Thanks to the USDA for the cocoa nut photo!
Chocolate. Personally, it gives me a headache. But boy do some folks really, really love this stuff. Calvin and Hobbes especially. It's an amazingly super powerful commodity that has had a massive impact on history and culture, yet most people don't give it a second thought, unless they've just heard that Hershey has tried to claim that chocolate is a health food based on their corporate laboratories discovering that there are anti-oxidants in chocolate. Yeah and smoking keeps mosquitos away, too. Not.
You might want to check out the Which Food Has More Fairy Dust article at Forbes if you're still wondering what's wrong with an industry doing its own research into the health impacts of its products.
Some Sweet Chocolate History Links
- The Field Museum offers a very tasty History of Chocolate at their site
- The Smithsonian likewise has a very nicely done Brief History of Chocolate
- The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club has a Chocolate History Timeline
- Chocolate Chips Were an Accident?!?
- The History of Godiva Chocolates
- Hershey History
- Milton Hershey at About.com
- Cadbury History
- Nazis & Chocolate (Doesn't that sound like a Bizarre Crypto-Fascist RPG? Scary...)
- The History of Chocolate at Wikipedia
- Another Timeline of Chocolate History from About.com
- The Sweet Lure of Chocolate at the Exploratorium site
- Chocolate Invades Europe at the Exploratorium site
- An elementary History of Chocolate
- Jack Weatherford offers you The History of Chocolate
Considering Chocolate in a Fantasy Medieval Society
Most Fantasy RPGs like OD&D onwards predominently feature a setting that is loosely based on Europe in the 1400s to early 1600s. Some go earlier, some go a bit later, most mix it up vigorously and see what shakes out. Many of these games feature a good bit of exploration, either delving deeper into strange and often cyclopean megadungeons, scavenging ruined archaeological sites or forgotten graveyards (tombs, crypts, sepulchres, etc.), investigating various huge ruined piles or even hacking through the dense woods, jungles or dismal swamps to find New Lands to loot, new adventures to inflict on the local populace.
There are rules and supplements for ships, caravans, zeppelins and riding beasts. There are tons of rules and guidelines for wandering lost in a wilderness, nifty tools for mapping out said wilderness with diabolical glee (A, B, C & D just for a few examples), how to stock it with fell beasts and horrid monstrosities, and on and on. But what happens when a bunch of unwashed arsonists and half-starved plunderers come across something like Chocolate for the first time?
Most people think that gunpowder is a real game changer. Take a good look at chocolate sometime. It is arguably an even bigger and more disruptive thing to bring into the game than gunpowder or giving orcs a few crates of slightly used and refurbished laser carbines. What happens when the Greyhawk-esque pseudo-conquistadors discover the Olmec-esque Olman society and encounter chocolate for the first time? What happens when they decide to bring it back to their own pseudo-European societies? In the classic TSR module C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan which is being thoroughly analyzed and revitalized via The Cold Text Files series over at Lord of the Green Dragons, the pillaging ne'er-do-well player characters uncover a heavily overgrown ruined city of a mesoamerican culture, the Olmans. Tamoachan turns out to be the Northernmost outpost of this ancient, once-mighty empire. It's a very good bet that the Olman have chocolate. Maybe Scottsz will look into this aspect of things in a later post in the series? There really ought to be an index page for this incredible series. Ahem. In any case, back to Chocolate.
Chocolate isn't just for the poxy scallawags traipsing about with rune-inscribed ahlspiesses and demonically forged zweihanders or enchanted arquebuses and vampire-killer surplus gatling crossbows. It's a very hip and happening part of here and now. The role of chocolate in politics is even more interesting and fraught with plot hooks, twists and weirdness than the role of chocolate in history. Here. Go look for yourself and make up your own mind.
The Not So Sweet Side of Chocolate:
or Damning With Faint Praise
or We Prefer to Stand Back and Trust the Local Government
"The Ghanese have the best standards in the region. That's not to say they're as good as we want them to be, but they're certainly not as bad as the Cocircte d'Ivoire," Scharffenberger says. "From what we know about the government, we're pretty satisfied they aren't allowing horrible things to happen."
Politics of Chocolate Links
- Eastbay Express on the Politics of Chocolate
- Fighting for China's Chocolate Palate at Forbes
- Chocolate is Sweet, But Chocolate Policy Would be Sweeter at the Atlantic Monthly
- Chocolate on Trial, a wonderful book to give to your sweetheart next Valentine's Day
- A thorough review of the above book, just in case you need a little something to sweeten the deal
- Ivory Coast Politics Put Chocolate Farmer's Livelihoods at Risk at Triplepundit
- Mars Goes Certified, again at Triplepundit
- BIG CHOCOLATE at Wikipedia
- Politics and the Price of Chocolate at the York Dispatch
- A nicely written piece on the Politics of Chocolate at Hubpages
WebMD offers you a slide show of chocolate...just to end things on an appropriately bitter- sweet note.