I chose to review this book because it was the most interesting, unique one I read this summer. The Book of Chocolate is an amazing nonfiction book about the history of chocolate, starting all the way back during the Bronze Age. This book reminds me of when my family and I went to Costa Rica and visited a cacao plantation. We got to walk around and learn about all the steps in making chocolate. We even got to try our hand at making some, too.
I learned all about all the trial and error companies went through in the 1800s, trying to perfect the process of creating milk chocolate. The discovery of the proper process was an accident. At that time companies trying to make the perfect chocolate were mixing it for about four hours, but an employee accidentally left a mixer on for three days. When they went to throw that batch away, they found it was actually perfect. Smooth, creamy, and well blended.
Some of the chapters describe how people like Milton Hershey, Henry Nestle, Frank Mars, and Rodolphe Lindt all competed to perfect their own kinds of chocolate and candy bars, all while trying to steal each other’s recipes. One of the things that helped boost candy bar sales in the United States was the Halloween food scare during the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to the media, some trick or treaters were receiving razor blades or poison hidden in their homemade “treats,” so the safest alternative to hand out became store-bought candy. The only thing is that it didn’t actually happen. There were no razor blades in apples, or poison in chocolate. It never happened. It could have been a conspiracy chocolate insider plot to make people buy candy.
One of the “characters” is Forrest Mars, the son of Frank Mars, founder of Mars, Inc. He inherited part of the company after his mother died. It didn’t sound like he was a very nice person. He spied on other candy makers. He was also rude and abrasive, he didn’t care about other people, just himself and making money. It’s possible that he was warped by his parents’ divorce and not seeing his father from the time he was six years old until he was a grown man, but that doesn’t mean he has to be mean. I wouldn’t like to meet him because he sounds like an absolute jerk.
Milton Hershey, on the other hand, sounds like a good guy. He and his wife were unable to have kids, so they built Hershey, Pennsylvania into a town that gave people jobs but also where underprivileged kids, like orphans, could have a better childhood and go to school for free. After they died, profits from the company continue to support Hershey’s school each year, turning it into the largest boarding school in our country. It gives more than 1,000 kids a free education from pre-kindergarten through high school every year.
This book was a bit of a challenge for me because sometimes it would go back and reference someone or something that I had forgotten about. All things considered it is a very fun read, but might be challenging for younger children, since they have shorter attention spans and would forget who’s who even faster. The vocabulary is also a little advanced, so this book isn’t for the faint of reading capability. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the process and history of making chocolate.
I think the main theme is the importance and significance of chocolate in history, and the process through which an extremely expensive luxury item was turned into a cheap, commonly available food.