ChocolateChocolate could well be called the food of gods and kings.  Early Mayan writings record pictures of gods with cacao pods and bowls of cacao beans.  Elite members of upper Mayan society had ornately carved vessels depicting these same cacao pods. Chocolate drinks were important to Mayan ceremony as well and used to seal contracts and marriages.  The Aztecs borrowed Mayan chocolate tradition and also celebrated the primitive confectionary.

Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to come in contact with this precious stuff that was typically drunk.  The first imports to Europe were regarded as healthy drinks and the chocolate was believed to be infused with medicinal properties.  Cacao beans became so valuable to the Spanish that they were even at times used as currency.  Chocolate drinks then went on to become the beverage of wealthy continental European aristocrats who woke up to their customary cups of chocolate.

Chocolate fared a bit differently in England where it entered the country at roughly the same time as sugar, coffee and tea.  Here, at least, anyone could afford the new commodity from the New World.  Of course, of all countries, Switzerland is often most closely linked to chocolate.  By the 1800s, Switzerland’s people consumed more chocolate than anywhere else.  Today, it’s even estimated that the Swiss eat about annually about twelve pounds per person.  Switzerland, if you may remember, is also the birthplace of Nestle. 

Today, chocolate covers everything from raisins to pretzels.  Candy bars feature both light and dark varieties of chocolate.  Of course, for the ancients, chocolate was preferred as a liquid.  Mayan women would pour the chocolate from one vessel to another to create the precious foam-the best part of the drink.  Chocolate was so highly revered to these peoples that it took on the aspect of human blood-a symbolic reference, but it demonstrates how much chocolate was valued.

The Aztecs preferred to flavor their chocolate with vanilla, honey and even chilies.  The Spaniards were initially repulsed by the beverage, but soon got over their distaste.  Today this ancient beverage of the elite is served as hot cocoa, or hot chocolate and school children all over the world flavor their milk with a bit of chocolate too.  This food of the gods is today a beloved treat for all.  Serve some at your next family gathering.