The True History of Chocolate

The True History of Chocolate

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by Sophie D. Coe, Michael D. Coe

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Theobroma cacao...chocolate...'the food of the gods'. Delicious indulgence or cause of migraines? Aphrodisiac or medicinal tonic? Religious symbol or Mesoamerican currency? This delightful tale of one of the world's favorite foods draws upon botany, archaeology, socioeconomics and culinary history to present for the first time a complete and accurate history of…  See more details below


Theobroma cacao...chocolate...'the food of the gods'. Delicious indulgence or cause of migraines? Aphrodisiac or medicinal tonic? Religious symbol or Mesoamerican currency? This delightful tale of one of the world's favorite foods draws upon botany, archaeology, socioeconomics and culinary history to present for the first time a complete and accurate history of chocolate. The story begins some three thousand years ago in the jungles of lowland Mexico and Central America with the tree Theobroma cacao and the complex processes necessary to transform its bitter seeds into what is now known as chocolate. This was centuries before chocolate was consumed in generally unsweetened liquid form and used as currency by the sophisticated Maya, and the Aztecs after them. The Spanish conquest of Central America introduced chocolate to Europe, where it became first the stimulating drink of kings and aristocrats and then was popularized in coffee-houses. Industrialization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made chocolate a food for the masses - until its revival in our own time as a luxury item. The True History of Chocolate is the first book to present the real facts of the pre-Spanish history of chocolate - and it does so with great authority, since the authors share an unrivalled knowledge of the history of Pre-Columbian civilizations and their cuisine. We discover how chocolate got its name, how it was used as a medicine, and find that the Spanish learned of chocolate through the Maya, not the Aztecs. From Maya hieroglyphs to kingdom of the Hershey Bar, this is a fascinating history, beautifully told, and enhanced with quotations, illustrations and old recipes - a book for chocolate-lovers everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

A poster from the 19th century advertising Cadbury's cocoa proclaims it "makes strong men stronger" and a poster from a few decades later states that "Hershey's Milk Chocolate [makes] a meal in itself." These sentiments are dear to any chocoholic and enough to bring indigestion to any dietician. The True Story of Chocolate is, however, much more than superficial posters or cute anecdotes about this most popular of sweets. It is an in-depth history of a New World food, its influence on its conquerors and their civilization and its evolution as a part of our diet. Chocolate has at various times been regarded as medicinal, dangerous and heavenly. As science and industry changed, so did the way that chocolate was produced and delivered. (Its main form centuries ago was as a drink). Details on the cacao plant (which is very difficult to grow) and on the earliest history of the plant grown by the ancient Maya are also included. It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive book on this subject. True chocoholics, food historians and literary gourmets will find this a fascinating read. The authors—she an anthropologist and food historian and he an anthropologist with a specialty in the Maya—have done a most thorough job of researching a food we are both fixated with and take for granted. Reader will find out things about chocolate they never would have dreamed of. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1996, Thames & Hudson, 280p, illus, notes, bibliog, index, 24cm, 95-61824, $18.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Katherine E. Gillen; Libn., Luke AFB Lib., AZ January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)
Kirkus Reviews
The late anthropologist Sophie Coe, who was assisted by her husband, an authority on pre-Columbian civilizations, in the writing of the book, took her culinary history seriously, thank you: This is no chat-fest presented for the benefit of Godiva- gobblers.

Instead, the Coes track a prudent and punctilious path through chocolate's beginnings in ancient Meso-America; its transformation during the age of empire and Spanish colonization; its dispersal across Europe; and chocolate's more recent incarnation at "Hershey, the Chocolate Town," a Disney-esque, sweet-toothed theme park in Hershey, Penn., and headquarters of one of the world's leading chocolate manufacturers. Along the way, readers learn about the chemistry of chocolate and survey sundry recipes; appreciate its many ethnic varieties (the Aztecs preferred theirs mixed with ground chilies, "anywhere from mildly pungent to extremely hot"); and probe its social symbolism, first for elites, and now for the rest of us. Drawbacks of the Coes' approach include a plethora of detail, some of it unnecessarily dry, and excessive stretches of information unrelieved by humanizing anecdote. But the lore they offer also includes pleasantly bemusing facts and speculations, such as those surrounding chocolate's etymology. Called "cacahuatl" for a time by Spaniards who encountered it in the New World, the word—and the substance—may have actually raised their hackles: "It is hard to believe that the Spaniards were not thoroughly uncomfortable with a noun beginning with caca to describe a thick, dark brown drink which they had begun to appreciate. They desperately needed some other word."

