Wednesday July 7, 2021’s Smile of the Day:
On this Day:
In 1550, on this day Chocolate was thought to have been introduced to Europe. But chocolate has a much longer, mouth-watering history.
Chocolate is a preparation of roasted and ground cacao seeds that is made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, which may also be used as a flavoring ingredient in other foods. The earliest signs of use are associated with Olmec sites (within what would become Mexico’s post-colonial territory) suggesting consumption of chocolate beverages, dating from the 19th century BC. The majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs.
The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. The shell is removed to produce cocoa nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, unadulterated chocolate in rough form. Once the cocoa mass is liquefied by heating, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor may also be cooled and processed into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Baking chocolate, also called bitter chocolate, contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions, without any added sugar. Powdered baking cocoa, which contains more fiber than cocoa butter, can be processed with alkali to produce dutch cocoa. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or added vegetable oils, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.
Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and many foodstuffs involving chocolate exist, particularly desserts, including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate. Chocolate bars, either made of solid chocolate or other ingredients coated in chocolate, are eaten as snacks. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes (such as eggs, hearts, coins) are traditional on certain Western holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Hanukkah. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate, and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao.
Although cocoa originated in the Americas, West African countries, particularly Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, are the leading producers of cocoa in the 21st century, accounting for some 60% of the world cocoa supply.
With some two million children involved in the farming of cocoa in West Africa, child slavery and trafficking were major concerns in 2018, and continue to be. International attempts to improve conditions for children were doomed to failure because of persistent poverty, absence of schools, increasing world cocoa demand, more intensive farming of cocoa, and continued exploitation of child labor.
Chocolate has been prepared as a drink for nearly all of its history. For example, one vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico, dates chocolate’s preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC. On the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, a Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cocoa beverages dating even earlier, to 1900 BC. The residues and the kind of vessel in which they were found indicate the initial use of cocoa was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cocoa beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.
An early Classic-period (460–480 AD) Mayan tomb from the site in Rio Azul had vessels with the Maya glyph for cocoa on them with residue of a chocolate drink, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The Maya grew cacao trees in their backyards, and used the cocoa seeds the trees produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.
By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica and adopted cocoa into their culture. They associated chocolate with Quetzalcoatl, who, according to one legend, was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans, and identified its extrication from the pod with the removal of the human heart in sacrifice. In contrast to the Maya, who liked their chocolate warm, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with a broad variety of additives, including the petals of the Cymbopetalum penduliflorum tree, chile pepper, allspice, vanilla, and honey.
The Aztecs were unable to grow cocoa themselves, as their home in the Mexican highlands was unsuitable for it, so chocolate was a luxury imported into the empire. Those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs were required to offer cocoa seeds in payment of the tax they deemed “tribute”. Cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost 100 cocoa beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.
The Maya and Aztecs associated cocoa with human sacrifice, and chocolate drinks specifically with sacrificial human blood. The Spanish royal chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés described a chocolate drink he had seen in Nicaragua in 1528, mixed with achiote: “because those people are fond of drinking human blood, to make this beverage seem like blood, they add a little achiote, so that it then turns red. … and part of that foam is left on the lips and around the mouth, and when it is red for having achiote, it seems a horrific thing, because it seems like blood itself.”
Chocolate soon became a fashionable drink of the European nobility after the discovery of the Americas.
Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central American peoples. Christopher Columbus and his son Ferdinand encountered the cocoa bean on Columbus’s fourth mission to the Americas on 15 August 1502, when he and his crew seized a large native canoe that proved to contain cocoa beans among other goods for trade. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first European to encounter it, as the frothy drink was part of the after-dinner routine of Montezuma. José de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, wrote of its growing influence on the Spaniards:
Although bananas are more profitable, cocoa is more highly esteemed in Mexico. . . Cocoa is a smaller fruit than almonds and thicker, which toasted do not taste bad. It is so prized among the Indians and even among Spaniards. . . because since it is a dried fruit it can be stored for a long time without deterioration, and they brings ships loaded with them from the province of Guatemala. . . It also serves as currency, because with five cocoas you can buy one thing, with thirty another, and with a hundred something else, without there being contradiction; and they give these cocoas as alms to the poor who beg for them. The principal product of this cocoa is a concoction which they make that they call “chocolate,” which is a crazy thing treasured in that land, and those who are not accustomed are disgusted by it, because it has a foam on top and a bubbling like that of feces, which certainly takes a lot to put up with. Anyway, it is the prized beverage which the Indians offer to nobles who come to or pass through their lands; and the Spaniards, especially Spanish women born in those lands die for black chocolate. This aforementioned chocolate is said to the be made in various forms and temperaments, hot, cold, and lukewarm. They are wont to use spices and much chili; they also make it into a paste, and it is said that it is a medicine to treat coughs, the stomach, and colds. Whatever may be the case, in fact those who have not been reared on this opinion are not appetized by it.
“Traités nouveaux & curieux du café du thé et du chocolate”, by Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, 1685
While Columbus had taken cocoa beans with him back to Spain, chocolate made no impact until Spanish friars introduced it to the Spanish court. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe. There, it quickly became a court favorite. It was still served as a beverage, but the Spanish added sugar, as well as honey (the original sweetener used by the Aztecs for chocolate), to counteract the natural bitterness. Vanilla, another indigenous American introduction, was also a popular additive, with pepper and other spices sometimes used to give the illusion of a more potent vanilla flavor. Unfortunately, these spices tended to unsettle the European constitution; the Encyclopédie states, “The pleasant scent and sublime taste it imparts to chocolate have made it highly recommended; but a long experience having shown that it could potentially upset one’s stomach”, which is why chocolate without vanilla was sometimes referred to as “healthy chocolate”. By 1602, chocolate had made its way from Spain to Austria. By 1662, Pope Alexander VII had declared that religious fasts were not broken by consuming chocolate drinks. Within about a hundred years, chocolate established a foothold throughout Europe.
Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented “Dutch cocoa” by treating cocoa mass with alkaline salts to reduce the natural bitterness without adding sugar or milk to get usable cocoa powder.
The new craze for chocolate brought with it a thriving slave market, as between the early 1600s and late 1800s, the laborious and slow processing of the cocoa bean was manual. Cocoa plantations spread, as the English, Dutch, and French colonized and planted. With the depletion of Mesoamerican workers, largely to disease, cocoa production was often the work of poor wage laborers and African slaves. Wind-powered and horse-drawn mills were used to speed production, augmenting human labor. Heating the working areas of the table-mill, an innovation that emerged in France in 1732, also assisted in extraction.
New processes that sped the production of chocolate emerged early in the Industrial Revolution. In 1815, Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten introduced alkaline salts to chocolate, which reduced its bitterness. A few years thereafter, in 1828, he created a press to remove about half the natural fat (cocoa butter or cocoa butter) from chocolate liquor, which made chocolate both cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. This innovation introduced the modern era of chocolate.
Fry’s produced the first chocolate in solid state in 1847, which was then mass-produced as Fry’s Chocolate Cream in 1866.
Known as “Dutch cocoa”, this machine-pressed chocolate was instrumental in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form when, in 1847, English chocolatier Joseph Fry discovered a way to make chocolate moldable when he mixed the ingredients of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cocoa butter. Subsequently, his chocolate factory, Fry’s of Bristol, England, began mass-producing chocolate bars, Fry’s Chocolate Cream, launched in 1866, and they became very popular. Milk had sometimes been used as an addition to chocolate beverages since the mid-17th century, but in 1875 Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by mixing a powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé with the liquor. In 1879, the texture and taste of chocolate was further improved when Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching machine.
Besides Nestlé, several notable chocolate companies had their start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rowntree’s of York set up and began producing chocolate in 1862, after buying out the Tuke family business. Cadbury was manufacturing boxed chocolates in England by 1868. Manufacturing their first Easter egg in 1875, Cadbury created the modern chocolate Easter egg after developing a pure cocoa butter that could easily be molded into smooth shapes. In 1893, Milton S. Hershey purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and soon began the career of Hershey’s chocolates with chocolate-coated caramels (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Did you hear about the grad student who wrote her PHD dessertation on chocolate puns.
