue: Eh-Chuah, the Aztec god of cocoa, was also a symbol of trade.

Later, Spanish missionary Bernardino de Sahagun wrote that large quantities of chocolate drink “make you stupid, intoxicate, drive you crazy”. Presumably, Aztec priests drank it to enter a trance and communicate with higher powers.

Rituals accompanied each stage of cultivation of the cocoa tree. According to the book Whisk Chocolate Foam by historians Galina Ershova and Dmitry Belyaev, a dog was sacrificed in honor of the new plant.

Cortez is young.  A view from the 17th century - RIA Novosti, 1920, 09/12/2022
Cortez is young. 17th century depiction

Beans were a precious gift. First of all – for the wedding: the bride and groom gave each other five as a sign of fidelity.

And in 1519, the Aztecs brought cocoa berries to the Spanish general Hernando Cortes, who is considered the incarnation of the returning god Quetzalcoatl.

At the feast of Montezuma, the leader of the tribe, the Spaniards tried the drink: it was flavored with vanilla, hot pepper and spices. The Aztecs warned that cocoa was an aphrodisiac and intended for men, but it could be dangerous for women and children.

For women…

However, it was a woman who first tried chocolate in Europe. Christopher Columbus presented it to Queen Isabella of Castile, but at first he frankly did not like the bitter sparkling drink.

“It’s curious, but since then all the changes in composition have been made to surprise the weak half of humanity,” says Anastasia Barashkova, adding: “Every year the recipes were improved, and women took part in the creation of some of them.”

The recipe for sweet hot chocolate appeared thanks to the missionary nuns – they decided to add sugar to a bitter drink. And this immediately endeared him to noble people.

Jean Etienne Lyotard, The Chocolate Woman
Jean Etienne Lyotard, Chocolate Girl
Navigator Christopher Columbus

“The Spanish Infanta, wife of King Louis XIII of France, Anna of Austria, loved to enjoy the cocoa drink. This was her secret passion. The French nobility at that time did not welcome chocolate, calling it foreign eyes.”

In 1660, another monarch, Louis XIV, married Maria Theresa, unable to hide her passion for dessert. He sincerely stated that he “only loves chocolate and the king”.

Catalina Micaela, daughter of Philip II, brought the delicacy to Turin. She arrived in Italy in 1585 and married Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy she. Historians suggest that the valuable cocoa beans on the bride’s dowry list were also waiting in the wings. It turns out that each dynastic marriage started a new wave of interest in chocolate.

… and against the church

The priests had two claims. First, they thought that a sweet, thick and pleasant-tasting drink would break the fast. Second, the aphrodisiac properties of chocolate were quickly adopted in Europe. Both men and women have resorted to this drug.

“Napoleon and Casanova are considered noble chocolate lovers,” says Anastasia Barashkova. , almost by order, also mentions the countess who forced her fans to use chocolate to raise their tone.

In response, the church tried to ban the sinful drink.

At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, the clergy took this issue seriously. There was a heated debate between the Dominican priests and the Spanish Jesuits.

Hot chocolate with brandy
The fruit of the cocoa or chocolate tree.  genus theobroma

“They appealed to Pope Pius V, who had never tried chocolate before,” explains Anastasia Barashkova. I forgot”.

loss of sanctity

For a long time, chocolate was not available to everyone. Only the ruling class enjoyed them.

“Chocolate houses were opened in London, where the color of the aristocracy gathered,” says Barashkova. “The royal nobility of France even had to reduce the number of important guests at receptions in the Palace of Versailles – there were too many people. I wanted to try chocolate.”

In Russia, things were similar. Chocolate appeared under Catherine II, who, unlike Isabella of Castile, immediately appreciated the innovation. His favorite Prince Potemkin loved this drink no less than coffee and considered him truly aristocratic.

Culinary historian Olga Syutkina explains, “In the Summer and Winter Palaces in St. Petersburg worked so-called kofishensky, one of which was called “large” and the other “small”. These drinks were served to members of the royal family and courtiers several times a day.”

Melted chocolate - RIA Novosti, 1920, 09/12/2022
melted chocolate

In the middle of the 19th century, chocolate changed shape. It is unknown who created the first flooring. There are three contenders vying for this title. The first is the Swiss Francois-Louis Caille. In 1819 he automated the production of chocolate., reduced its cost and made it affordable – finally! – for the mass consumer. The second is Dutchman Conrad van Houten, who in 1828 invented a hydraulic press to produce cocoa powder and butter. Third on the list is the British from Fry & Sons. In 1847, they mixed cocoa powder with sugar and hot cocoa butter.

“It’s all covered in myths, controversies and legends, like the invention of gunpowder, for example,” says Ekaterina Rukol, a technologist and teacher at the chocolate school. Birmingham, England. Advertising slogan – “Perfect chocolate to eat.”

As Rucol points out, from this moment a new era begins in this product – it ceases to be just a beverage. Chocolate has a longer shelf life, is consumed all over the world, mixed with milk, nuts and candied fruits, enters the diet of soldiers and eventually becomes the favorite dessert of women and children.

Of course, the Aztecs, who had warned Cortes about the “all-male product”, would have been horrified.

Shot from the movie Chocolate
Shot from the movie “Chocolate”

But memories of chocolate as a forbidden and magical delicacy remained in literature and cinema. The most famous example is Joanna Harris’ novel, filmed in 2000, in which love and hate for this dessert became the main engines of the plot.

And the word “chocolate” is still associated with a sweet life and a festive mood.

Source: Ria

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