A carefully researched biography of chocolate as a pleasure and a product.

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Product Details

Thames & Hudson
Publication date:
Edition description:
Second Edition
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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True History of Chocolate 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The True History of Chocolate" is a facinating book that would be well suited for the curious of those who have research obligations. The story begins with the uncertain origin of cacao. Although it is from South and MesoAmerica it han't been determined wheter it was introduced to various areas or indegenuis. Regardless it thrived there for thousands of years out of the sight of the Eastern World. The Mayan, Olmec, and Aztec nobility had drunk it for years. It was even use as their form of currency. But, this isolation ends in the late 1400sWhen the Iberian states had sent expeditions to the Atlantic, they not only stumbled on the Amerindian civilizations they also found the theobrama cacao or the chocolate tree and the product made from it.

When the explorers brought choclate back to Europe it was experiement with greatly. Many remedies were formed as well as new uses of chocolate. Now, it could be found as sorbet and pastries at ballroom parties all over Western Europe.But, the fact that the original product tells a lot about the people of the time period. It showed that they were open to new ideas and methods.They were no longer satisified with excepting as just being, they had to elaborate on it and find ways to use it to their advantage. This open- minded nature is greatly emphasized in the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution and becomes a characteristic of Western Europe even in modern times. Wriiten by the doctor of anthropology, Sophie D. Cole , this book is extremely informational and benefical to all that read it. I personally recommend it to evenyone . But, the key is that one most allow time to absorb and take in the book. In all, it is quite thorough and has delightful and equally insightful pictures.
ktjc More than 1 year ago
Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe know more about chocolate than I ever imagined. This book is filled with so much information, I didn't think chocolate could have such an extensive history. The history of chocolate begins with the Mesoamericans and ends with current day American and European chocolate making, with an extensive amount on the Aztecs. Probably the most enjoyable part of this book would be all the recipes it includes. Not being one to really cook, it's still interesting to look at all the different ingrediants used and how the ingrediants changed over the years or stayed the same. Other parts I enjoyed in the book involved the arguments between scientists over the ingrediants affect on people or whether chocolate affects a person at all, and it's many uses. Chocolate could be used as a drink, a sauce, a drug, and then a delightful treat. I never even considered chocolate as a drug, besides the fact that many people were and are addicted to it.
I'm not sure if I would recommend this book to many people though. To read this book, you can't have any distractions and you have to be in the mood for a lot of information back to back. I'm not really the type of person that loves to read a lot of historical information, but atleast it was about chocolate, so that kept my attention. I did think that it talked a little too much about the Aztecs and their history and not enough on their affect on chocolate. Maybe they did have all they could have on the Aztecs and chocolate, but I think the history of the Aztecs was a little too extensive for a book focused on chocolate. Another area of the book that I thought struggled a little was the end. It seemed to slow down and it lost my attention. I wished it would have discussed the modern chocolate industry a little bit more, and maybe more on different brands and types of chocolate we love in today's world. This book was still written very well and was very informative. That is really what I expected out of this book, and I'm glad I put the book down knowing a lot more about chocolate than I did before picking it up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The True History of Chocolate (Second Edition) written by Sophie and Michael D. Coe presents a very well written and extensive history on the history of chocolate, with the story beginning as early as the time when the Olmec were first creating chocolate to the modern-era when it has been turned into a savory treat by people such as Milton Hershey. Before I began reading this book, I was expecting a really interesting history on chocolate that would perhaps contain a lot of engrossing information and facts. Throughout my time of reading this book, I developed the impression of the book as being very informative, and not as interesting and engrossing as I thought it would be. Although the book did contain a few interesting facts, it felt almost like I was reading something out of a history textbook, making me feel bored at times. The book does an amazing job however at covering many of the important aspects of the history of chocolate from its beginnings in Mesoamerica