The Coes, both anthropologists with a culinary bent, delve deeply into the history of their mouth-watering subject. The material on ancient cultures is particularly fascinating--did you know that the Maya used unsweetened liquid chocolate as currency? And in a chapter called "Chocolate for the Masses," they detail the modernization of chocolate manufacture, which has allowed more than 25 million Hershey's Kisses to roll off the conveyor belt each day.
The Coes' examination of the history of the "food of the Gods" is a delight that can be enjoyed on several levels. Historians should find the interaction between economic factors and the power relations in meso-America fascinating. Anthropologists can immerse themselves in the ample information illustrating how entire cultures were shaped and modified by the expanding value of the cacao plant. Finally, those interested in food science should find the extensive descriptions of chocolate production, from growth to refinement to delivery, to be both informative and thought provoking. The Coes are well prepared to write such a definitive history; the late Sophie had both a culinary and an anthropological background, while Michael has written extensively on pre-Colombian civilizations. The result is a superbly written, charming, and surprisingly engrossing chronicle of a food and how its development has touched the lives of cultures around the world. Jay Freeman