How beloved is chocolate?
For openers, we Americans spend $20 billion a year on the ancient drink/confection, sourced from roasted and ground cacao seeds. Then there are the many formal groups devoted to promoting and overseeing its manufacture and distribution. For example, the Fine Chocolate Industry, the Chocolate Manufacturers and National Confectioners associations, plus the International Cocoa Organization.
While we await National Chocolate Day (Oct. 28, appropriately three days before Halloween), we can turn the pages of “Great Moments In Chocolate History” by Howard-Yana Shapiro, chief agricultural officer of giant candymaker Mars, Inc. (National Geographic, $20, 208 pages).
The Ph.D.-holding chocolate-meister presents a chocolate timeline starting with the Aztecs in the 1500s and moving through the centuries to present day. One “chocolate moment” arrived in 1920 with the invention of Eskimo Pie ice cream bars. Another came in 1950, when President Harry Truman’s plane landed in San Francisco en route to Wake Island in the Pacific. While the plane was being refueled and checked out, Truman sent an aide into the city in search of a box of See’s candies. The aide returned with five one-pound boxes.
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The book offers 20 recipes (chocolate-cognac truffles, Mississippi mud pie), tips (“Keeping Chocolate Fresh,” “Choosing Chocolate”) and choco-quotes such as this one, attributed to George Bernard Shaw’s play “Arms and the Man”: “What use are cartridges in battle? I always carry chocolate instead.”