8 lesser-known legends and facts attached to chocolate

  2017-07-16 00:28:03   Anukanksha

Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac, a love portion?!?!

Chemically speaking, Chocolate contains small amounts of a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), a.k.a. the "love drug," and it's been linked to the regulation of physical energy, mood, and attention. A tiny amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, elevating blood pressure and heart rate.

Throughout the history, chocolate has a reputation of that of a seductive. Folklore from many cultures claimed that consuming chocolate instilled faith, health, strength and sexual passion. Once an indulgence of royalty, it is now a treasured and accessible – and yes, even healthy – treat. 

So where did this tremendous infatuation with chocolate begin? Here are 8 lesser-known legends and facts attached to chocolate:

1) The cacao tree, whose pods contain seeds that can be processed into chocolate, was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the America. The first people known to have consumed cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). They mixed ground cacao (cocoa) seeds with seasonings to make a bitter, spicy drink that was believed to be a health elixir.

2) Chocolate has its goddess. Ixcacao is the Mayan goddess of Cacao (or cocoa) tree and the chocolate that is made from the fruit of this tree. A prayer quoted from an old Mayan legends to promote good harvest in the time of hunger goes :

Ixcanil, the goddess of seed, hear me.
Ixtoq, goddess of rain, hear me.
Ixcacao, goddess of chocolate, see my tears and come to my aid.

Ixcacao, was also worshiped in other tribes in central and south America.  The Aztecs associated chocolates with Xochiquetzal, who is their goddess of fertility, flowers and fruits.

3) To the Mayans, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. The pod was often represented in religious rituals, including marriage ceremonies, and was referred to as food of the gods. In central Mexico, the Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities.

4) Europeans got their first taste of chocolate in 1519, when Montezuma offered the spicy drink to Spanish explorer Cortés and his army. The Spanish conquistadors brought cocoa seeds back to Spain, where they introduced new spices and sugar to the liquid concoction. The fad drink spread throughout Europe, where it remained a beverage of the elite for centuries.

5) Chocolate's reputation as an aphrodisiac flourished in the French royal court.  This seductive substance inspired many erotic art and literature. Giacomo Casanova, the original lover boy, the infamous womanizer, said to have made a habit of drinking chocolate before his romantic escapades. Even today, romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac. 

6) The first machine-made chocolate was produced in Barcelona in 1780, paving the way for the mass production of chocolates. Later, mechanical inventions made it possible to produce smooth, creamy, solid chocolate for eating and not just the liquid for drinking. The first solid chocolate bar was developed by British chocolate maker Fry & Sons in the early 1800s.

7) The chocolate-valentine affair is believed to be started during 17th century, when lovers began exchanging mementos on Valentine's Day and sweet treats were one of them. In 1868, Richard Cadbury introduced the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates. And its one of the favourite gifts for the occasion.

In 1875, the first milk chocolate was introduced to the market by Daniel Peter of Switzerland. Chocolate became so popular around the world that even during World War II the U.S. government shipped cocoa beans to the troops. Today, the U.S., Indian and many other military forces includes chocolate bars in their rations. Chocolate has even been taken into space as part of the diet of many astronauts.

The Chocolate of thought: Dark chocolate contains healthful flavonoids similar to those found in tea, red wine, fruits, and vegetables. Studies have shown that dark chocolate can improve blood vessel flow and may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity to help reduce the risk of diabetes. But beware, chocolate candy has plenty of saturated fat and sugar, so enjoy small portions of as part of a healthy diet.