This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Chocolate is a paste, or cake, composed of the kernels of the Theobroma cacao fruit, ground up, and combined with sugar, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and other flavouring substances: it is, in fact, ground Cocoa from which the fat has not been removed, mixed with white sugar, starch, and flavourings. The inferior varieties are made from unfermented beans. The Chocolate tree is the Cacao tree, and although its product bears the name of Cocoa, it is foreign altogether to the Cocoa-nut tree from which Cocoa-nuts are got. Cocoa, which should be spelt Cacao, is commonly associated by mistake with the Cocoa Palm, or Cocoa-nut Palm. Its genus is really that of the Cacao theobroma (food for the gods), the tree being a native of America, from Mexico to Peru. Its fruit occurs in egg-shaped pods, each of which contains from twenty-five to a hundred seeds imbedded in sweetish pulp. These seeds are the Cocoa beans, which become, when divested of their husks, Cocoa nibs; and when ground into a paste, sweetened, and flavoured, they make Chocolate, as already stated. The oil obtained from the seeds when expressed yields a fat, which does not become rancid, and is known as Cocoa butter, being much used in pharmacy, because solid at ordinary temperatures.
The dry powder of the seeds, after a thorough expression of the oil, is broma. The crude paste is sometimes dried into Cocoa flakes. Cocoa shells are the husks alone, from which a decoction is occasionally made as a beverage. Each of the above substances (the beans or seeds, the kernels, and the shells) contains the alkaloid theobromine, and is therefore of use as a substitute for tea, or coffee.
Chocolate is the Cocoa powder mixed as described, whilst still containing the oil, ground up together with the sugar and flavourings (thoroughly incorporated) in a mill, and pressed into cakes, slabs, and fanciful devices. A beverage concocted therefrom was the customary breakfast drink in the early part of the eighteenth century. By the Tatler of that date we are told that the fops of the period took their Chocolate in their bedrooms, clad in their dressing-gowns, ("and green tea two hours after "). Chocolate was first used as a beverage in England about 1657, and was very popular in the time of Charles the Second. But Cacao (the Chocolate fruit) had been employed for making a beverage therefrom by the Mexicans for ages before their country was conquered by the Spaniards.
There are four widely-separated vegetable products which are variously comprehended under the names Cacao, Cocoa, Coca, and Coco. Concerning the first of these, Cacao, a full explanation has been given above. The second, or Cocoa-nut, is produced by the Cocoa-nut Palm, and is not connected in any way with the beverages Chocolate, and Cocoa (properly Cacao). This is a large tree bearing bunches of Cocoa-nuts (filled with a milk) from ten to twenty in number, within rough, fibrous, woody outer coats. The third, Coca, or Cuca, is produced from a shrub, native in the Andes, with brilliant green leaves, which create, when chewed, a sense of warmth in the mouth, whilst serving remarkably to stave off hunger, and to confer a wonderful power of enduring bodily fatigue. About the fourth, Coco, very little is known; it yields a root which, when suitably cooked, is not unlike the sweet potato.
Again, the Kola, or Java nut (Sterculia acuminata), is a tree of Western Africa, producing leaves which are now employed to a large extent as a nervine stimulant, and with marvellous powers of enabling fatigue to be sustained for a long time together. But during the stage of subsequent reaction the vital powers sometimes become much depressed, and the heart's action disturbed. Kola contains a considerably larger amount of caffeine than is found in the finest Mocha coffee. This caffeine is undoubtedly a useful drug when employed judiciously in suitable cases, and in appropriate doses; but if taken habitually, or in considerable quantities, it is calculated to stimulate the nerve centres in harmful excess.
Cocoa of itself, without the addition of Kola, or Cuca, is a sufficiently restorative, and sustaining food, which, like good wine, "needs no bush." "Johnny Cope,"says the British Baker (1902), "carried with him a supply of Chocolate when he went on his disastrous campaign which ended at Preston Pans. The Highlanders at Sheriffmuir, on putting the English to rout, looted the carriage of the Commander-in-chief, wherein were found several rolls of brown material which was put into use as an ointment for dressing wounds; and the find was actually sold as a specific for wounds under the name of 'Johnny Cope's salve.' A soldier showed some of it to a friend, who, to his utter dismay, put it into his mouth, and ate it. The friend was of more travelled experience, and had made the acquaintance of Chocolate before then".
