I’ve been commissioned to bake some brownies next week, and so have had chocolate on my mind. I therefore got a bit sidetracked while reading Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food yesterday and thought I’d share some facts:
Did you know, for example, that Linnaeus (the originator of botanical classification) assigned the cacao tree to a genus he called Theobroma – literally, the food of the gods?
The cocoa powder which we use for so many baked goods is actually the residue from processing the more precious beans, or seeds?
The flowers on the cacao tree grow directly on the trunk, and only quite a small proportion of them ever produce fruit?
The Maya liked their hot chocolate frothed – an effect they produced by pouring the drink from a height? (but their chocolate was unsweetened and so quite unlike ours. It was the Aztecs who added honey)
Chocolate drink was so important for the Aztecs that soldiers used to carry tablets of ground cocoa which they could add to water.
Chocolate reached Europe in around the mid sixteenth century, when it was mentioned at the Spanish court.
BY the later seventeenth century it was being added to many dishes, both sweet and savoury – and including cake.
It may have been the English who added milk to their hot chocolate, so setting our national stereotype of the nice milky drink before bedtime for centuries to come!