Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods: The Sacred Realm of Chocolate in Mesoamerica
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., May 29, 2009
Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods: The Sacred Realm of Chocolate in Mesoamericaby Meredith L. Dreiss
& Sharon Edgar Greenhill
University of Arizona Press, 208 pp., $30
During the years that I participated at the Texas Maya Meetings, I had the opportunity to witness Sharon Edgar Greenhill's dedication to Maya studies. She worked incessantly during the workshops, poring over books and conferring with some of the best regarded experts on the field – Justin Kerr, Bruce Love, Simon Martin, and others – for her research of cacao in ancient Mesoamerican cultures. So I was ecstatic to finally see the fruit of all this labor expressed in this beautifully packaged, well-researched book that explores the origins of cacao and its powerful role and significance in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican culture and society. Through archaeological and other ethnohistoric research, she and Meredith Dreiss explain the history of cacao; its mythological and spiritual meaning to the Maya, Aztecs, Olmecs, Mixtec, and Zapotecs; and its prized value as a currency and trading tool.
Chocolate is highly informative and entertaining whether you're interested in Mesoamerican studies or just a chocolate lover. The text is easy to read and lacks the aloofness to which scholarly books often fall prey. More than 100 full-color photos catch the attention and help explain cacao's intricate mythology, the relationship between it and Mesoamerican royalty, and its role as a conduit to the gods through divination ceremonies, in human sacrifices, and in the crucially important ball game. The last chapter, "Balancing the Cosmos," tackles the role of the cacao tree in rainforest ecology and biodiversity, bringing the history full circle back to our times. It puts the ball back in our court to make the right choices and help preserve the chocolate tree, a precious gift received from people who discovered its magic 3,000 years ago.
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to email@example.com