Spanish ladies of the new world love Chocolate to distraction, so much so that, not content to take it several times a day, they even carry it to church with them. This practice has often called forth the censure of the clergy, but they have finished by winking at it, declaring that Chocolate made with water does not break a fast, and extending thus to the penitents the sanction of the ancient adage, "Liquidum non frangir. jejunium."Brillat Savarin declares that if, after a copious lunch, a large cupful of good Chocolate is taken, everything will have been digested three hours subsequently, and the appetite will be again in good order for dinner. Persons who drink Chocolate enjoy an almost constantly good state of health, and are but little subject to the crowd of small troubles which spoil the happiness of life. To make Chocolate for immediate use, about an ounce and a half should be sufficient for a cup, and dissolved slowly in water heated over the fire, constantly stirring this with a wooden spoon. It must be allowed to boil gently for a quarter of an hour so as to give it consistence, and this must be taken hot. The Chocolate should be served in cups, and be sufficiently thick to be eaten with a small spoon, rather than drunk.
It was used in this way by the Mexicans, except that they took it with golden spoons. "Chocolate in a red cup and saucer, to be eaten with a golden spoon, is, as we have tested, aesthetical perfection, both taste and sight being much gratified with the combination."The "Chocolate House"was in Mid-English days an established place of public entertainment. As told in The Tatler, "Lisander has been twice a day at the Chocolate House".
For "Cocoa Cordial,"take half a teaspoonful of Dutch Cocoa, with boiling water, and two lumps of loaf sugar, also two tablespoonfuls of old Port wine; put the Cocoa and sugar into a china cup, and pour directly upon them some boiling water, then add the wine, making in all an ordinary cupful; serve it at once. This is an excellent drink for anyone chilled, or exhausted, or to take after a bath.
The Cacao Tree, Or Cacaw Tree, bears nuts of which the bitterness makes amends for the oily grossness of the kernels when converted into Chocolate, "carrying this off by strengthening the bowels." "So great a value do the people of Mexico, Cuba, and Jamaica attach to these nuts that they do use the kernels instead of money both in their traffic, and rewards."In the Natural History of Chocolate (London, 1682) its wonderful use as a sexual restorative is dwelt on explicitly. "Had Rachel known Chocolate she would not have purchas'd mandrakes for Jacob. If the amorous and martial Turk should ever taste it he would despise his opium".
The Palm Tree (Cocos Nucifera), which produces what are most commonly known as Cocoa-nuts, is common almost everywhere within the tropics. "While the nut is growing it contains nothing but a milky liquor, but as it ripens the kernel settles like soft cream around the inside of the shell, and increases in substance until it becomes hard. The milk whilst young is very pleasant to drink, but becomes sharper, and more cooling when older. The kernel is sweet, and very nourishing, but not easy to be digested. The milk of the Cocoa-nut contains sugar, gum, albumin, and some mineral salts. The kernel consists of fatty matter (from which an oil is to be obtained); also it comprises albumin, gluten, sugar, mineral salts, and water. Grated Cocoa-nut with fine sugar sifted over it makes an admirable and useful dessert dish. An excellent vegetable butter is to be had from the fresh Cocoa-nut, which can take the place with persons of poor digestive powers as to fatty matters - of butter, dripping, margarine, or lard; this vegetable butter is tasteless, and when melted does not form any sediment.
A Cocoa-nut weighing one and a quarter pounds contains a quarter of a pound of fat, so that as a source of fat it is "equivalent to butter at eightpence a pound".
For making "Cocoa-nut drops," to a grated Cocoa-nut add half its weight in sugar, and the white of one egg beaten stiff; drop small pieces on a buttered paper, and sift sugar over them; bake for fifteen minutes in a slow oven. Again, for "Cocoa-nut toffee," take a fresh Cocoa-nut, and a pound of sugar; grate the interior of the nut, and boil the sugar with its milk mixed with a cupful of water; when nice and thick add the grated Cocoa-nut; stir all the time till you see it coming off quite clear from the sides, then remove from the fire; grease the dishes on which you pour it; mark it out in squares with the back of a knife, and let it get cold, when it will be pronounced "very good".