Will you have to hunt to for chocolate tomorrow?
Chocolate is made from the fermented and roasted beans of the cacoa tree, which is native to South America. It has been cultivated there for almost 3000 years, traditionally mixed with water, chilli and vanilla and taken as a drink. It has always been considered a luxury – in Mayan and Aztec cultures the bean was used as currency, and the Incas considered it the drink of the gods. The process sounds similar to that used to extract coffee from its beans. However, even though they had chocolate, the Aztecs couldn’t make a cappucino, as the coffee bean comes from Africa. Bad luck for them.
When Columbus returned to Europe, he took back some of these precious cocoa beans to show Queen Isabella. Spanish friars found that when the chilli was removed and the cocoa was combined with milk and sugar it was palatable to Europeans – very palatable, in fact. Over the next few hundred years, chocolate became as sort after in Europe as it had been in South America.
The egg has always been a symbol of new life, and was adopted by early Christians to represent the resurrection. Decorating the eggs has been an especially strong tradition of the Eastern church.
The rabbit, like the egg, is a traditional symbol of fertility, for obvious reasons. The rather strange story of a rabbit delivering eggs at Easter time dates from Germany in the 1500s.
Replacing real eggs with chocolate ones is a marketing coup of the first order by the Cadbury brothers (really) and dates back Ito 1865.
Dark chocolate is made from cocoa, fat and sugar. Milk chocolate has milk as an additional ingredient.
“Many of the compounds in chocolate are biologically active and exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.” says Merlin Thomas, Professor of Preventative Medicine at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, in The Conversation
Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavolol antioxidants, which have been demonstrated to have health benefits – reducing blood pressure and improving cholesterol.
Chocolate has also been shown to improve your mood and sense of well being.
As Prof Merlin Thomas says “Tasty, Addicive, Sexy and Good for You.” What’s not to love about that?
PS Even the Easter snow bunny may have trouble finding Mike, currently ‘snuggled’ in a tent in bad weather on a mountain pass 3000m high on his way to the summit of Mt McKinley (Denali). Happy Easter Mike.