Ironically, it was these noble Quaker ideals that laid the foundations of our now degraded industrial food production. The world most of us inhabit has too much food, largely of very dubious quality. Although there is no intrinsic reason why large-scale production should necessarily mean poor-quality products, it invariably does. Profit margins are the driving forces of these industries, and any small tweak in the manufacturing process can result in a huge increase on the bottom line.
Probably the blackest day in chocolate history came in World War II when Milton Hershey invented a special non-melting chocolate to send to American troops in the Far East in their ration packs. The innovation involved removing the cocoa butter, and replacing it with a waxy compound with a much higher melting point. The result was seized upon by chocolate manufacturers in Europe, particularly in the UK, Ireland and Denmark, and has stuck in the throats of chocolate lovers ever since. For many people, this is the norm, apart from being the only chocolate they’ve ever experienced, but a far cry from the real thing! On a happier note, in many parts of Europe the tradition of artisan food production has remained unaffected by the Industrial Revolution, particularly for chocolate-making. Although many of these traditions are under threat, there are also as many supporters. There are hundreds of small chocolate makers in France, and they can also be found readily in Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium and Holland.
But to return to the history of chocolate, I now realize it is littered with inaccuracies that have been passed from one generation to the next in an unintentional game of Chinese whispers. Each writer, trusting unquestioningly material they have gleaned from respected treatises. I am not the first writer to have fallen into this trap. Indeed, in my first book I, too, declared that the Aztecs used cinnamon to flavour their chocolate. The Spanish may have introduced them to this spice, but there is no evidence of trade between the Spice Islands of the East Indies and the Aztecs or Mayans. I am going to gloss over much of the early history of chocolate because there is finally a book, the definitive chocolate bible, The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael Coe (Thames & Hudson, London 1996) which says it all, and unlike the other histories, this one has gone back to the original sources, so no danger of received fiction in this book - read it!