Cbr15bingo edibles (bingo)
Back at the beginning of May, my younger son asked me what I would like for Mothers Day. I told him that anything related to books, coffee or chocolate would be nice. He hit two out of three with this book, Great Moments in Chocolate History, published by National Geographic (2015). Howard-Yana Shapiro is a plant scientist and chief agricultural officer for Mars, Inc. This is a guy who knows chocolate science and provides a lot of interesting facts in relating the history of one of the world’s favorite treats.
Great Moments follows a straightforward chronology and begins where you would expect, with the Aztec Empire, where coffee beans were valuable currency. The arrival of European explorers meant that that treasure was going to be taken back to Europe, in particular to Spain. It took a few decades for Europeans to figure out what to do with cacao, which is the name for the bitter bean before it is roasted. After being roasted, it is called cocoa. Among the interesting facts provided, we learn that chocolate was solely for drinking at first, and it was solely for wealthy upper classes. Chocolate was viewed as a healthy, energizing drink. The ability to turn chocolate into a solid bar did not occur until the mid-nineteenth century and was first done in England. Another interesting fact, England’s premier chocolatiers in the 19th century were all Quakers: Fry Brothers, Cadbury and Rowntree. Anyway, with the introduction of the “Dutch process” of separating cocoa butter from bean, solid chocolate became a thing, and that opened the door to not just candy bars but eggs, hearts, bunnies and all the other fun stuff that we have always known. Apparently the rivalry between English chocolate companies in the 1920s led to them turning to school children for product feedback; they would send new products to schools for children to test and evaluate. One of the early evaluators was Roald Dahl, which must have inspired “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
One of the things I like about this book is that it acknowledges the environmental issues related to growing cocoa beans and the need for sustainable farming. Decoding the chocolate genome (2010) will help scientists and farmers maintain the genetic makeup of cacao trees and could lead to better yields for farmers. A sustainability project (2014) that 12 of the worlds largest chocolate companies have signed onto along with the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire is meant to provide support to regions where cocoa is grown and encourage sustainable practices, education, and women’s business initiatives.
The volume is set up with a page devoted to a particular year in history (starting with the early 1500s and ending with 2014) and a lovely photograph or work of art on the accompanying page. Fun little factoids are sometimes set off in the margins, and the final 60 pages are devoted to recipes. The recipes also have attractive photos and pretty clear directions. Moreover, the recipes come from all around the world, including dishes like chicken with mole sauce, chocolate-ginger mochi, chocolate-peanut empanadas, and plenty of other delicious treats. This is a nice gift for the chocoholic in your life, but make sure they have some chocolate close at hand. All those pics and descriptions of chocolate sent me off for my secret stash!