March 6, 2014
|Word of the
Definition--a food product, made
from cacao beans, that have been husked, fermented, roasted, shelled, and
ground. Often combined with a sweetener or other flavoring and used on its
own or as a coating or flavoring for other dishes.
Also refers to a color of a grayish to deep reddish brown to deep
|Discussion--The popular 1993 Mexican
film Like Water for Chocolate has a confusing title for most of us
from other cultures. The film equates the boiling point of water for hot
chocolate with the height of passion. According to legend, the god
Quetzalcoatl brought a cacao seed to earth from Paradise and wisdom and
truth came from eating the fruit of the tree.
Chocolate was first mentioned in European history in 1519 when Spanish
explorer Hernando Cortez visited the Emperor Montezuma of Mexico. Cortez
brought chocolate back to the king of Spain, Charles V. Spanish monks kept
the cacao beans a secret and created a profitable industry by planting
trees in Spain's overseas colonies.
In the 1600's the secret spread to the rest of Europe, and the Spanish
monopoly ended. In the 1700's the price dropped making chocolate available
to more people than the very wealthy. In the late 1700's chocolate came
back across the ocean to Massachusetts where the first U.S. chocolate
factory was established.
In the 1800's eating chocolate came into its own with the use of cocoa
powder, a result of the invention of the cocoa press and a steam engine
for grinding the beans; lower excise taxes; great improvements in
transportation; and improved manufacturing techniques for eating
Today chocolate is more popular than ever. Annual world consumption of
cocoa beans averages 600,000 tons and is a multibillion-dollar business.
Etymology--Chocolate for the
Aztec was xocolatl. The similar Mayan form was xocoatl. The
Mexican Indian form that we know, chocolate, comes from a
combination of the terms for "foam", choco, and "water",
atl. The Aztec term xococ, meaning bitter is also attributed
to the derivation.
Whether bitter water or foamy water, early chocolate was consumed only
in beverage form. Sharing a mug of this forthy, bitter water was part of
the ritual in early Mesoamerican marriages.
Most languages below show similar roots.