Many in the medican field call Dark Chocolate the healthy chocolate. Why? Eating a small portion, like about 2 oz per day, can be beneficial to health, providing protection against heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other health hazards as well as essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E. You have to admit, it sure tastes better than any vitamin!
A 1 1/2-ounce square of chocolate may have as many cancer-fighting antioxidants as a 5-ounce glass of red wine. Eating more dark chocolate can also help reduce blood pressure.
What is it that makes chocolate so irresistible? A large part of chocolate's allure, of course, lies in the taste - a deliciously rich concoction that satisfies the most intense craving. But several chemical reactions are also at work. For one thing, chocolate stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the "runner's high" a jogger feels after running several miles. The question arises: Why is chocolate such a powerful food? And what makes it the most commonly craved food? (About 40% of women and 15% of men report chocolate cravings.)
Short History of Chocolate
Aztec Indian legend held that cacao seeds had been brought from Paradise and that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree. Because of a spelling error, probably by English traders long ago, the cacao beans became know as the cocoa beans.
The Spanish general, Hernando Cortes, landed in Mexico in 1519. The Aztecs believed he was the reincarnation of one of their lost gods. They honored him by serving him an unusual drink, presented in a cup of pure gold. This unusual drink was called "chocolatl" by the Aztecs.
When Cortes returned to Spain, he took the cocoa bean with him and there is was mixed with sugar and vanilla. this sweet drink became fashionable and soon there were chocolate houses in all the capitals of Europe.
A delicate tree, cacao is only grown in rain forests in the tropics, usually on large plantations, where it must be protected from wind and intense sunlight. The tree is harvested twice a year.
Milk chocolate was invented in 1876 by a Swiss chocolatier, Daniel Peter (1836-1919) of Vevey, Geneva. Daniel Peter successfully combined chocolate with powdered milk to produce the first milk chocolate. Today, the finest chocolate is still made in Switzerland, and the consumption of milk chocolate far outweighs that of plain chocolate.
Chocolate was introduced to the United States in 1765 when John Hanan brought cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts, to refine them with the help of Dr. James Baker. The first chocolate factory in the country was established there.
FUN FACTS & TRIVIA:
Chocoholic: - n [chocolate + -oholic (as in alcoholic)](1968): a person who craves or compulsively consumes chocolate. - Webster's Dictionary
Did you know that the Aztecs considered all chocolate an aphrodisiac? Because of this, all foods made with chocolate were strictly forbidden to women.
Although chocolate is not an aphrodisiac, chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love. So - heartbreak and loneliness are great excuses for chocolate gorging!
Chocolate is old-school Viagra. Montezuma reputedly chugged a cup of chocolate before entering his harem, while Casanova called chocolate the "elixir of love" and drank it instead of champagne.
Christopher Columbus is said to have brought back cacao beans to King Ferdinand from his fourth visit to the New World around 1502, but they were overlooked in favor of the many other treasures he had found. Records suggest that he didn't particularly like the Aztec delicacy of "hot chocolate"- a thick cocoa drink laced with ground chiles and dyed red to look like blood - but recognizing its potential he took a load of cocoa beans back to Spain.
The early Spanish explorers thought the primary (if not only) use of chocolate was medicinal. Chocolate drinks were developed in Spain that were seasoned with pepper, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon or mixed with beer or wine. They became such a hit that Spanish society ladies had them served during Mass.
The first attempt at making a solid chocolate product came in the 1700's, when Mexican nuns raised money for their convent by producing and exporting solid chocolate bars.
The first "chocolate box" was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868, when he decorated a candy box with a painting of his young daughter holding a kitten in her arms. Cadbury also introduced the first Valentine's Day candy box.
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**some information obtained from Whats Cooking America