Dessert

A Chat About Chocolate

Chocolate is, in my opinion, the best treat you could ever use to say to a friend or significant other, “I love you.” For me, chocolate is filled with nothing but memories of love, since it often brings together the people I care about the most. For example, my father and I share chocolate truffles every night I come home to Seattle, my high school friends and I split chocolate cake for girl’s night the last time they flew in from Chicago, and my boyfriend and I share chocolates together whenever there is a holiday. And what’s a better time to write about chocolate than when Valentine’s Day is just around the corner? Let’s take a look at chocolate’s ever-changing role in the world over time.

chocolate-sauce-231970_1920Source: Royalty Free Image

Chocolate and Pop Culture

What’s a better way to spend this Valentine’s Day than to Netflix and chill? While “Netflix and Chill,” sessions have skyrocketed in popularity (especially among college students), so too has the desire to enjoy some yummy snacks while watching our favorite flicks, (especially with services like GrubHub, GoPuff, and UberEats). Chocolate has made its way into four out of the ten recipes on Spoon University’s list of the Best Snacks to Upgrade Your Netflix and Chill, which just proves how beloved and relevant that chocolate remains in American culinary (and pop) culture. Don’t forget to enjoy Spoon University’s Aphrodisiac Brownies recipe at the end of the article!

netflix-chill-hed-2016Photo Credit: Ezra Bailey/Getty Images

Source: Solloway, Ellie. “11 Snacks to Make Next Time You Netflix and Chill.” Spoon University. Spoon Media, Inc. 8 October 2015. Web. 12 February 2016.

Chocolate and History

Chocolate is known as “The Food of the Gods”, and actually started out as a bitter beverage before it became the sweet dessert it is today. Anthropologists have found evidence that chocolate was produced by pre-Olmec cultures living in present-day Mexico as early as 1900 B.C. The ancient Mesoamericans who first cultivated cacao plants found in the tropical rainforests of Central America fermented, roasted and ground the cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chili peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink (Klein).

Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations found chocolate to be an invigorating drink, mood enhancer and aphrodisiac, which led them to believe that it possessed mystical and spiritual qualities. The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and reserved chocolate for rulers, warriors, priests and nobles at sacred ceremonies (Klein). In the 14th century, when the Aztecs rose to power in Central America, they could not grow cocoa beans, so they traded them with the Mayans as a form of currency (Klein). In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors such as Hernán Cortés who sought gold and silver in Mexico returned instead with chocolate. Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: chocolate was still a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Chocolate was sipped by royal lips, and only Spanish elites could afford the expensive import (Klein).

While Spain managed to keep chocolate under wraps for almost a century, when King Phillip III’s daughter wed French King Louis XIII in 1615, she brought her love of chocolate with her to France. The popularity of chocolate quickly spread to other European courts, and aristocrats consumed it as a magic elixir with salubrious benefits (Klein). Because of chocolate’s growing hype, European powers established plantations around the world to grow cocoa and sugar, importing African slaves to maintain the production of chocolate (see: “Chocolate and Politics” below) (Klein).

chocolate-183543_1920Source: Royalty Free Image

Chocolate remained a delicacy reserved for the aristocracy until Dutch Chemist invented the cocoa press in 1828, paving the way for modern chocolate-making. The cocoa press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. This machine made chocolate production easier and thus more affordable to the public, as well as transformed chocolate into a baking ingredient.

batter-19633_1920Source: Royalty Free Image

In 1847, British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the first solid edible chocolate bar from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Rodolphe Lindt’s 1879 invention of the conching machine, which produced chocolate with a velvety texture and superior taste, and other advances allowed for the mass production of smooth, creamy milk chocolate on factory assembly lines (Klein). Later on, Cadbury, Mars and Hershey companies made their way into the chocolate craze of the 1800s to 1900s (Klein). Today, the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually (Klein).

Source: Klein, Christopher. “The History of Chocolate.” Hungry History. A&E Television Networks, LLC. 13 February 2014, Web. 12 February 2016.

Chocolate and Politics

While chocolate is often given to others as an expression of love, and is, of course, a sexual aphrodisiac, there is nothing worse than the slavery that comes with human trafficking in the chocolate industry, or human trafficking associated with sex slavery.

The heartbreaking truth is, according to The Huffington Post, an investigative report by the BBC shows that hundreds of thousands of children are being purchased from their parents or outright stolen and then shipped to Ivory Coast, where they are enslaved on cocoa farms. Destitute parents in these poverty-stricken lands sell their children to traffickers believing that they will find honest work in Ivory Coast and send some of their earnings home. The terrible reality is that these children, 11-to-16-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, receive no education, are under fed, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.

