Chocolate is probably the most celebrated food in western civilization…okay, you’re right; there is bacon, but besides that…
Many of our most decadent desserts are made with it. We flavor our coffee with it and brew our beer to taste like it. It is our sinful indulgence. We dream of it. We die by it. There are entire corporate empires founded upon it. It is available at every check-out counter. It’s dark. It’s white. It’s milky and silky.
I recently bought a chocolate bar that had bacon in it.
And if you could top off the wonders of chocolate with something even more delightful, it may be with the news reports that certain forms of chocolate are said to be good for you. Numerous studies have been conducted pronouncing the health benefits of chocolate…as if we need that information to ease our guilty consciences or at at least justify our indulgences. It is said by some that chocolate is good for your blood — improving heart health, reducing the risk of stroke, and increasing blood circulation to the brain. With more oxygen to the brain, chocolate may even make your smarter. Chocolate is believed by others to curb appetites, reduce the risk of diabetes, protect your skin from harmful UV rays, quiet nagging coughs, and improve your vision. And of course any chocolate lover knows that chocolate is a mood enhancer and an aphrodisiac.
As remarkably healthful as modern opinions make chocolate out to be, historically, it considered by most to have little medicinal benefit of its own. D. de Quelus, author of the 1730 book, The Natural History of Chocolate, suggested that its greatest virtue in medicine may be as a flavoring for such other more powerful pharmacological ingredients as the “Powders of Millepedes, Vipers, Earthworms, [and] the Livers and Galls of Eels.” Chocolate was one way to “take away the distasteful ideas that the sick entertain against these remedies.”
Chocolate, however, was considered a wholesome, nutritious, and well-balanced food. Elsewhere in his book, de Quelus promoted the consumption of chocolate because of its general wholesomeness and relative economy. “[It is] a dish so cheap, as not to come to above a penny. If tradesmen and artizans were once aware of it, there are few who would not take the advantage of so easy a method of breakfasting so agreeably, at so small a charge, and to be well supported till dinner-time, without taking any other sustenance, solid or liquid.”
John Perkins, in his 1796 book, Every Woman her own Housekeeper, suggested that based on its wholesomeness, those who made chocolate a part of their regular diet may be less subject to “any particular distempers.” He further explained that “the general breakfast of people from the highest to the lowest is tea, coffee, or chocolate,” often supplemented by some bread, butter, and sugar — an interesting insight into chocolate’s waxing acceptance and availability across the spectrum of English societies.
Maria Rundell, in her 1814 cookbook, A New System of Domestic Cookery, called cocoa “a light and wholesome breakfast.” She offered a recipe for a convenient chocolate syrup that could be prepared in advance, stored for a week or so, and simply added to hot milk when one was ready to consume it.
Here’s a little video in which Jon and Ivy demonstrate Mrs. Rundell’s recipe. The chocolate we use is available here on our website.