I. ITS NATURE.
When one thinks of the marvellously nourishing and stimulating virtue of cocoa, and of the exquisite and irresistible dainties prepared from it, one cannot wonder that the great Linnæus should have named it theo broma, "the food of the gods." No other natural product, with the exception of milk, can be said to serve equally well as food or drink, or to possess nourishing and stimulating properties in such well-adjusted proportions. Few, however, realize that in its stimulating properties cocoa ranks ahead of coffee, though below tea. As a matter of fact, the active principles of all three are alkaloids, practically identical and equally effective. Each derives its value from its influence on the nervous system, which it stimulates, while checking the waste of tissue, but the cocoa-bean provides in addition solid food to replace wasted tissue. It is, indeed, so closely allied in composition to pure dried milk, that in this respect there is little to choose between an absolutely pure cocoa essence and the natural fluid. It is this which makes it invaluable as an alternative food for invalids or infants.Cacao Trees, Trinidad.
An early English writer on this valuable product spoke truly when he remarked: "All the American travellers have written such panegyricks, that I should degrade this royal liquor if I should offer any; yet several of these curious travellers and physicians do agree in this, that the cocoa has a wonderful faculty of quenching thirst, allaying hectick heats, of nourishing and fattening the body."
A modern writer affords the same testimony in a more practical form when he records that: "Cocoa is of domestic drinks the most alimentary; it is without any exception the cheapest food that we can conceive, as it may be literally termed meat and drink, and were our half-starved artisans and over-worked factory children induced to drink it, instead of the in-nutritious beverage called tea, its nutritive qualities would soon develop themselves in their improved looks and more robust condition."
Such a drink well deserved the treatment it received at the hands of the Mexicans to whom we are indebted for it. At the royal banquets frothing chocolate was served in golden goblets with finely wrought golden or tortoise-shell spoons. The froth in this case was of the consistency of honey, so that when eaten cold it would gradually dissolve in the mouth. Here is a luscious suggestion for twentieth century housewives, handed to them from five hundred years ago!ANCIENT MEXICAN DRINKING CUPS.(British Museum.)
In health or sickness, infancy or age, at home or on our travels, nothing is so generally useful, so sustaining and invigorating. Far better than the majority of vaunted substitutes for human milk as an infant's food, to supplement what other milk may be available; incomparable as a family drink for breakfast or supper, when both tea and coffee are really out of place unless the latter is nearly all milk; prepared as chocolate to eat on journeys, and in many other ways, cocoa is a constant stand-by....