Balzac On Stimulating Foods
"The destinies of a people depend on Iheir food and diet," Balzac intones in Eleanor's melodious voice. "The English government permitted disposal of the lives of three condemned prisoners, who were given the option of being hanged according to the usual practice of that country, or of living exdusively on tea or coffee or chocolate without additional food or drink. The unhappy fools accepted.
"The man who lived on chocolate died after eight months,
"The man who lived on coffee lasted two years.
"The man who lived on tea succumbed after three years.
"I suspect that the East India Company solicited this experiment in the interests of its own commerce.
"The man of chocolate died in a horrible state of putrescence, devoured by lice. His limbs fell off one by one, like those of the Spanish monarchy.
"The man of coffee died burnt out, as if the fires of Gomorrah had roasted him to a crisp. You could have made lime out of him. In fact, somebody proposed that-but the experiment seemed contrary to the immortality of his soul..
"The man of tea became emaciated and almost transparent, and died of consumption in the condition of a lanterns you could see right through his body: a philanthropist could have read the Times by putting a light behind the corpse.
"The proper English couldn't have permitted a more original experiment...
Michael Aldtich (quoting Balzac's "Treatise on Modern, Excitants") High Times, Nov. 1976
Over the years coffee became domesticated and socjalized-lhe lonely worshippers' drug of fortification became a pleasant beverage, a sparker of lively conversation. The traditional method of making coffee-the roasting, grinding and brewing of beans-was developed in the thirteenth century: In 1554 the world's first coffeehouse opened in Constantinople, and soon hundreds more sprang up alL over the Mideast and North Africa. When, soon after, sugar was introduced to the drink, travelers from Europe reacted ecstatically^ The coffee craze swept Europe, quickly spreading to the New World. While the cultivation of cocoa goes back over 3,000 years, folk history first locates chocolate in the court of the Aztec potentate Montezuma, who puiportedly put away 50 cups of chocolatl in the course of a day; more when planning a conjugal visit to some combination of his 700 wives. Exalted in the Aztec court1 as a zesty aphrodisiac, chocolate was the subject of a lot of bad press following its introduction to Europe. It was characterized as a "cad and vulgar beast," a
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