Thursday, May 5, 2011
1) Cacao is a tree, native to South America, whose seeds are the source of cocoa and chocolate.
2) Botanists believe that cacao trees grew wild in the Amazon region , however, the use of the cacao tree, for culinary purposes, did not begin until it reached the lush tropical lowlands of southern Mexico over 3000 years ago.
3) The oldest known civilization of the Americas (1500 - 400 B.C.), The Olmecs, were probably the first users of cacao.
Though few records survived, recent linguistic findings suggest the word "cacao" is derived from the word Kakawa in Mixe-Zoquean, believed to have been their language.
4) Cacao beans were so valuable in ancient Mexico that the Maya and subsequent Aztec and Toltec civilizations used them as a means of currency to pay for commodities and taxes.
The Aztecs, and other ancient indigenous cultures, believed chocolate to be an aphrodisiac. Although this is not exactly true, chocolate does contain phenyl ethylamine (PEA) which creates a chemical reaction in the brain similar to that of falling in love.
5) In the 17th Century, the first recorded case of “Death by Chocolate” occurred.
In San Cristobal de las Casa, in Chiapas, Mexico, upper class Spaniards were so addicted to chocolate intake that they refused a church dictated ban forbidding consumption of drink or food during Mass.
In response, the townspeople refused to uphold this edict and chose to attend worship services in Convents.
The Bishop of Chiapas, who passed the edict, was found dead due to a mixture of poison that was secretly added to his daily cup of chocolate. Rumor has it that he passed from this world with a smile on his face.
6) Cocoa, a rare and expensive commodity, had been introduced in Central Europe via Spain as early as the 1600’s but it wasn’t until 1765 that the first chocolate factory was established in the United States.
Chocolate was such as a prestigious luxury that the French Ruler, Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King”, established a court position entitled Royal Chocolate Maker to the King.
7) The French Leader Napoleon insisted that wine, from the Burgundy vineyard called Chambertin, as well as chocolate be available during military campaigns.
Due to its precious nature, the distribution of chocolate was limited to himself and his senior military advisers.
8) In 1765, the company, Walter Baker Chocolate, was founded by Dr. James Baker and his chocolate maker John Hannon, in a converted wooden mill on the banks of the Neponset River in Massachusetts and thus the term “Baking Chocolate” came into being.
9) In 1828, cocoa in a powdered format became widely available. This allowed chocolate to become mass produced and widely available during Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth (19th) century.
10) In 1849 during the “Gold Rush” of San Francisco, Dominbro Ghirardelli of Italy began making chocolate. His original factory still stands at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, CA.
11) In 1868, a Parisian named Etienne Guittard arrived in California and started the Guittard Chocolate Company which is still in operation.
12) 1871 was a landmark year for American Chocolate as Milton Hershey, at the age of nineteen (19), founded his company in Pennsylvania.
13) In 1875, Milk Chocolate was introduced. After over eight (8) years of experimentation, Daniel Peter of Switzerland created this concoction.
He sold his creation to his neighbor, Henri Nestle, and thus Nestle Chocolate came into being.
14) In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt, the founder of Lindt Chocolates, invented the process of “Conching” which is used to refine chocolate thus enhancing it’s quality.
15) In 1896, the recipe for chocolate brownies, an American snack food staple, was introduced in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
16) In 1907, the iconic Milk Chocolate Hershey's Kisses were introduced. They are one of the most successful chocolates and Hershey produces approximately 20-25 million per day in a variety of flavors.
17) In 1913, a process was invented by a Swiss Confectioner named Jules Sechaud that allowed chocolates to have unique fillings.
18) The original 3 Musketeers Bar of the 1930s had three parts: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
It became all chocolate in the 1940s and the formula remains the same to this very day.
19) In 1938, Nestle Crunch was introduced. It was the first chocolate bar to combine milk chocolate and crunchy crisps to create a sensory eating experience that blended taste, texture and sound.
20) In 1939, Nestle introduced Chocolate Chips.
So successful was this collaboration, Hershey Chocolate was called upon during the Persian Gulf War to create a chocolate bar that could withstand high temperatures.
The “Desert Bars” were included in the soldier’s daily rations and were also sold to consumers for use in survival kits.
22) In 1960, Chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Psycho”. The scene, featuring Janet Leigh, took over seven days to shoot.
The U.S. produces more chocolate than any other country but the Swiss consume the most, followed closely by the English.
Americans eat an average of twenty two pounds of candy each year, or approximately 2.8 BILLION pounds annually, split almost equally between candy and chocolate. That is far less than most Europeans consume.
The Midwest and the Northeast consume more candy per region than the South, Southwest, West or Mid-Atlantic states.
The American palette prefers milk chocolate, approximately ninety two percent, but dark chocolate's popularity is growing rapidly.
American chocolate manufacturers use about 1.5 billion pounds of milk only surpassed by the cheese and ice cream industries. They also consume approximately 3,500,000 pounds of whole milk.
Chocolate manufacturers currently use forty 40% of the world's almonds and twenty 20 % of the world's peanuts.
As of 2006, consumers spent more than $7,000,000 a year on chocolate related products
Food food food! We love it so much it features regularly on the List Universe. And the one thing we love more than food? Bizarre lists. Fortunately this one combines both passions. So sit back and enjoy a fun filled list. Of course, if you can think of other exciting bizarre food festivals, be sure to let me know in the comments.
10. Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes)
Where: Oaxaca, Mexico
When: December 23-24 annually
This is a food festival where eating is discouraged! This festival originated in the 16th century when Spanish monks brought this edible root to the new colonies. To gain attention in the food markets, sellers would carve some radishes into eye-catching sculptures. This tradition continued throughout the centuries and became an official festival in 1987. Radishes as big as two feet long and weighing upwards of ten pounds are carved into intricate religious or cultural scenes. The artisans can compete in three different categories for cash prizes
9. Annual Testicle Festival
Where: Clinton, Montana, USA
When: July 29-August 2nd
There are several imitators but this is the original ballfest. Usually known by its classier name, the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival, this whole event is dedicated to serving deep-fried bull testicles. You can have your choice plain deep-fried, beer battered, marinated, as well as some newly concocted delectables. For the indecisive, $5 can provide a sampler plate of testicles. Those on a low-testicle diet can have fun as well! One of the highlights of the festival is Bullshit Bingo, with a grand prize of $100 for the lucky person who can correctly predict where a cow will do its doodie. The motto of this dignified event? “I had a ball at the Testicle Festival.”
8. World Pea shooting Championship
Where: Witcham, Cambridgeshire, UK
When: July 11th
This is loosely termed a festival since the food isn’t celebrated; rather, it’s like a block party that grew out of a simple target competition. In 1971, local headmaster Mr. Tyson held the first pea shooting competition as a way to fundraise for the upkeep of the village hall. The entrance fee is only £1.00 for adults and £0.50 for children, but be warned! The competitors take this extreme sport seriously and you’ll need hi-tech gear (like the laser-guided pea shooter) to stand a chance on the field with these seasoned pea shooting veterans
7. Roadkill Cook-off of the Autumn Harvest Festival
Where: Marlington, West Virginia, USA
When: September 26th
Nobody panic! None of the entries in this harvest festival competition have any tire marks as they aren’t actually unfortunate outcomes of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes. This competition utilizes wild game such as raccoon, possum, deer…basically any of Bambi’s friends that could be potential roadkill. Does that make it better? No? oh well… notables among the past wild game entries are “Spicy Venison, Buffalo & Sausage Stew”, “Pulled Bambi”, and Biscuits & Squirrel Gravy.
6. Gilroy Garlic Festival
Where: Gilroy, California, USA
When: July 24-26th
Gilroy is the unofficial Garlic Capital of the World and proudly shows off in this festival that attracts over 100,000 visitors annually that as a whole consume an estimated two and a half tons of garlic at the event. The official Gilroy Garlic Festival website claims to have used 72 tons of garlic in the twenty-nine years this festival has existed. Cooking demonstrations and lectures discuss traditional uses and health benefits but the innovative can always express their love for this pungent food in the Great Garlic Cook-off, which has had entries like garlic ice cream, garlic soft drinks and last year’s winner “Walnut-Garlic Tart with Garlic-Infused Cream and Chili Syrup”. Anyone need a Tic Tac?
5. Waikiki Spam Jam
Where: Waikiki, Hawaii, USA
When: April 25th
As an area with a scarce meat supply during WWII, this archipelago embraced the blue-canned pink meat and has now become Spam’s most loyal market. During this street festival, hula dancers perform while judges crown a Mr. and Miss Spam and Hawaii’s top chefs create new recipes celebrating the gelatinous meat product. Pedestrians get to sample everything from Spam Burgers to Spam Musubi (kind of like sushi but with spam instead of fish). This festival also serves a philanthropic purpose that benefits the Hawaii Food Bank, the largest non-profit in Hawaii that feeds the needy.
4. Ivrea Orange Festival
Where: Ivrea, Italy
When: Last date: February 25-28th
La Tomantina has already been mentioned in a previous lists, but by no means is that the only fruit-throwing festival! The Ivrea Orange Festival originated from the 12th century when during parades and city celebrations, girls would throw oranges from their balconies to gain the attention of the boy they fancied. The boys began to reciprocate (no mention if the secret admiration was reciprocated but the oranges certainly were!) and this evolved into a messy rivalry between the balcony girls and the street boys. It wasn’t until WWII when the intricate citrus battle rules were finally laid out. It is free for anyone to participate by joining one of the nine teams on foot or become a member of the carriage crew.
3. Carnival at Vilanova i La Geltrú (Candy Throwing Fight)
Where: Vilanova i La Geltrú, Spain
When: Fat Tuesday
Originally a protest of the Franco regime’s Carnivale prohibition, this annual festival is by far the sweetest food fight in the world! Celebrations begin on Fat Tuesday with the Meringue Wars, where bakeries open their stores and pass out free pie ammunition to children. The adults dress in the colors of their respective Carnival Society and attend parties and masquerades before joining the children in the streets in what becomes a sweet tooth free-for-all! Over 200,000 lbs of food has been donated to the food fight, ranging from pies to candy to cereal… It’s a dentist’s nightmare! The festival officially ends with the ceremonial burial of a sardine to mark the beginning of Lent and fasting.
2. Olney Pancake Race
Where: Olney, England, UK
When: Pancake Day or Fat Tuesday
At 11:55 am on Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day, aka Fat Tuesday), the local ladies assemble dressed in traditional housewife attire (including skirt, apron and scarf) and run 415 yards through the streets of Olney carrying a frying pan. The pancakes are tossed at the start of the race and the winner is must toss her pancake again at the finish. The race has been an Olney tradition since 1445 and in 1950, the competition expanded to include a friendly flapjack rivalry with the housewives and young women of Liberal, Kansas in the US. The ladies of Liberal won this past year’s race with a new record of 57.5 seconds
1. Annual Yuma Lettuce Days
Where: Yuma, Arizona, USA
When: Last date: January 23-25th
Yuma is known as ‘The Winter Lettuce Capital of the World". Sounds silly, yes, but considering Yuma produces $1.5 billion of Arizona’s agriculture revenue and provides 90% of North America’s winter vegetables, it’s appropriate to respect the lettuce. Among the highlights of this Veggie Fair are the Lettuce sculptures, Cabbage Bowling, Homegrown Cooking Contest and the "World’s Largest Salad".