"The cocoa-nut," says M. Payen, in "Des Substances Alimentaires" "has in its composition more azote than wheat flour, about twenty times as much fatty matter, a considerable proportion of starch, and an agreeable aroma which excites the appetite. We are entirely disposed to admit that this substance contains a remarkable nutritive power. Besides, direct experience has proved this to be the case. In fact, cocoa, closely combined with an equal or two-thirds weight of sugar, forming the article well-known under the name of chocolate, constitutes a food, substantial in all respects, and capable of sustaining the strength in travelling."
And, a little farther on, he adds:-"Cocoa and chocolate, in consequence of their elementary composition, and of the direct or indirect addition of sugar before their consumption, constitute a food, respiratory, or capable of maintaining animal heat, by means of the starch, sugar, gum, and fatty matter which they contain; they are also articles of food fsvorable to the maintenance or development of the adipose secretions, by reason of the fatty matter (cocoa-butter) belonging to them; and, finally, they assist in the maintenance and increase of the tissues by means of their congeneric azote substances, which assimilate therewith."
Etienne Francois Geoffroy, the distinguished French physician and professor of medicine and pharmacy in the College of France, says, in his "Traite de Matiere Medicale": "The drinking of chocolate, especially of that made with milk, is recommended to persons affected with phthisis or consumption; and, in fact, it supplies a juice which is nourishing, substantial, and smooth, which deadens the acrimony of the humors; provided, as we have said, that the cocoa is properly roasted, and mixed with a very small quantity of spices."
The French officer, from whose work on the "Natural History of Chocolate " we have already quoted, after describing the different methods of raising and curing the fruit and preparing it for food (which it is not worth while to reproduce here, as the methods have essentially changed during the last fifty years), goes on to demonstrate, as the result of actual experiment, that chocolate is a substance "very temperate, very nourishing, and of easy digestion; very proper to repair the exhausted spirits and decayed strength ; and very suitable to preserve the health and prolong the lives of old men."
"I could produce several instances," he says, " in favor of this excellent nourishment; but I shall content myself with two only, equally certain and decisive, in proof of its goodness. The first is an experiment of chocolate's being taken for the only nourishment, - made by a surgeon's wife of Martinico: she had lost, by a very deplorable accident, her lower jaw, which reduced her to such a condition that she did not know how to subsist. She was not capable of taking anything solid, and not rich enough to live upon jellies and nourishing broths. In this strait she determined to take three dishes of chocolate, prepared after the manner of the country, one in the morning, one at noon, and one at night. There chocolate is nothing else but cocoa kernels dissolved in hot water, with sugar, and seasoned with a bit of cinnamon. This new way of life succeeded so well that she has lived a long while since, more lively and robust than before this accident.
"I had the second relation from a gentleman of Martinico, and one of my friends not capable of a falsity.
"He assured me that in his neighborhood an infant of four months old unfortunately lost his nurse, and its parents, not being able to put it to another, resolved, through necessity to feed it with chocolate. The success was very happy, for the infant came on to a miracle, and was neither less healthy nor less vigorous than those who are brought up by the best nurses.
"Before chocolate was known in Europe good old wine was called the milk of old men; but this title is now applied with greater reason to chocolate; since its use has become so common that it has been perceived that chocolate is, with respect to them, what milk is to infants. In reality, if one examines the nature of chocolate a little, with respect to the constitution of aged persons, it seems as though the one was made on purpose to remedy the defects of the other, and that it is truly the panacea of old age.
"Our life, as a famous physician observes, is, as it were, a continual growing dry; but yet this kind of natural consumption is imperceptible to an advanced age, when the radical moisture is consumed more sensibly. The more balmy and volatile parts of the blood are dissipated by little and little; the salts, disengaging from the sulphurs, manifest themselves; - the acid appears, which is the fruitful source of chronic diseases. The ligaments, the tendons, and the cartilages have scarce any of the unctuosity left, which rendered them so supple and so pliant in youth. The skin grows wrinkled as well within as without; in a word, all the solid parts grow dry or bony.
"One may say that nature has formed chocolate with every virtue proper to remedy these inconveniences.
"The volatile sulphur with which it abounds is proper to supply the place of that which the blood loses every day through age; it blunts and sheathes the points of the salts, and restores the usual softness to the blood, like as spirit of wine, united with spirit of salt, makes a soft liquor of a violent corrosive. The same sulphurous unctuosity at the same time spreads itself in the solid parts, and gives them, in some sense, their natural suppleness. It bestows on the membranes, the tendons, the ligaments and the cartilages, a kind of oil which renders them smooth and flexible. Thus the equilibrium between the fluids and solids is, in some measure, reestablished; the wheels and springs of our machine mended; health is preserved and life prolonged. These are not the consequences of philosophical reflections, but of a thousand experiments which mutually confirm each other; among a great number of which the following alone shall suffice: "There lately died at Martinico a counsellor, about a hundred years old, who, for thirty years past, lived on nothing but chocolate and biscuit. He sometimes, indeed, had a little soup at dinner, but never any fish, flesh, or other victuals. He was, nevertheless, so vigorous and nimble that at fourscore and five he could get on horseback without stirrups.
"Chocolate is not only proper to prolong the life of aged people, but also of those whose constitution is lean and dry, or weak and cacochymical, or who use violent exercises, or whose employments oblige them to an intense application of mind, which makes them very faintish. To all these it agrees perfectly well, and becomes to them an altering diet."