The Deep Dark Secrets of Chocolate PT: 3

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The Spaniards were able to keep chocolate a secret until 1606, when an italian named Antonio Carlette brought cocoa home from Mexico. Louis XIII of France picked up a taste for chocolate, and when his son Louis XIV, married Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain and a real chocolate freak, the drink became the most fashionable in the licentious French court. A contemporary writer tells us that "Maria Theresa had only two passions: the King and chocolate."

Madame DuBarry, the lustful lady of Louis XV's court who used every thing from truffled sweetbraeds to cinnamon bark to enflame the old roi, resorted to ambergris-soaked chocolate bon-bons to enable an Arabian sheik to deflower 160 maidens in a fortnight. (This feat in itself is worthy of serious consideration.)
In 1657, chocolate came to England in a big way. While not the first, the Cocoa Tree became the most famous chocolate house in England, and when it gradually became a social club, it was the foremost in England. Among its devotees were Jonathan Swift, Gibbon and Addison and Steele, who in a 1712 issue of the Spectator, advised young ladies who wished to remain chaste to "to be careful how you meddle with romance, chocolates, novels and the like inflamers."

Inflamers indeed. Nearly 150 years later, the French psychiatrist, hashishin, and pioneer of psycho-pharmacology Jacques-Joseph Moreau, known to scholars as Moreay of Tours, described this seance of the Marquis de Sade: "M. de Sade gave a ball, to which he invited a numerous company. A splended supper was served at midnight; now the marquis had mixed with the dessert a profusion of chocolate, flavoured with vanilla, which was found delicious and of which everybody freely partoook... All at once the guests, both men and women, were seized with a burning sensation of lustful ardor; the cavaliers attacked the ladies without any concealment... excess carried to the most fatal extremity; pleasure became murderous; blood flowed upon the floor, and the women only smiled at the horrible effects of their uterine rage."

That sage of the satyrs, Cassanova, very often writes of employing chocolates in seduction, but he used chocolate more as a love stimulant, like champagne, rather than a chemical to produce a roomful of hemorrhaging rutters. Old Dr. Bushwhacker, a fictional rock of wisdom whose books sold widely in mid-nineteenth century America, tells a compatriot at one point: "Tea, my learned friend, inspires scandal and sentiment; coffee excites the imagination; but chocolate, sir, is an aphrodisiac." And only a few years back Cosmopolitan itself dubbed chocolate one of the "top ten aphrodisiacs." so while liquor is perhaps quicker, don't forget that candy, if chocolate, is definitely dandy.

Cosmo's rating aside, it's doubtful that Helen Gurley Brown or anyone else today would attribute the quality of their sex lives to the powers of chocolate. What is the difference between the killer chocolate of Montezuma's day and the tame variety of our own? Maybe you could call it the process of civilization.

The botanical origin of Theobroma cacao is in dispute: the Amazon Basin of Brazil, the Orinoco Valley in Surinam and various other places in Central America all claim to be the birthplace of the plant. But the subsequent spread of cacao cultivation and consumption is a tale of wind and tide, luck and disaster, plunder and exploitation-- in short, the history of modern economics.

Since some cocoa beans proved more psychoactive than ohers, our sober ancestors simply chose to breed the less potent strains. And even the civilized bean marketed today must undergo lengthy processing before it is "fit to eat." However, current chocolate research is still trying to sort out what really happens to the many chemical components of the cacao bean during the production of commerical candy, and Dr. Philip G, Keeney of Pennsylvania State University has revealed that there are more than 300 chemical compounds in the fragrance of chocolate alone.

Theobroma is an evergreen tree cultivated not more than 20 degrees north or south of the equator, although there are a number of flowering trees grown under controlled conditions in temperate climates. As a matter of fact, a cacao tree grows in Brooklyn-- in the Botanical Gardens.

To the uninitiated, the cacao tree looks bizarrely artificial. The leaves, red when small, turn glossy green; the delicate flowers and pods grow directly from the trunk or main limbs and look as if they were tied on with No. 12 wire. The trees present a myriad of colors to the eye. Since the growth cycle is continuous, at any one time the tree will be covered with leaves, blossoms, flowers and pods of many different sizes and colors--- with colorful clinging mosses, and, in some areas, small orchids and lichens completing the rainbow.

Each of the pods has 30 or 40 beans imbedded in a foul-smelling mucilaginous scum, ,each bean encased in a pulpy shield. The cocoa beans at this point are ivory coloured and will remain so until they are harvested.

The job of picking ripe cacao pods is strictly a hand operation. The tumbadors, or pickers, employ mitten-shaped steel knives attached to long poles with which they neatly snip off the pods, taking care not to wound the tree. Once collected, the pods are split with machetes and their contents emptied out with wooden spatulas to prevent irritation from the slightly acidic pulp. As soon as the pods are split, the beans begin to oxodize to a lavender or purple hue. It is not until the beans are fermented that they acquire their characteristic chocolate richness of color and aroma.

Fermentation, or curing, serves the vital purpose of separating the bean from its adhering pulp. But in early cocoa days in Nigeria, farmers' helpers discovered that the drippings from fermenting beans made an extremely intoxicating drink. To this day it is no uncommon sight to see cocoa workers in Africa stretched out on the ground after a day;s work, their state not entirely attributable to exhaustion.

The curing process also reduces the bitterness of the cocoa bean and hardens the seed skin to a shell that can be easily split in the factory. Once cured, the beans must be dried. In some places the beans are polished before drying. Although polishing is usually done by machines, the cocoa workers of Trinidad still dance on cocoa beans with their bare feet to effect this extra touch. "Dancing the cocoa" is a graceful, rhythmic dance done of Calypso verses improvised around the theme of cocoa and cocoa drying.

Today, diesel-driven mechanical dryers have virtually taken over. This is unfortunate, since sun-drying is the most direct, convenient and effective method if the harvest takes place during the dry season. Before mechanization, all cocoa beans were dried in the sun, spread out on palm leaves or large wooden trays that could be covered in the event of rain, to prevent moisture from rotting the beans. The lyrcical Trinidadians have a saying "Ah ent got cocoa in the sun, so ah ent lookin' for rain." which means, approximately, "I don't give a fuck." Modern international chocolate cartels have a less colorful respect for so unstable an economic force as rain. Time marches on.

Eighty per cent of global chocolate output comes from the "Big Five": Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon. The growing countries generally keep no more than 10 per cent of their crop for home use, usually less. The five giant processing countries --the United States, West Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain-- account for over half the cocoa processed worldwide, with western Europe and North America consuming a full 70 per cent of the annual cocoa product. In recent years, the biggest forward strides in cocoa consumption have been taken by the communist countries and Japan because of liberalization of government import restrictions. In 1969, the Soviets consumed 74,000 tons of cocoa beans, compared to the 215,000 tons scarfed down in the U.S. By 1970, the figures accelerated to 182,000 tons and 261,000 tons respectively. Japan now consumes five times the amount of cocoa it did in 1969 and has recently introduced chocolate-flavoured honey into the world market.

Text: pp, 39, 40 High Times The Deep Dark Secrets of Chocolate, Robert Lemmo, 1975