Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods: The Sacred Realm of Chocolate in Mesoamerica

DreissMeredith L.

Lazy, Hazy Daze of Summer Reading

Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods: The Sacred Realm of Chocolate in Mesoamerica

by 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

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Food Reviews
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
Just when you thought you couldn't possibly get any shawarma, right?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Sept. 4, 2020

Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
What does your favorite condiment reveal about who you are?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Aug. 28, 2020

More by Claudia Alarcón
Savory Characters
Savory Characters
Cooking up the next generation of cocktails

Feb. 6, 2015

Calling the Shots
Calling the Shots
The women defining Austin's cocktail culture

Jan. 23, 2015


Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods: The Sacred Realm of Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chocolate

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle