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The evolution of chocolate sped up considerably at the onset of the 20th century with huge advances in the creation of chocolate bars and bonbons. This first “global warming” to the chocolate revolution involved several countries.

Spain, the leader in chocolate consumption since it was introduced there compliments of the Spanish explorers, was outdistanced (per capita) by the Germans, Americans, French and British, in that order. In the following decade, the Swiss joined the list of world class chocolate consumers, finally getting around to appreciating the confection some of their compatriots successfully produced and devoured.

The SWISS hit the ground running, as they began winning gold medals at every international chocolate exposition. Alas, “chocolate” became synonymous with Switzerland. In the famous 1908 operetta by Viennese composer Oscar Straus, the hero (a Swiss mercenary) is called “The Chocolate Soldier.”

If Switzerland meant theatre, SPAIN meant dance. In the 1880’s, the historic choreographer Marius Petipa designed *The Nutcracker ballet, with Tchaikovsky from Russia setting it to music. The scenario personified various Christmas-time goodies through the movement and elaborate costumes of the talented dancers.

In ENGLAND, Cadbury paired chocolate with the visual arts. Richard Cadbury, the son of one of the founders, was a talented amateur painter. He inaugurated a series of beautiful boxes for Cadbury’s new fancy chocolate assortments. Many of the first boxes designed exclusively for this use bore Richard Cadbury’s own paintings. Several of them bore the likenesses of his own children enjoying Cadbury chocolates.

Through the 1890’s and into the new century, chocolate containers grew more opulent, some being lined with silk and satin. Women’s gloves, jewelry and handkerchiefs were carefully stored in these keepsake boxes after the chocolates had long disappeared. Some very collectible art nouveaux chocolate boxes of the 1900’s had lids adorned with hand-painted works of art on silk panels, framed in rare woods.

Sadly, inexpensive chocolate “trays” were soon introduced, ending the once colorful era of the lavish cultured chocolate containers. To locate one of these original works of art today would be extraordinarily rare, as nearly all have disappeared into the folds of Father Time’s cloak. Today’s best substitutes, the rather tacky Valentine heart boxes and Christmas packaging, mock the vibrant past.

ONGOING HOLIDAY TRADITION

*The Nutcracker has been an annual Christmas season New York City Ballet Company extravaganza since 1980, when the greatest choreographer of that time, George Balanchine, added his golden touches to it. Imagine Balanchine, with his thick Russian accent, telling a New York Times reporter at the time of the first opening, “Petipa made [the] chocolate Spanish dance, because [the] Spanish came and found chocolate!”

This  Month’s Heavenly Selection from Your Favorite Chocolate of the Month Club: 

“FRUITY CREAMS”  Outer pieces are MILK CHOCOLATE WITH A PEAR MIDDLE & DARK CHOCOLATE WITH A  BANANA CREAM MIDDLE Center pieces are WHITE CHOCOLATE, COVERED PEANUT BUTTER BARS

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Tracie Burket
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