February is National Chocolate Lovers Month
It’s little wonder that February is National Chocolate Lovers Month. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, store shelves are stocked full of every kind of chocolate imaginable. To better understand the history between Chocolate and Valentine’s Day, we ask the Smithsonian:
How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life: Tracing the lovers, the leaders and the ladies responsible for the pairing of chocolate to Valentine’s Day.
It turns out that chocolate really has a history as a love food. Passion for chocolate is rooted in Mesoamerican history. It was a highly-prized luxury item among Mayan and Aztec upper class elites, who were known to savor a drink that combined roasted cacao beans with cornmeal, vanilla, honey and chilies. Cacao beans were as valuable a commodity as gold, and were even used to pay taxes levied by Aztec rulers.
By the early 1600s, the vogue for chocolate had swept across Europe. In London, chocolate houses began to rival coffee houses as social gathering spots. One shop opened on Gracechurch Street in 1657 advertising chocolate as “a West Indian drink (which) cures and preserves the body of many diseases.” In France, Madame de Sevigne wrote about enormous chocolate consumption throughout the court at Versailles in 1671; Louis IV drank it daily and Madame du Barry was said to use chocolate mixed with amber to stimulate her lovers.
When Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI in 1770, she brought her personal chocolate maker to Versailles. The official “Chocolate Maker to the Queen” created such recipes as “chocolate mixed with orchid bulb for strength, chocolate with orange blossom to calm the nerves, or chocolate with sweet almond milk to aid the digestion.”
Chocolate’s connection to Valentine’s Day is a prime example of virtue finding its just reward, although it took centuries for the two essentials elements—the rise of chocolate as a popular food, and the celebration of Valentine’s Day as a holiday—to merge.
The origin of Valentine’s Day is attributed to various early Christian martyrs named Valentine, but it’s linkage to romantic love seems to appear first in Chaucer’s 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules. Chaucer here describes the nature of love when “every bird cometh to choose his mate” on “seynt Voantynes day.”