Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

From “xocolatl” to chocolate February 15, 2009

Filed under: history,human interference,linguistics,medicine — Radiance @ 3:48 AM
So yesterday it was Valentine’s Day (and it still is in some parts of the world depending on time zones) and I thought I should write something which is in line with the spirit of this celebration of love and loved ones. Two items that are most strongly associated with Valentine’s Day or love in general are roses and chocolates. So I am taking this opportunity to write about my favourite of the two, CHOCOLATE! (Not that I do not like roses.) So here’s my nerdy take on one of the most celebrated edible, and celebrated for a very long time for that matter.
The introduction of Wikipedia entry on Chocolate tells us “Chocolate comprises a number of raw and processed foods that are produced from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. Chocolate has become one of the most popular flavours in the world. It is a common ingredient in many snacks and desserts, including but not limited to cookies, cake, ice cream, pudding, pie and candy. Gifts of chocolate moulded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays: Easter, Hanukkah, Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, including chocolate milk and hot chocolate.
The word ‘chocolate’ comes from the Aztecs of Mexico, and is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl which is a combination of the words, xocolli, meaning “bitter”, and atl, which is “water”. The Aztecs were one of the first people who cultivated cacao at least three millennia ago in Central America and Mexico, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. The Spanish conquest of the “new world” in the 16th century brought this popular Mesoamerican drink to Europe, which was completely unaware of it till then. And not until the industrial revolution in 1700s was the chocolate made into its durable, solid form we enjoy today.
The fats in cocoa butter (oil extracted from cacao tree) can crystallize in six different forms (polymorphous crystallization). Making chocolate considered “good” is about forming as many type 5 crystals (melting point 34°C) as possible. This produces a glossy and firm chocolate that melts near body temperature (37 °C). The three types of chocolate can be differentiated by the ingredients in them,
Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
Therefore, dark chocolate benefits the circulatory system. Other beneficial effects suggested include anticancer, brain stimulator, cough preventer and anti-diarrhoeal effects. After reading this, whatever little qualms I had about eating dark chocolate regularly like an addict have flown away!
There are various websites dedicated to “everything chocolate” which tell you about types of chocolate, how it is made, what different flavours and forms it is enjoyed in, etc. I obviously didn’t want to delve into each one of them as it would be impossible for me to stop reading about one of my most favourite “treats”. So with great difficulty I have narrowed down to two websites to share with you that I found most comprehensive about chocolate. The first one is that, as its name suggests, concentrates on extensive history of chocolate. It also has sections on the various flavours, cacao harvesting and even offers a course on chocolate tasting!
The other interesting website I found was about the Field museum in Chicago that has an entire exhibition dedicated to everything chocolate! At least for me, this is a first. The website, along with the must-have sections about history and manufacture, has list resources like books, films etc. about chocolate. It even has a ‘chocolate challenge’ for those who really think they’re experts on this sweet treat. The health facts section has some interesting information on possible therapeutic uses of chocolate. Some of these are also mentioned in the Wikipedia entry to which I have given the link above.
So I believe I have, at least with some success, made you feel “not gill-cup” (this joke is only for avid fans of Monty Python’s Flying Circus) ….. err, not guilty about indulging in a chocolaty treat on the Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart or even otherwise.

2 Responses to “From “xocolatl” to chocolate”

  1. JLTan Says:

    Hmm. I thought the word “chocolate” originated from the Greek “theo-cocos broma”, wor “food for the gods”.

  2. Ronja Says:

    I am a big fan of Amazon Kindle, I myself own a. But I think Amazon needs to come up with something to get against the iPad to.

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