Source: Gregory, Amanda. “Chocolate and Child Slavery: Say No to Human Trafficking this Holiday Season.” HuffPost Taste. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. 18 December 2014. Web. 12 February 2016.

prison-162885_1280Source: Royalty Free Image

Additionally, here are some devastating facts about sex trafficking in the United States according to The Polaris Project:

Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary dramatically. Many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into prostitution. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, such as modeling or dancing. Some are forced to sell sex by their parents or other family members. They may be involved in a trafficking situation for a few days or weeks, or may remain in the same trafficking situation for years.

Victims of sex trafficking can be U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals. Vulnerable populations are frequently targeted by traffickers, including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination. Sex trafficking occurs in a range of venues including fake massage businesses, via online ads or escort services, in residential brothels, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels.

Key Statistics

• Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, has received reports of 14,588 sex trafficking cases inside the United States.

• In 2014, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims.

• Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally.

• In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: “Sex Trafficking.” Polaris. Polaris, N.D. Web. 12 February 2016.

 WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING FOR LABOR PURPOSES:

The Huffington Post suggests a few ways that you can take part in the fight against human trafficking. These are:

*Fill out Hershey’s corporate responsibility online survey. Urge them to establish an ethical and slavery-free supply chain. Tell them you won’t have your money contributing to human trafficking.

*For as little as $6, get a DVD copy of the film The Dark Side of Chocolate, along with information about Fair Trade, from the dedicated people at Green America. Watch it, show it to your friends, and spread the word.

* EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS. Tweet about this article, pin it, and post it to your Facebook page. Spread the word until this dirty little secret is completely out in the open.

Source: Gregory, Amanda. “Chocolate and Child Slavery: Say No to Human Trafficking this Holiday Season.” HuffPost Taste. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. 18 December 2014. Web. 12 February 2016.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN SEX SLAVERY:

Thankfully, there are multiple organizations across the world that are working together to end human trafficking. While governments ultimately have a large responsibility to enforce laws against human trafficking, we, as individuals can also take part in volunteering for or donating to organizations that end human trafficking. I am not going to pick out particular ones to endorse, but I will simply leave a list of organizations here that fight sex trafficking, and let you, as my readers, decide which one is the most meaningful to you and which one you would like to donate to:

http://www.ijm.org

http://www.ralphahouse.org

http://www.castla.org

http://www.myrefugehouse.org

http://www.streetlightphx.com

http://www.gems-girls.org

http://www.iamatreasure.com

http://www.misssey.org

http://www.polarisproject.org

http://www.facesofslavery.org

http://www.livingwaterforgirls.org

http://www.lifeimpactintl.org

http://www.childrenofthenight.org

http://www.operationsafehouse.org

http://www.zoechildren.org

http://www.dreamcenter.org

http://www.thea21campaign.org

http://www.crtec.org

http://www.notforsalecampaign.org

http://www.oasisusa.org

http://www.thesoldproject.org

http://www.nightlightinternational.org

http://www.love146.org

http://www.californiaagainstslavery.org

http://www.stopenslavement.org/sdshopehouse.html

http://www.speakupforthepoor.org

http://www.breakingfree.net

http://www.caase.org

http://www.veronicasvoice.org

http://www.sagesf.org

http://www.juvenilejusticefund.org

http://www.jri.org

http://www.paulandlisa.org

http://www.challengingheights.org

http://www.savinginnocence.org

http://www.mmp.org

Source: “Organizations.” Slavery No More. Slavery No More, N.D. Web. 12 February 2016.

This is a friendly reminder for everyone this Valentine’s Day to enjoy the company of your friends or significant others, to Netflix and chill, and to practice safe, consensual sex. ❤

Have a wonderful weekend everybody and please enjoy Spoon University’s Aphrodisiac Brownie recipe found below 🙂

Aphrodisiac Brownies

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Photo Credit: Kristine Mahan

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Servings: 12 (3-inch-square = 1 serving)

Ingredients: ½ cup room temperature refined coconut oil

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cacao)

chopped 4 room temperature eggs

¼ teaspoon salt 1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup extra dark chocolate baking chips (at least 60% cacao)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan (I use coconut oil cooking spray, but butter works just fine).

2. In 30-second bursts in the microwave, melt the coconut oil with the bittersweet chocolate, stirring often. It is important to let the mixture cool before using it in the batter, to keep your brownies from getting dry and heavy.

3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs and salt together with a fork until light and foamy.

4. Add the vanilla and both sugars gradually to the egg mixture, beating until well-blended.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk the cayenne and cinnamon into the flour.

6. Using a wide rubber spatula, fold the cooled melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.

7. Fold in the dry ingredients.

8. Add dark chocolate baking chips, being careful not to over-mix the batter.

9. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan, and bake until the surface is firm, about 25 minutes.

Source: Pizzo, Michelle. “Get Lucky Tonight with These Aphrodisiac Brownies.” Spoon University. Spoon Media Inc., 15 April 2015. Web. 12 February 2016.

© 2016 Meagan Nelson & Dinner and Democracy. All Rights Reserved.

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