Written by: Elaine Cantrell
Chocolate. MMM. I could bury my face in it and slurp it up. I’ve always liked chocolate, but in recent years I’m obsessed by it. Especially chocolate truffles. And brownies. At least ten pounds of the weight I’ve gained must have come from chocolate. (Oh, okay! Maybe it was twenty.) So last week I decided to go on a diet. Until I lose ten pounds I vowed not to eat any sugary, gooey chocolate. Do you know what my husband did? He bought chocolate mint Girl Scout cookies! I lasted for maybe five minutes before eating one. I didn’t gain anything though, so maybe it didn’t hurt me too much.
Chocolate’s always been a favorite. The first recorded use of chocolate dates back to 2000 BC in the Amazon region. The Indians there knew about cocoa from which chocolate is made. By the sixth century the Mayas knew about it. They called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl… "tree," and the word cocoa comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water. To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. Stones from their palaces and temples revealed many carved pictures of cocoa pods. In the Yucatan they cultivated the first known cocoa plantations and referred to cocoa as “food of the gods.”
The Aztecs took cocoa to a whole new level. They believed that one of their gods Quetzalcoatl descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called xocoatl. They thought that drinking it was good for you. They even used it as an aphrodisiac. The Aztecs didn’t have sugar, so different spices were used to add flavor, including hot chili peppers and corn meal.
The last Aztec emperor Montezuma dyed the drink red and drank it out of golden goblets that were thrown away after one use. (So wasteful. I’d have taken those goblets in a snap.) They also used cocoa beans as money.
When the Spanish conquistadores came to the New World they encountered cocoa for the first time, but nobody paid too much attention to it even though they gradually discovered how much the Indians prized it. It was the explorer Cortes who figured things out. He mixed cocoa with sugar and other spices, and a new craze was born.
Europeans loved it as much as the Indians did. The first European chocolate factory opened in 1819 in Switzerland, and in 1828 the Swiss invented the cocoa press which led to reduced prices and helped to improve the quality of the beverage by squeezing out part of the cocoa butter. This gave the chocolate smoother consistency and made it taste better.
The British were the ones who started making solid chocolate in 1830.
A major step in the evolution of chocolate came in 1875 when Daniel Peter of Switzerland introduced milk chocolate, thus making Switzerland the chocolate capital of the world. And in 1913 Jules Sechaud of Switzerland introduced the process for filling chocolates. Personally, I still think Swiss chocolate is the best you can buy.
Americans loved chocolate too. In 1765 the first American chocolate factory was founded. Did you know that in World War II cocoa beans were shipped to the soldiers as part of their gear? Today, the government gives them chocolate bars instead. It just goes to show how wonderful chocolate is.
Er, could you excuse me? I want some more chocolate mint Girl Scout cookies.
Rachel Amos doesn’t understand her father at all. How could he bring Clint Hayes who burned Saved By Grace Christian Church into their home for six months? Sure, the guy didn’t mean to do it, and her dad’s a minister, but if he wanted to save Hayes’ soul, why didn’t he go to the prison to do it? And no matter what her friend Christina says, she doesn’t watch Clint every moment they’re in the same room.
The Sterling Weekly
Judge Shocks Community
By Thomas Bell
Controversial Judge Marion Lowe shocked every person in his packed court last Wednesday when he passed sentence in the Clint Hayes case. Hayes, twenty seven, who works for Bud Parsons at Bud’s Private Club, was found guilty of burning Saved By Grace Community Church last April.
Originally, Hayes was arrested for arson. His fingerprints were found on a beer bottle in the church parking lot the night the church burned, but a sheriff’s investigation revealed the fire was caused by a cigarette that Hayes threw into an azalea bed. Authorities believe the cigarette caused the dry mulch around the bushes to catch fire, and the flames spread to the church. The building was a total loss.
After consultation with Reverend Neal Amos, the pastor of Saved By Grace, Judge Lowe sentenced Hayes to six months in the care of Reverend Amos, who in effect will be his jailor.
“The verdict was a surprise,” admitted Rachel Amos, twenty four, the minister’s daughter. “My father discussed the situation with my mother and me, but to be honest, we never dreamed the judge would go along with it.”
Several members of Saved By Grace have expressed their support for Reverend Amos’s decision, but they admit there are some who want nothing to do with Hayes.
Local civil rights groups have announced their intention to get the verdict overthrown, but so far Hayes says he wants the sentence to stand.
Until the new church is constructed, Saved By Grace is meeting at Sterling High School. Sunday School is at ten o’clock followed by worship at eleven. Anyone wishing to make a donation to Saved By Grace’s building fund may do so at People’s National Bank.
Astraea Press releases:
A New Dream
The Table in the Window
The Sentence (Available March 22, 2012)
Matrimonial Mayhem (part of an anthology)
Coming soon from Astraea:
Never Trust a Pretty Wolf