Project Showcase: Mars American Heritage Chocolate
01 July 2013 – editors
I recently attended a conference whose organizers had discovered a remedy for the dreaded low-energy times of day when audience attention wanes: schedule a presentation about chocolate, complete with free samples. The talk was by Amanda Lange of Historic Deerfield, Inc., a participant in the American Heritage Chocolate project sponsored by Mars starting in 2006. Mars convened a group of more than a hundred historians, scientists, and artisans who worked together to recreate the chocolate being eaten (or, more usually, drunk) by people in the American colonies and the new nation of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The team’s work resulted in a recipe based in older tastes and artisanal methods: grittier and less sweet than we’ve become accustomed to, containing spices and chiles typical of an earlier time period, and sold as sticks, blocks, and powder as well as small bars. American Heritage Chocolate went on the market in 2006 at museums and historic sites, followed in 2009 by a door-stop of a book based on the research of those involved in the project (Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage). The choice of outlets, according to Lange, is influenced by the scale of production: the adoption of older methods for this chocolate means that Mars can’t produce enough to supply its usual mass markets. It’s an interesting mixture of corporate legacy-making, serious historical research, and small-scale production within a giant commercial food business. And it was just the thing for that late-morning conference energy-lag!
~ Cathy Stanton, Tufts University