Devil’s food, indeed. chocolate

Chocolate, made from the bean of the South American cocoa plant, was firstly and for many generations only had as a thick, bitter beverage. Aztec nobles always took some before going to bed with a woman, and Montezuma supposedly had 50 cups a day for exactly that reason. After all, he had a harem of 600. In Mayan culture a night in a brothel cost a handful of cocoa beans.

I believe it was the Incans who decreed that because of its power to incite lust, women were not permitted to have any. I am not certain I follow their logic.

When the Spanish observed the wild orgies that went on during the cocoa harvests, they quite naturally brought it back to an unsuspecting Europe, which immediately became enamored of chocolate.

Within a few decades, French monks were forbidden to taste chocolate, the Spanish Inquisition prosecuted several women for drinking it (the implications were that they were in league with the Devil, though the Inquisitors, who also drank the stuff, were presumably not), Spanish American women made scandals by drinking it in church, and all sorts of delicious trouble came of the little brown beans. Not too long afterward, Casanova made use of it as well, and swore by its effects.

Today chocolate is as popular as ever, and comes in more shapes and forms than the Aztecs ever dreamed. It remains a symbol of romance, and a strong social (as differentiated from medical) aphrodisiac.

Science has discovered a bevy of good things intrinsic to chocolate: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin A. It also has a minute amount of caffeine and a substance called phenylethylamine (PEA for short). PEA is an endorphin, a natural amphetamine which is also generated by the brain of someone falling in love, meaning that chocolate emphasizes and may even cause that marvelous sensation. In addition to all this is the fairly recent revelation that cocoa beans house a cannabinoid, THC, one of the “active” ingredients in marijuana. Indeed, chocolate is one of the most chemically complex foods in the world.

Though I adore dense, powerful chocolate creations and make them whenever I have the time, someone will occasionally comment that the confection features “too much chocolate.” I believe the phrase is meaningless.

I can also vouch for its excellent social effects. It can be used for foods either sweet or savory. It mixes with almost any spice and the vast majority of ingredients, whether food or drink. It has a long-built reputation that resides in the back of nearly everyone’s mind. As Casanova and others have observed, its dark, bittersweet, lush flavor and inherent stimulants are a great aid to those of amorous intention. It melts at body temperature. There is very little not to recommend it. I will never forget the woman who asserted, “Anything dipped in chocolate is going in my mouth.”

Thus, I classify it among those items which have indirect aphrodisiac effects; but it is certainly in the top of that class!

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Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.