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Keeping the "C" in Dessert
By Bill Chambres

When it comes to planning meals, young meeting planners are not too far into their careers when they become painfully aware that they are expected to thrill their attendees palates while keeping the accountants happy. After they have mastered the numbers for ordering the right amount of food, they are faced with what to order, and the budget.

Help is usually at hand from Chefs and others in the food and beverage departments of the larger facilities. But what if you don't have these "culinarians" at your every call? One answer might be that no matter what you choose for an entree, end the meal with a great finish. And that's our way of saying put the "C" back in dessert.

It should not come as a surprise that the "C" stands for chocolate. The word alone is enough to bring the taste to the mouth as it is evoked in all of its tantalizing guises. Planners whose travels take them throughout the heart of this country quickly come to realize that America is a country hypnotized, if not chocolatized, to such an extent that this delicious flavor is, without question, our dessert favorite.

Not many lovers of this great flavor, no matter what their age, are aware that their chocolate habit originated more than four hundred years ago. According to the records left from Cortes, the Spanish conqueror of the Aztecs, Montezuma 11 drank up to fifty jars or pitchers of what was called "chocolatl" and had two thousand more prepared for his household daily. Cortes returned to Spain with the cacao beans and it was there that the beverage underwent some changes: vanilla and sugar were added, and it was served hot.

The drink captivated the Spanish and then spread gradually to Austria, Germany, France, and England. It was England who gave the first big boost to this product when, in 1657, the first chocolate house was opened and the drink touted as a West India drink.

As can be expected, chocolate was very expensive in those days and not a product available to the masses. It was not until 1730 that the price of chocolate dropped. With mass production and the invention of the cocoa press in 1828, chocolate became readily available and reasonably priced, and drinking chocolate took on the smoother qualities we know today. Chocolate arrived in America with the English and French colonists, and by 1755 was well established in recipes of many types. Other important dates are the 1850s when it was common store merchandise and 1876 when milk chocolate for eating was invented. Chocolate in some form has been with us for over four centuries and is well liked as it was in the court of Montezuma in 1519.

The trend to lighter, healthier fare does not mean that we have to abandon this great ingredient. When combined with ingredients containing less fat, egg whites instead of egg yolks, less sugar, or imitation sweetners, it is possible to prepare chocolate desserts that are still stunning to behold, great to taste, and that make an applause-garnering end to any formal or informal meal.

Restaurateurs, Chefs, Meeting Planners, Suppliers...Let's keep the "C" in dessert...it's been there for centuries!




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