My blog today is about pleasure!
For most of us, chocolate is a guilty pleasure. We crave it because it tastes wonderful and sweet - although we know we should really be stretching for the fruit bowl.The British are particularly fond of chocolate. Research shows the average Brit enjoys around 11kg (24lb) of chocolate a year, making the UK one of the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world. Only the Swiss and Germans eat more.
But a recent study suggests that chocolate cravings are not a modern phenomenon. In fact, chocoholism may date back to the 18th Century and beyond.
Cacao beans, which are the basic component of chocolate, were roasted, ground and drunk with water by the Mayans from around 2,000 years ago.
In the 14th Century, the Aztecs concocted chocolate drinks with flavourings and used the beans to treat a number of common ailments.Then in the late 1700s in Mexico, a young doctor started seeing chocolate as harmful, rather than medicinal. He blamed an increase in hysteria among women and nuns in several cities on their excessive consumption of chocolate.
Was this actually an extreme form of chocolate craving?
According to a paper presented at the International Congress on the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester this weekend, cacao was very popular at the time and could be served hot or cold for medicinal or pleasure purposes.
Nuns were particularly privileged, says author Dr Mauricio Sanchez Menchero, and they "were able to have as much chocolate as they wished for regardless of costs".
Even a sharp rise in the price of chocolate did not affect consumption levels in convents, he says.
So when new laws were brought in which forced nuns to do away with personal servants and make their own food and drinks, their intake of cacao was "greatly diminished" and they were afflicted by hysterical attacks.
I love it!
The Pleasure Dome
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Kubla Khan is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, completed in 1797 and published in 1816. According to Coleridge's Preface to Kubla Khan, the poem was composed one night after he experienced an opium influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan. Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he was interrupted by a person from Porlock. The poem could not be completed according to its original 200–300 line plan as the interruption caused him to forget the lines.
Coleridge was human just like the rest of us.