Du chocolat! Dieu nous en garde!
In Charpentier’s delightful divertissement Les plaisirs de Versailles, Comus, the “God of Feasting” seeks to calm a dispute between the haughty diva Music and the loquacious Conversation by offering the delights of marzipan, fine wine, and above all, Chocolate. Music is aghast, but Conversation is quite eager to sample the delicacy.
Comus: Let your disputes not cause commotion here! Let us play. To both of you beauties I shall give chocolates.
La Musique: Chocolate! God forbid that he give any to this chatterbox. As for me, I tell you, I do not wish to taste any. She would never cease her hot-air chatter.
La Conversation: Chocolate is good, dear Comus. By your influence I long to taste a little.
La Musique: No, Comus!
La Conversation: Comus, to listen to her is to waste good time. Chocolate!
Music’s concern about the effect of chocolate on the “babbling divitnity” Conversation, is understandable to anyone who has spent Halloweeen in the company of a 5-year-old.
Columbus brought cacao to Europe when he returned in 1502, but it was not until the 1615 wedding of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria (the daughter of Phillip II of Spain) that the French court discovered the strange brew known for its revitalizing and aphrodisiacal properties and declared chocolate as the drink of the French court. In France, as elsewhere in Europe, chocolate was met with skepticism and was considered a “barbarous product and noxious drug”. As with coffee, not everyone was eager to accept the mysterious new drink.
Initially, Chocolate was seen as having largely medicinal properties. In the first official statement about chocolate is made by Bonavontura Di Aragon, brother of Cardinal Richelieu, described the use of chocolate as stimulating the healthy functioning of the spleen and other digestive functions. 1659 Louis XIV gives the chocolate monopolies of the Paris chocolate drink trade and the French Royal Court to David Chaillou, a baker who made costly biscuits and cakes with chocolate—France’s first “chocolatier.”