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Candy Book Review: Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage

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Chocolate History Culture and Heritage

Not long ago, I reviewed a piece of American Heritage chocolate made by a subsidiary of Mars. American Heritage specializes in manufacturing chocolate akin to colonial recipes.

But there is more to them and Mars than just making chocolate… much more. You see, since 1998, Mars has funded an academic team at the University of California, Davis whose objective was to study – you guessed it – chocolate.

You might be asking yourself if there really is that much to write about chocolate. Well, Sallie Boorman, one of the nicest people on Earth, mentioned this upcoming book when she sent me the original chocolate sample to review. As a fan of all things candy and trivia-related, I was immensely interested in the work and requested a copy, which she so awesomely sent.

Now, I have read my fair share of candy-related books. How many pages could this thing be? 100? 200? 300 tops, right? Try almost 1,000! I was awed when I discovered my behemoth copy of Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage in my mailbox, which was heavy enough for me to perform bicep curls with.

And get this, this is a limited view of chocolate. The work consists of fifty-six chapters that were each written by specialists in their field, focusing primarily on chocolate’s origins, its evolution in colonial America, how it was served and prepared, and its nuanced role in medicine and history.

Rather than read like chapters in a book, each chapter is actually an academic essay pinpointing and expanding on one specific niche of chocolate. Some chapters discuss how the food earned its name, others reflect on the development of crafted utensils for serving chocolate, and there is even an essay exploring its role in various smallpox epidemics.

I had never imagined chocolate played such a ubiquitous role in society. I found it fascinating learning how this candy evolved from an arcane drink in Central/South American to its popular form today. The history of such a spectacular food is deeply entrenched in countless cultures, art, and economies over a span of centuries.

Now, it took me over two months to get through this work, and I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone. To call it a textbook would be an accurate statement, and I don’t think many people enjoy picking up such things for light reading; however, I do strongly suggest that you at least check out a copy from your local library and read the sections that are most interesting to you, as with fifty-six chapters, at least one will sound appealing.

This book is a product of years of labor and intensive research and will undoubtedly be a pillar in food history. After reading it, I can’t think there is a more knowledgeable body about chocolate than Mars, which bodes will for explaining their dedication and excellence in what they produce.

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