“Food of the Gods”

Written by John Trausch 

Valentine & Quetzalcoatl, a Chocolate Match Made in Heaven. Chocolate and St. Valentine are both about 2,000 years old, but there is no evidence of the Mexican bean and the Roman priest ever meeting. Valentine defied the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus by secretly marrying couples after “Claudius the Cruel” forbade coupling. Little did these Romans know that an ocean away Aztec couples not only married in public but consumed mass quantities of liquid chocolate during their wedding. Aztec legend held that cacao seeds were brought from the gods and that universal wisdom and power came from devouring them. Given that information, which ancient society do you think is more advanced? The Aztecs and the Mayans worshiped cacao (a.k.a. chocolate), centuries before Cadbury, Lindt, Hershey and Mary See went to work tying Valentine to chocolate. They called it “food of the gods,” asserting that the god Quetzalcoatl traveled to earth with a cacao tree imported from paradise. Quetzalcoatl taught the people how to roast and grind the cacao seeds, making a paste that could be dissolved in water. Montezuma, the Aztecan Head Honcho, was said to drink 50 or more shots of cacao pods per day from his golden goblet. Chocolate was so honored it even was used in religious ceremonies (tastes better than candles) or in place of money (tastes better than coins). Reportedly, it was more valuable than gold or silver, and four cacao beans could get you a rabbit. The Aztecs called it "xocalatl," meaning warm or bitter liquid. They then started putting stuff in it. Not having perfected the s’more, and with sugar still an ocean away, they mixed water, chilies and cornmeal into their cacao drinks. No word whether then got into almonds, caramel, peanut butter or M&M's or Snickers (“Chocolate” btw, comes from "xocalatl," which is from a combination of the choco ("foam") and atl ("water").) Like all other things magical in the ancient Americas, everything changed after Columbus.

Conquistadors, ranging from Columbus in Guinea to Cortes in Teotihuacán, came for gold, slaves...and chocolate. Cacao bean shipments soon began leaving Veracruz, Mexico for Seville, Spain. Some Spaniards thought it was a medicine, and others thought it was an aphrodisiac. But credit the Spanish for adding cane sugar and cinnamon to their cocoa. But the sacred chocolate twas not for the peasant palette, for nearly a century, the Spanish and Portuguese kept the drink squirreled away with priests in monasteries. The seventeenth century saw the introduction of chocolate emporiums, featuring the earth-shattering debut of the chocolate cake. The cocoa press invention in the early nineteenth century marked the devaluation of cocoa beans, finally putting chocolate within reach of the masses. But it wasn't until 1861 when Richard Cadbury was able to reintroduce Saint Valentine into this picture, creating a heart-shaped candy box for Valentine's Day, and began mass-marketing the first boxes of chocolate shortly thereafter. Milton Hershey later made his bars, and chocolates will continue to be given from sweethearts to love-of-my-lifes for centuries on end. But whether you worship saints or chocolate...or both, you owe a debt of gratitude to the unlikely tandem of Valentine and Quetzalcoatl for bringing chocolate into the hearts and palettes to all lovers in 2019.

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