Author: Louis Grivetti
Title: Chocolate and the Boston Smallpox Epidemic of 1764.Smallpox, or variola, is a virus-caused disease introduced to the Americas from the Old World. First confirmed mention of smallpox in the Americas stems from an account of the disease on the island of Hispaniola in 1516. Bernal Diaz de Castile reported in 1519 how smallpox was introduced to the Mexica/Aztec capitol, Tenotichtlan, and described the soldier carrying the disease in detail. Subsequent smallpox epidemics were responsible for the depopulation of many districts in North America in 1592 (Mississippi region and American Southwest), and 1602 (American Southwest), In 1763 -in association with Pontiac's Rebellion -the British army under Jeffery Amherst deliberately distributed smallpox-infected blankets to members of the Delaware tribe. Additional smallpox outbreaks among Native Americans were evidenced in 1782 (American Northwest) and 1837 (North Central), this last being especially lethal to the Mandan of the upper Missouri River region, A series of regional smallpox outbreaks also characterized eastern North America during the Colonial Era. In each instance, the disease was associated with European exploration, trade, or colonization as in the years 1618-1619, 1630, 1638-1639, 1648, and 1688-1691. Outbreaks in Virginia and the Carolinas were especially harsh during l696 and 1711. Boston experienced repeated outbreaks of smallpox reported initially in 1666, 1675, 1690, and 1702 but the primary epidemic of 1721-22 has received most of the attention from medical historians because 56% of the population was infected and because of the controversial involvement of Reverend Cotton Mather and Dr. Zabdiel Boylston and other notables and their early attempts at medical inoculation which was dangerous and still in its infancy. Smallpox subsequently impacted Boston in 1730 and 1751, then again in 1764. What makes the Boston 1764 smallpox epidemic of special interest to students of both medical and chocolate history are three issues: 1) 1764 was the first smallpox epidemic in North America where the disease may be traced through newspaper accounts beginning with identification of Case Zero [first case] ultimately to the end of the outbreak; 2) Boston city officials, religious leaders, and physicians each dealt with public fear in different ways, whether through quarantine, special smallpox and inoculation prayers; and 3) Boston merchants selling chocolate, faced with potential economic ruin, used local newspapers to inform loyal customers that they had relocated to the suburbs to avoid the pox, and provided assurances they would continue selling chocolate in "pox-free" locations, At the conclusion of the epidemic the same merchants returned to their establishments in Boston and some advertised their commercial goods as "certified pox-free."
Author: Louis Grivetti
Title: From Bean to Beverage. Historical Chocolate Recipes.The tree Theobroma cacao initially was domesticated in the western headwaters of the Amazon basin, perhaps 6,000 years ago. Native Peoples of western Amazonia, however, did not develop or produce chocolate and consumed only the sweet, viscous, pulp that surrounds the beans inside the cacao pod. It is widely agreed that chocolate, in the strict sense, first was produced by Central American peoples in the geographical region of Oaxaca and Chiapas “in southern Mexico, or in northern and eastern Guatemala and Belize.
Visit to Palenque, a pre-Columbian archaeological site.
The contention is advanced here that given the bitterness of cacao beans, the origins of chocolate in the Americas initially was associated with healing and medicine. This essay presents recipes and ingredient lists for the preparation of chocolate beverages by four categories: 1) Pre-Columbian era, 2) Early New Spain, 3) 18th-19th century New Spain/Mexico and Europe, and 4) 18th century North America. Also included are examples of contemporary chocolate recipes from southern Mexico (state of Oaxaca) and from northern Guatemala collected by team members while conducting field work during 1998-2000. Recipes that survived the Pre-Columbian era are medicinal and used to treat stomach and intestinal complaints to cure infections, reduce fever, to prevent fainting, to reduce severe cough and fever, and to treat bloody dysentery. An early recipe from New Spain includes an account from 1524 where a chocolate beverage was described as the beans being ground, mixed with corn/maize and other seeds, and considered to be a healthful drink. Another report from 1556 describes how the cacao was frothed by pouring chocolate from one vessel to another, and with the claim that a cup of chocolate could sustain a consumer throughout the day without taking any other food, hence its use as a travel ration. By 1591 a range of ingredients were identified, among them anise, cinnamon, pepper, and sesame, along with local Aztec coloring agents, spices and flavoring agents, among them achiote, chilies, cilantro, gueyncaztle, mecasuchil, and tlixochil. Travel accounts and descriptions of the New World commonly included mention of cacao, chocolate, and its preparation. More than 50 ingredients to chocolate were identified in the manuscripts and reports examined. The earliest chocolate-related recipe from North America — how to make chocolate almonds — dates to 1700, and may be found in an anonymous Common Place book. By 1755 publications in North America offered recipes for Cocoa-nut tarts (distinct from and different from coconut-related recipes), and various chocolate puffs and chocolate meringues. Research on the topic of chocolate preparation and recipes requires that ingredients be differentiated into two categories: before and after 1519 and Spanish contact with the mainland of Central America. How Pre-Columbian chocolate tasted, however, remains a mystery.