The Extraordinary Pulling Power of Chocolate and Love

Why is chocolate so stimulating and intoxicating to our palate, indeed to our senses, to the point that it has even been equated, in some circles as having properties akin to that of the reputation of the purported aphrodisiac 'Spanish Fly'?

The almost risqué reputation punted as that of chocolate being an aphrodisiac is not simply the fleeting fancy of an over-zealous culinary correspondent, caught in full flight with their pants off, scurrying across the modern literary page.

AztecNo, indeed, the facts are that it's hotline lineage can be traced back as far as the ancient Aztecs (Mesoamerican people that lived in the area of central Mexico in the 14th, 15th and 16th century) and the Spanish Conquistadors (Exposure of these previously remote populations to European diseases caused many more fatalities than the wars themselves, and severely weakened the natives' social structures) who suffered from severe constipation, and therefore were constantly searching for Native American laxatives, as avidly as they did aphrodisiacs.

Aphrodisiac BathHowever, once the initially mild rumor that chocolate WAS an aphrodisiac had taken root in the European mind of the time, there was no holding back on the almost insatiable demand. A delighted European observer of the ongoing chocolate phenomenon was quick to point out that society took to it with “suspicious enthusiasm”.

Even the illustrious Casanova (famous as a womanizer that his name remains synonymous with the art of seduction. He associated with European royalty, popes and cardinals, along with luminaries such as Voltaire, Goethe and Mozart) he of many conquests, was to remark that HOT chocolate was the “elixir of love”, and as a result, he actually drank it in preference to champagne!

Spanish FlySomehow the really notorious aphrodisiac known colloquially as Spanish Fly (The actual active principle at the basis of the spectacular real properties, as well as of the supposed ones,of the desiccated flies,cantharidin, which had very definite toxic and poisonous properties comparable in degree to that of the most violent poisons known in the 19th century, such asstrychnine.) was mischievously pointed to as one of the ingredients of the totally innocent chocolate bar. Hence they claimed that this was the root of its powerful aphrodisiac properties. But in truth, this was but another urban legend, and devoid of truth.

In spite of the scientific evidence based on research, suggesting that chocolate does not contain any substances directly, or even indirectly attributed to being aphrodisiac by nature, widespread advertising made surprising, and often mischievous claims, climbing on the popular bandwagon, subtly linking chocolate to sexuality and sensuality. One must say in fairness, the connection was indeed a lucrative one, and one cannot fault them for linking the financially winning concepts between amour and avaritia.

In this context however, although the 'chunky' variety of chocolate was punted as a healthy, energy-boosting quick-snack, it suits their campaign and pockets to have it depicted as a naughty-but-nice indulgence, whilst subtly courting a variety of sexual innuendos. What is more, the selfsame advertising portrays a strong gender bias which unashamedly targets the female 'chocoholic'. (Chocoholic is a portmanteau of "chocolate" and "alcoholic," referring to an alleged addiction to chocolate). Many advertisements are quite blatant about demonstrating where and who their target market lies – simply by showing chocolates being consumed by beautiful women.

HousewifeThe early roots of the association between chocolates and affection may have surreptitiously been sown by erstwhile chocolate cake mix manufacturers, by almost mischievously depicting homely scenes on their packaging by showing homely looking mother in the family kitchen. Another showed attentive parents serving their beaming, chubby faced offspring, who, of course were young, healthy, happy and smiling.

Indeed, many of the early chocolate boxes portrayed sentimental pictures of attractive young ladies with pretty, cuddly kittens. Chocolate has also somehow been cleverly woven into some religious festivals such as seen with Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny, and also Christmas treats. The act of giving chocolates as a reward is also well entrenched, in the form of birthday presents and party gifts.

So, in the final analysis, it is not at all surprising that, with most of us having been encouraged by some form chocolate treats from an early age, the almost passionate addiction was thus cemented into our collective psyche, so it is not surprising that the latent ardor which was so subtly induced has perpetuated itself through childhood, and far beyond.

Images: courtesy of Stock.xchng

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Beverly Anne Sanchez
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lisa leverton
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Ron Siojo
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