Throughout history, winter solstice festivals have been held across the world to celebrate the changing seasons and to mark the longest night of the year and rebirth of the Earth. Interestingly, it is these solstice rituals that mark the origin of baking cookies and treats for holiday festivities such as Christmas.
Since it was often necessary to feast before the winter famine, the solstice celebrations tended to revolve around food. In addition, the festivities and food often had an emphasis on the Earth itself and tended to incorporate natural foods such as nuts, berries, and spices.
Recently my computer suffered a sudden unexplained and extremely inconvenient demise. As the computer was long past its prime, it was not worth making any attempt to restore the machine and the important piece was the loss of data. With most of my data on a back-up drive, I decided to cut my losses and retrieve what I could from there. This exercise turned into a bit of a trip down memory lane as I sifted through old documents.
Considered by many as food of the Gods, the world’s love affair with chocolate is thought to have began approximately 5,300 years ago in the rainforests of Ecuador. It is believed that ancient civilizations used cacao to produce drinks for festivals, feasts and medicinal purposes. Also, contrary to the old adage that money doesn’t grown on trees, they also used cacao seeds as currency!
I concur with this global consensus and have coveted and feasted on chocolate in all its glorious forms since childhood. However, I only discovered the use cacao powder, cacao butter (oils of the bean) and cacao nibs (the dried and fermented pieces of cacao beans) since exploring whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) eating. Cacao appears regularly in WFPB recipes as it is considered raw and is minimally processed with no additives.
What is the difference between cacao and cocoa?
Cacao and cocoa both start out as beans from the cacao plant and the difference comes in the way they are processed. Both are fermented for a few days to develop a flavour and then they are dried.