Love and chocolate naturally go together in my opinion, so today while today everyone is focusing on the former, I’m going to write about the latter.
Chocolate was first popular served as a hot beverage like coffee and tea. And it was introduced to Western culture at about the same time as those other hot beverages, in the early 1600s. But today, if someone mentions chocolate, I think about the candy, or maybe a rich brownie or a heavy slice of flourless chocolate cake. We don’t eat tea and only use coffee to flavor a few dishes. So when did we start considering chocolate something to be eaten?
The Spanish discovered the natives of Central America drinking chocolate as a hot, unsweetened beverage. They added sugar and spices and made it popular throughout Europe – as a breakfast drink. One early European recipe combined cocoa beans (called cocoa-nuts at the time), sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds and pistachios with ingredients we might find a bit odd or even repulsive including pepper, orange flower water, musk and ambergris (an oily secretion from the sperm whale). This mixture was stewed and then set out in a box to dry. But while it presumably could have been eaten, it was meant to be grated into a pan of hot water to drink.
Chocolate “cakes” were being produced commercially even in the not-very-fashionable American colonies by the mid-1700s. During the Revolution, John Baker’s chocolate company smuggled imported cocoa beans past British blockades. But the chocolate was still designed to be ground up and used to make a drink. That’s not the kind of chocolate cake I’m thinking about!
Sam German, an employee of Baker’s Chocolate Company, created a sweetened chocolate bar to be used for baking in 1852, and a Texas housewife invented the German chocolate cake a few years later. (That means the German chocolate cake has absolutely nothing to do with Germany, but it will still appear on Oktoberfest menus every year.) So by the 1850s we were seeing chocolate used as a flavoring in baking— but what about the candy bar?
English company Joseph Fry and Sons is often credited with creating the first chocolate bar designed to be eaten, rather than ground up and used to make drinking chocolate. Some sources say the product was developed in 1830, some put it late in the 1840s. It wasn’t mass marketed until 1847. But because the company wasn’t yet using a chocolate press to extract cocoa butter, the chocolate bars they produced would taste bitter and grainy to modern chocophiles. (Even the manufacturer’s own website admits those early bars would be “unpalatable” by modern standards.) Cocoa butter from the Van Houten press, invented in 1828, was finally incorporated in the manufacture of the chocolate bars in the 1860s, and then they had something we might actually want to spend our week’s allowance on at the corner store.
Maybe next year I’ll research to find out when they started putting the candy in heart-shaped boxes and charging three times a much during the month of February.
If you enjoy reading about food preparation in earlier eras, you might enjoy the cooking scenes in my colonial history novels Restitution and Langley’s Choice.
Now I’m hungry!
Love this post! I actually walked right by a Three Musketeers bar today at the dollar store…that took a lot of will power!
I can pass by a Three Musketeers if I walk quickly. But the cherry Three Musketeers are another story. Fortunately they’re only around for a limited time. Unfortunately, this is that time. A big bag called to me today…and I answered!
Excuse me while I go get some chocolate for this craving now! LOL. Loved this post!
As a history buff I must state the following three things:
– Chocolate . . . . Mmmmmmmm
– NO! Don’t make me wait until next year to find out about the heart shaped configuration!
– Very, very well done. I thoroughly enjoy this kind of stuff.
Mmm. Chocolate. With such a rich history, it’s no wonder I like to have chocolate nearby when I’m writing. It’s a muse!
Great post. I can’t imagine drinking chocolate. As much as I’ve always enjoyed chocolate candy, I don’t like hot chocolate or chocolate milk at all.
cocoa beans (called cocoa-nuts at the time), sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds and pistachios mmmm, all sounds good with ingredients we might find a bit odd or even repulsive including pepper, chocolate with pepper is great orange flower water, might be okay. Have you ever had one of those orange flavored chocolate oranges that falls delightfully into segments? musk and ambergris uh oh. Ambergris was supposed to smell delicious but musk … musk???? you gonna wear it or eat it?
I like pepper with dark chocolate, but the first time I heard of the combination, I was dubious. And I love the combination of orange and chocolate, but orange flower water is entirely different. It’s not citrus-y at all. It smells like a little girl’s perfume. And the last batch I bought developed a strange brown growth in it, too.
What a delightfully fun and wonderful post!!! I am hooked on hot chocolate and mocha coffees. Wait, I am hooked on chocolate donuts, candy, pudding, ice cream…Okay, you get the point – yes, I am a chocoholic. By the way – I want to know about that – when they started putting chocolates in heart shaped boxes and started charging waaaaaaaay more than it costs to make – especially that yummy stuff called Godiva (now THAT is a heavenly hot chocolate!! lol)
My husband has given up trying to buy anything for my Christmas stocking other than chocolate. So the last two years I’ve gotten lots of great candy and Godiva hot chocolate, too. Why is Christmas only once a year? I need it about once a month!
I love chocolate and peanut butter, but not too often.
Wonderful post! Chocolate is the only kind of candy that isn’t safe in my house. 🙂