Amherst Club Lunch, January 11, 2011

President Vivienne Carey welcomed everyone on the beginning of our year 2011.

Guests:  Hub Smith brought his wife, Linda Smith.

Announcements:  Jim Scott reminded everyone that we have only a month left to sell Love Notes tickets and get the checks to him. Jacquie Price announced that she has the Love Notes posters for members to post in commercial and public places, and also extra book marks. Cynthia Brubaker announced that she has interviewed several Amherst Club members on the ACTV program "Neighbor to Neighbor," and encouraged members too look at them. Included are Roger Webb and Vivienne Carey, Phyllis Lehrer, and Michael Greenebaum. 

New Member: Roger Webb introduced Frances South. Frances is an attorney who lives with her husband and daughter in Belchertown. Frances initially studied agronomy and worked in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. After further study she worked in the Central African Republic before going to law school and opening her law practice.


 Amanda Lange, a member of Amherst Club who is chair of Historic Interiors in the Curatorial Department at Historic Deerfield spoke on "Sweet Confections: The History of Chocolate in Early America."

        Amanda noted that there is wide interest in the history of food. Chocolate was unheard of in Europe until the 1500's. Its source is the cacao tree, a native of the tropical rain forests of Central and South America, which grows only in a band from 20 degrees north to 20 degrees south of the Equator. Cortez introduced the drink of the Aztecs and Olmecs, who had used it for hundreds of years, to Spain in 1520. In the 1650's it appeared in England. Like tea and coffee in the 17th and 18th centuries is was considered to have medicinal and many other properties. In that early period, chocolate was especially drunk for breakfast. Of the available drinks, tea was most expensive, coffee least expensive, and chocolate in between.

        The production from the cacao tree was complicated. Large hard pods, which grow directly on the trunk, are broken open and the many seeds in the pulp allowed to ferment. Then the seeds are dried, then roasted. The outer shells are removed from the nibs, and the seeds are ground, producing an oily paste. Much of the oil is drained off. The grinding by hand or in mills resulted in chocolate that is not as smooth as we are accustomed to today. Cacao trees are now grown in Africa and Asia as well as the Americas.

        Amanda mentioned the numerous benefits attributed to chocolate. One was that it provides energy so it has a long history of use by the military from the time of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution to World War II when chocolate was included in rations for soldiers. 

        In the 18th century, those drinking chocolate loved the head of foam, and the drink was prepared with a whipped head of foam, much as had been done in the Americas for centuries. Even today, the use of marshmallows or whipped cream on hot chocolate continues that foamy tradition. Before 1880 chocolate was mostly used for beverages, and only since that time has it also been used in baked goods and confections.

        A lively question and discussion period followed Amanda's talk and power point presentation. Amanda mentioned that Historic Deerfield will have its Annual Historic Chocolate Event on February 12. In addition she noted the program of obtaining a cooperative library pass through the Jones Library and other community libraries.

Jim Scott won the wine. Miriam Dayton won the cash.

Scribe for the day, Rachel Mustin