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The True History of Chocolate Hardcover – May, 1996
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
I would recommend this book to other students because it tells a fascinating story of a boring item. Students can learn many things from this novel such as the impact of trade or interactions between humans. They can also see the effects of cultural diffusion from different goods in the world. The only thing I had wished the author had done was add more personal thoughts or opinions on their information to give students something to discuss about.
You can find information that dispels some of the bogus lore floating about on the Web about chocolate. There is much.
I'd like to see somebody write a chapter on the various species of flowers that the Aztecs used to flavor chocolate; I have forgotten two of them, and only see vanilla noted in most people's writing on the subject. Incidentally, there are multiple species of Vanilla in the chocolate homelands, with one set of four species still existing in some old plantations in the Yucatan of Mexico, and a different set of four, with overlap, existing in some old plantations in Guatemala. The various flowers to not impart the same aromas and flavors! Vanilla planifolia is merely the dominant flavor source for most commercially farmed vanilla, and provided the chemical reference for the synthetic vanillas. However, the genetic background on Tahitian Vanilla indicates a hybrid, and I'm not certain that the source for the second parent that is not V. planifolia is a settled subject.
We are not just what we eat, we are what we know about and what we enjoy of what we eat, so this book makes us appreciate our selves and our ties to history all the more.