Second, a Song:
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers is a musical and comedy trio from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, which is composed of Kevin Blackmore (“Buddy Wasisname”), Wayne Chaulk and Ray Johnson (“The Other Fellers”). The group specializes in Newfoundland and folk music, as well as performing comedic skits and standup routines.
All three musicians sing and write songs which reflect their Newfoundland heritage; Johnson also arranges traditional accordion numbers for the band to perform. Their recordings range from serious reflections on Newfoundland culture (such as “Sarah” and “Saltwater Joys”) to light-hearted tales that can border on the ridiculous (such as “Is You ‘Appy?” and “Chainsaw Earle”).
Chaulk performs on bass or guitar, Johnson on accordion or fiddle, and Blackmore on mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar and improvised percussion instruments including Tupperware lids and garbage bags. Byron Pardy, who is also a member of the group, performs on bass and backing vocals.
The group’s name, and the names of many of their albums and songs, contain phonetic spellings of colloquial contractions and phrases native to Newfoundland, which would normally only be spoken aloud and in an informal setting. This reflects the group’s focus on Newfoundland culture; most Newfoundlanders immediately recognize the intended meanings despite the atypical spelling. The band name plays on Newfoundlanders’ habit of rapidly slurring words together in day to day speech; “wasisname” is a contraction of “what’s his name?”; however, in Newfoundland “Buddy Wasisname” is simply a version of “I can’t remember his name”. “Fellers” is simply a dialectal form of “fellas” or “fellows”.
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers were formed in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in 1983. Two of the three group members (Johnson and Chaulk) were school teachers prior to forming their group. Their first album, Makin’ For the Harbour was self-released in 1986. The album relied heavily on Newfoundland standards and Blackmore’s comedy numbers; Chaulk made one significant contribution with “Yesterday’s Fishermen”. “Gotta Get Me Moose B’y” would become their early career signature tune, and remains one of their more popular songs today. Next was the album Nods’N’Winks, mostly notable for Blackmore’s “My Old Wooden Shack”, which features Johnson on accordion and vocals. At this point in the group’s history they began to be known outside their local area.
The group’s third album, Flatout, was released in 1990, and contains two of their best known songs. One, “Sarah”, was an a cappella tune Johnson learned from his adoptive father Johnny. The other, “Saltwater Joys”, written by Chaulk, is one of the band’s most requested concert songs. Another song on the album, “Peein’ in the Snow” also became a hit after being performed on several comedy programs. After Flatout came The Miracle Cure, which is their best selling album to date. The album contains the humorous song in “Chainsaw Earle”; two Chaulk songs “Goin’ Up with Brudder” and “The Pits”, the latter of which a music video was produced; and several Johnson traditional songs including “Put A Bit of Powder On A Doo” and “Peggy Gordon”.
After the success of The Miracle Cure, the group put out 100% Pure, which sold well, but was not as popular as the previous one. The album’s “Song for Newfoundland”, an a cappella Chaulk anthem, has been covered often by Newfoundland vocal groups. Also, the album contains the well-known song “By The Glow Of The Kerosene Light”, written by Wince Coles, which featured additional players in the form of cello, harp and piano, an arrangement not often seen in the group’s catalogue. The album holds the first track from Blackmore’s “454” series, called “The Vette”. The rest of the 454 four barrel series is “Da’ Yammie” (Salt Beef Junkie), “Da’ Chopper” (D’Lard Liftin), and “Da’ Mower” (The Big Tump).
The group’s next album, Salt Beef Junkie, includes original songs of the same type, but the arrangements deviate from their usual style. The opening track features a full rock backing band in addition to Chaulk’s guitar and Johnson’s accordion; “He’s A Part Of Me” features the same backing trio as “Kerosene Light”; and many of the tracks feature George Morgan’s drum machines.
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers have been performing and recording actively for over 30 years. The group has produced nineteen albums, and in 2017 maintains an active touring schedule throughout the Atlantic provinces, and other Canadian cities (per Wikipedia).
Here is Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers performing The Chocolate Song. Roy Brush put their song to images. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky