“Forget love . . . I’d rather fall in chocolate!”

  While no one owned up to that quote, I say, whychoose? Enjoy both this Valentine’s Day.

On Sunday there will be lots of love and lots of chocolate, and though some may thank Cupid for finding them love, the chocolate fans should be worshipping Hegemone. Hegemone is the Goddess of Plants and is responsible for making sure that plants bloom and bear fruit.

Her work is of great importance, since chocolate comes from the cacao plant, or theobroma cacao. The name says it all, since theobroma translates into “food of the gods.”  Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes agreed, calling chocolate “a divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.”

The cocoa tree produces pods that hold up to 60 seeds. These cacao seeds are roasted and processed to produce the chocolate that we know and love.

Chocolate was revered throughout history. The Aztec emperor Montezuma was known to drink 50 golden goblets of a chocolate drink called xocolatl every day, for virility. This drink was a mixture of roasted cocoa beans, vanilla, cayenne pepper, pimento, and squash seeds, sometimes sweetened with honey or salted for a more savory experience.

Throughout history, chocolate has been identified as an aphrodisiac. This is not surprising, as two of its chemical constituents are known to be psychoactive: phenylethylamine and serotonin both are mood enhancers, providing pleasurable stimulation to the brain and central nervous system(and slightly addictive to boot, according to researchers.)

And they make us feel so good, virtually invincible! Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, French gourmet and lawyer, noted that “If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of amber-flavored chocolate . . . and marvels will be performed.”

More than $1 billion worth (roughly equivalent to 36 million heart-shaped boxes) of chocolate will be purchased and consumed for Valentine’s Day. And while most of the year, 75 per cent of chocolate purchasers are women, Valentine’s Day is when men take that honor and buy 75 per cent of chocolate sold. It makes sense: purportedly, women are more susceptible to chocolate’s charms. Or maybe we just know what Spaniard Geronimo Piperni believed: “Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.”

Chocolate is not for everyone. No matter how much you enjoy it, don’t give your pets any of this Valentine’s Day treat. Dogs, cats, parrots, horses, and other animals should not eat any chocolate since it contains theobromine, a chemical they are unable to metabolize, thus making ittoxic. So show them your love in other ways besides chocolate.

But for the human loves in your life, be sure to show them your affection in a variety of ways. Chocolate is only one. After all, they can have a kiss and eat it too.


Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown.