Guest Author - Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie
Chocolate: The History part2
Chocolate: Drink of The Gods!
Chocolate! Sometimes referred to as The Food of The Gods. Many people have found an ongoing love affair with Chocolate yet have never learned the rich heritage and history that Chocolate has in this world. From the Olmec and Mayan empires right on through to today, Chocolate is a part of the Hispanic Culture that has infused and touched every part and area in the entire globe. There are so many such parts of the Hispanic Culture that has done so, but for today let us start by learning the sweeter side of the Hispanic Culture and the joys and fascination, even the obsession for some that we call Chocolate!
Rooted in the New World prehistory, in the mysterious realms of the Olmec and the Maya, is the origins of the rich and fascinating substance we call Chocolate. About Three Thousand Years ago the Olmec, one of the earliest mesoamerican civilizations, occupied an area of tropical forests south of Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico. Through modern linguists we have found that in the Olmec language is the word Cacao. Given the hot climate in which the Cacao trees require, such as that of where the Olmec resided, it is believed by many that it was the Olmec that first cultivated Cacao and not the Aztecan as was previously and commonly believed.
Around the forth century A.D., several centuries after the demise of the Olmec civilization, the Maya established themselves in the region just south of present day Mexico, beginning at the Yucatan peninsula and stretching towards Chiapas and the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The humid and hot climate is perfect for the cultivation of the Cacao tree where it also received the protection from the shade of the tropical forests. The Maya called the tree the “cacahuatquchtl” and as far as they were concerned, no other tree was worth naming that we have to this day discovered in their complex language. They held the belief that the tree was from the gods and that the pods from that tree were an offering from the gods to mankind. Through out the time known as the Classic Mayan, the period around 300 A.D., there were great spiritual, literary, and artistic developments as well as the intellectual. During this time the Mayan built many stone palaces as well as temples and stone carvings. Integrated into all of these as well as the writing or hieroglyphs of the Mayan, were images and mention of the Cacao or to us the Chocolate pods or trees.
In the post classic texts of which there are only four that are known to have survived, Chocolate as we know it today is directly referred to as the god's food. Chocolate was considered in rituals as well as in many religious ceremonies. The Mayan were the originators of a bitter brew made directly from Cacao beans. The drink described in the Mayan texts was considered a luxury drink and only the nobility or the very wealthy would enjoy it. There are several ways in which they described how to prepare Chocolate or Cacao. It could be anything from a thick porridge thicken with ground maize, also known as corn yet another great gift from the central ancestry, to a thinner more refined drink. An earlier picture shows the concoction being poured from one vessel to another to produce a froth on top. Various spices were added to the drink for flavoring, the favorite being chili.
Now at this point many of you may not be familiar with Chocolate as those of us from the central American families are in the venue of no sweetened and chili included. But I pray, bear with me, and see just how fascinating Chocolate's story is and how it will indeed impact and touch almost every human on the face of the earth today.
Even though the Mayan empire fell mysteriously around 900 A.D., the cacao survived as the Toltecs and later the Azteca settled into the area previously inhabited by the Mayan. Quetzalcoatl, the Totlec King, was believed to be the god of the air. It was his mission to bring the cacao seeds from eden to man and to teach men how to cultivate various crops. After a political uprising, Quetzacoatl fled the capital along with some of his followers to the Yucatan peninsula. During his exile he became ill and was persuaded to drink a mysterious cure which in fact was acclaimed to be poisonous and drove him insane. Convinced that he must leave his kingdom, Quetzalcoatl sailed away on a small raft promising to return to claim his kingdom one day. The legend of his exile and departure became a part of Aztecan mythology. Astrologers of the time dated the return of the white faced king to be 1519 to release his people. This belief and Cacao or Chocolate would later influence the New World, the Old World and shape the face of wealth today, defying the hands of time and bringing a piece of Hispanic American Culture into the houses of every culture in the world.
Until next time, here is the original recipe for Cacao or Chocolate drink as per Azteca literary studies.
Champurrada (Chocolate Atole)
Put 1/2 cup masa harina (treated maize flour) or finely ground tortilla in a large pan with three cups of water. Stir over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of brown sugar(or to taste) and three cups of milk. Grate 3 1-once squares unsweetened chocolate and add to the pan.. Beat well with a molinillo and serve steaming hot and frothy.
The addition of maize would have turned the Azteca drink into a thin gruel or porridge known as atole. This type of drink not always flavored with chocolate is still served as a pick me up in Latin America today. The Chocolate flavored version is always referred to as Champurrada, from champurrar, meaning to mix with another.
To learn more about the history of chocolate, please follow the links below to Amazon.com for this reccommended book as well as other books on this topic.
Chocolate Reccommended Reading