Eating chocolate mindfully

Appreciating chocolate history.

Mindful eating is a practice to slow down the mind to be present in those moment- to- moment activities. Eating is one practice of Mindfulness. Most commercials for chocolates use an image of someone savoring a piece of chocolate with their eyes closed along with a message that encourages us to loose ourselves in the moment. Mindfulness eating is a practice that encourages paying attention to our bodies reaction to the senses that eating stimulates or uses. Sight, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds all play a part in mindfulness.

The history or story of how food made it to your mouth is also a form of mindfulness. Thinking of who grew the food, where it was grown, who harvested it and how was it made can really slow down your eating experience and make it much more enjoyable and gratifying. Chocolate is a good choice to use to describe mindful eating because of its popularity. Chocolate however was not always popular.

Chocolate was unknown outside of South and Central America before 1502. When Christopher Columbus discovered America, the cocoa bean was already being used by the natives in a bitter chocolate beverage. It is reported that Columbus and Cortez, took the bean back to Spain where it soon traveled throughout the world and became an international favorite that once was only privy to the wealthy.

By 1779, James Baker established the Baker’s Company in Massachusetts and The Cadbury brothers in England introduced French Eating Chocolate in 1812. By 1875 the Nestle brothers in Switzerland produced milk chocolate. In 1894, the Hershey Company produced the first affordable individually-wrapped chocolate bars. In 1907, the chocolate kiss was produced and looked much the same as it does today. In 1912 the Whitman’s Sampler appeared and in 1922 the first chocolate covered ice cream novelty called the Eskimo Pie appeared. In 1930, Mrs. Ruth Wakefield at the Tollhouse In in Massachusetts accidently created the tollhouse cookie.

No matter which type of chocolate you prefer, all chocolate starts in a seed pod from a Cocoa Tree. The cocoa bean begins life inside a fruit, called a pod, on a tree in the tropics, primarily in remote areas of West Africa, Southeast Asia and Central and South America. 70 percent of the beans come primarily from West Africa. Once the beans are extracted from the fruit pod, they are wrapped in banana leaves or burlap to ferment. Once fermentation is complete, they are dried in the sun, and then bagged for shipping to factories where the beans are cataloged based on variety and region of origin then roasted. Once roasted the shell of the bean is removed and the meat inside, called the nib is then ground into a substance called a liquor that is poured into molds that is then called unsweetened chocolate. If this unsweetened chocolate is not sold for baking, then it is made into three different products; cocoa powder, cocoa butter and eating chocolate. Cocoa powder and cocoa butter is made by pressing the unsweetened chocolate until it separates. Eating chocolate is made by adding extra cocoa butter and other ingredients.

Cocoa butter has high importance for the chocolate industry. It is unique among fats because it is a solid at normal room temperature and melts at 89 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just below body temperature. This property gives chocolate its unique melt-in-your-mouth quality. Unlike dairy butter, cocoa butter is extremely homogenous and melts evenly at the same temperature. It’s also a practical ingredient, because it resists oxidation and rancidity. Under normal storage conditions, cocoa butter can be kept for years without spoiling.

A regular chocolate bar on average has 268 calories, 10grams of fat and 24 grams of sugar. Hardly seems like much after all the work that goes onto making them. Next time you take a bite of food, be mindful of the history, wonder, read labels, research it, concentrate on how your senses or being stimulated. Simply just sow down and enjoy this simple, yet complex everyday event called eating.

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