Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chocolate’s History

We tend to think of chocolate as a sweet candy created during modern times. But actually, chocolate dates back to the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica who drank chocolate as a bitter beverage.For these people, chocolate wasn’t just a favorite food—it also played an important role in their religious and social lives.The first people clearly known to have discovered the secret of cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 C.E. [A.D.]).When mixed with water, Chile peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients, this paste made a frothy, spicy chocolate drink.Many people in Classic Period Maya society could drink chocolate at least on occasion, although it was a particularly favored beverage for royalty. But in Aztec society, primarily rulers, priests, decorated soldiers, and honored merchants could partake of this sacred brew.Chocolate also played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.

The word "chocolate" entered the English language from Spanish.How the word came into Spanish is less certain, and there are multiple competing explanations. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that "chocolate" comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word "chocolātl", which many sources derived from the Nahuatl word "xocolātl" made up from the words "xococ" meaning sour or bitter, and "ātl" meaning water or drink.However, as William Bright noted the word "chocolatl" doesn't occur in central Mexican colonial sources making this an unlikely derivation. Santamaria gives a derivation from the Yucatec Maya word "chokol" meaning hot, and the Nahuatl "atl" meaning water. More recently Dakin and Wichmann derive it from another Nahuatl term, "chicolatl" from Eastern Nahuatl meaning "beaten drink".They derive this term from the word for the frothing stick, "chicoli".

Chocolate has been the center of several successful book and film adaptations. In 1964, Roald Dahl published a children's novel titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The novel centers on a poor boy named Charlie Bucket who takes a tour through the greatest chocolate factory in the world, owned by Willy Wonka. Two film adaptations of the novel were produced. The first was Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a 1971 film which later became a cult classic. Thirty-four years later, a second film adaptation was produced, titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The 2005 film was very well received by critics and was one of the highest grossing films of its year, earning over US$470,000,000 worldwide.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was also recognized at the 78th Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Costume Design for Gabriella Pesucci.

Chocolate is one of the most popular holiday gifts. On Valentine's Day, a box of chocolates is traditional, usually presented with flowers and a greeting card. It may be gifted on other holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and birthdays.