Kakao and Kaka

Chocolate and the Excretory Imagination of Nineteenth-Century Europe
  • Alison Moore

Abstract

Of all the food products that entered the European consumer market as a result of colonial trade, chocolate underwent the most dramatic differentiation from its original form. In Aztec society chocolate was drunk cold, spicy and bitter.1 So why in the mid-nineteenth century did Europeans turn it into something sweet, sticky, creamy, and solid? The answer to this question lies in an analysis of the physical and symbolic resemblance of chocolate to excrement: that other brown substance that was of such great concern and fascination for European society of the nineteenth century. The contemporaneous emergence of solid eating chocolate as a coveted consumer object alongside the development of sewerage and toilet technology in nineteenth-century Europe was not incidental. Both relate to the development of a new identity amongst middle-class Europeans who were keen to enjoy the exotic delights of colonial produce as much as they were to deny and sanitize the excretory process in response to the crisis of malodorous bodily products produced by industrial urbanization.

Keywords

Sugar Europe Smoke Harness Como 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996), 88–92.Google Scholar
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    By the criteria sketched by Baudrillard, chocolate stands in an ideal “simulating” relationship to excrement in that it is simultaneously a “reflection of a profound reality…” that which “masks and denatures.… masks the absence of a profound reality… is unrelated to any other reality and is its own pure simulacra.” Jean Baudrillard, Simulacres et Simulation (Paris: Editions Galilee, 1981), 17.Google Scholar
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    Indeed Ranjana Khanna has recently argued that psychoanalysis itself needs to be understood as a form of knowledge arising out of colonial relations, as a “theorization of nationhood and selfhood as they were developed in response to colonial expansion.” Ranjana Khanna, Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 28.Google Scholar
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© Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne 2005

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  • Alison Moore

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