to what it has become of today and all in between. The book also does an amazing job going in depth and becoming really detailed to explain the history of chocolate. The reason I thought it was boring at times is because of all the details the authors give in order to explain his informative report on the history of chocolate. One of the things the authors of this book do really well on is that they both completed the purpose of the book in a strong way. I believe that the authors accomplished this by writing their book in a very informative way. The large amounts of information that this book provides really help cover the history of chocolate, and all the information that this book provides really shows the research and time that was put in into writing this book. I also believe that the purpose of the book was completed successfully due to how well it connected the history of chocolate throughout the different time periods that it is important in. The book really shows fluent transitions from one moment in time to another, helping readers make connections on why something happened and what effect that would have later in time. In the end, the purpose of this book was accomplished successfully by the authors when they wrote their book in a very informative way, and wrote fluent transitions that helped connect the history of chocolate throughout different time periods.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Book Review The book "The True History of Chocolate" is a very interesting book, but it can get a little overwhelming at times with all the information that fills the book. I suggest if you are going to read this book that you have a place were there is no distractions so you can fully comprehend all the information. Although the book is extremely informational I think that it is very beneficial to your understanding of this time period, by showing you all the regions chocolate was brought into and the impact it made on all those countries. The authors did a very good job of making this book as interesting as possible, which would have been hard, because it is mostly all facts and that can be very boring to just read facts over and over again, but they made the book fun and interesting. This book was very well-written and very informative, but I did kind of struggle with reading the end of the book because it lost my attention and I wished it talked more about modern day chocolate and all the brands of chocolate we enjoy today, but overall I learned a lot while reading this book and I am glad I chose it. I would recommend this to a student next year but they have to be willing to push through some of the boring and straight up fact-based parts of the book, otherwise they will hate the book, because it is mostly informational, but it is a bout chocolate which makes it more interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would like to say that this book was a a very good read. It gave me a more ind depth veiw on the world of chocolate. The authors Sophie Coe, and Michael Coe did a very wonderful job on describing the life a cocoa bean adn how the old tribes and people used the bean. Teh most interesting part of the book that i think was intersting was the part where they say that the Aztecs used the Kakao bean, that had a monetary value. They would use the bean as a form of money adn could play for what they needed for everyday life. And slao i thought it was very interesting when they talked about the sacrifices that the Aztecs did. The sacrifies would be kind of drugged into doing th esacrife. If they where not happy then they would give the person that would to be sacrificed chocolate and this would become a form of drugging your victim. And they go very indepth on how the people back then made chocolate it was a very hard and laborious task. You first had to get the beans then you had to cure it then get the bean out. Teh you could use it as money or just plain food. Yes i would recommend this book it was a very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recommend the True History of Chocolate. The story begins with a rather slow talk about how to process the cocoa bean, and how to turn it in to the sweet chocolate we know and love. After you get past the first chapter, the true story begins. This book takes you on the adventure of chocolate. How it all began in the Mayan hands and then into the Aztecs. The idea that people once used a chocolate bean as money makes you wonder why people would chose to eat it if that was your way of payment. The use of chocolate and the details given in the story give an insight to the culture of Central America during this time. The author completes her purpose when she explains how the Spain conquest of Central America brought chocolate into Europe. Then this delicious sweet treat was in liquid form, and drunk by kings and aristocrats. Then when industrialization hit in the 19th century, chocolate became a mass product, and was turned into what we know today. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy cultural history, those who would enjoy learning how chocolate turned into what it is today, and those who enjoy pure chocolate! This book is a great tale and centuries and struggle to get today's sweet chocolate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago