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Friday, November 12, 2010


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Two vintage Thanksgiving wrappers for you this week
The introduction of cocoa into Europe, as well as its cultivation for the European market, was due to the Jesuit missionaries rather than to the explorers of the Western Hemisphere. It was the monks, too, who about 1661 made it known in France.

It is curious, therefore, to notice the debate that at one time raged among ecclesiastics as to whether it was lawful to make use of chocolate in Lent and whether it was to be regarded as food or drink. A consensus of opinion on the subject, published in Venice in 1748, states that "All agree that he will break his fast who eats any portion of chocolate, which, dissolved and well mixed with warm water, is not prejudicial to keeping a fast."

In a story told in Gaze's "New Survey of the West Indies" published in 1648, the Bishop of Chiapa, was disturbed by the use of chocolate during the performance of the Mass. "The women of that city, it seems, pretend much weakness and squeamishness of stomacke, which they say is so great that they are not able to continue in church while the mass is briefly hurried over, much lesse while a solemn high mass is sung and a sermon preached, unles they drinke a cup of hot chocolatte and eat a bit of sweetmeats to strengthen their stomackes."

Their maids brought them a cup of chocolate in the middle of the sermon, much to the annoyance of the bishop and the priests "interrupting both mass and sermon". One day there was such an uproar when the priests tried to take the chocolate from the maids, that swords were drawn against the priests. Bishop Chiapa, who so rigorously had forbidden chocolate to be drunk in the church, was poisoned!

The "chocolatte-confectioning Doñas" resolved to forsake the Cathedral, preferring in stead to go to the Cloister Churches, where the Nuns and Friars were not troubled by the chocolate. It was only natural that the nuns and friars of the cloister churches did not raise objections to this practice of chocolate drinking, for we read further that two of these cloisters were "talked off far and near, not for their religious practices, but for their skill in making drinkes which are used in those parts, the one called chocolatte, another atolle. Chocolatte is (also) made up in boxes, and sent not only to Mexico, but much of it yearly transported to Spain."

The English and Hollanders at first made little use of it. About the time of the Commonwealth, however, the new drink began to make its way among the English, and the Public Advertiser of 1657 contains the notice that "in Bishopsgate Street, in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent drink, called chocolate, to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade, at reasonable rates."

These rates appear to have been from 10s to 15s a pound, a price which made chocolate, rather than coffee, the beverage of the aristocracy, who flocked to the chocolate-houses soon to spring up in the fashionable centres. The chocolate-houses were thus the forerunners of modern clubs, and one of them, "The Cocoa Tree" which was the early headquarters of the Jacobite party, subsequently became recognised as the club of the literati, including among its members such men as Byron. White's Cocoa House – at one time a great gambling centre –adjoining St. James' Palace, eventually developed into the respectable White's Club.

Curiously, chocolate was at first regarded as an afrodisiac in Europe.
In 1712, after its use had become established in England, the mentor of the Spectator wrote: "I shall also advise my fair readers to be in a particular manner careful how they meddle with romances, chocolates, novels, and the like inflamers, which I look upon as very dangerous to be made use of during this great carnival" (the month of May).

As early as 1712 a London doctor warned against the ill-effects of sugar added to cocoa, declaring that cocao, which is a medicine, had become a poison since sugar was added to make it delicious. A pamphlet, printed at the Black Boy, St. Dunstan's Church, in Fleet Street, exclaims: "As for the great quantity of sugar which is commonly put in, it may destroy the native and genuine temper of the chocolate, sugar being such a corrosive salt, and such an hypocritical enemy of the body."

Excerpted from: The Food of the Gods
A popuar account of cocoa by Brandon Head

To be continued.
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Anni Arts has professionally designed and illustrated printable crafts, templates and graphics specially created for crafters by designer Anneke Lipsanen

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