20 Things You Never Knew About Chocolate

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iStock

Happy National Chocolate Day! In celebration of this most delicious holiday, let’s brush up on our chocolate knowledge.

1. THERE ARE MULTIPLE CELEBRATIONS OF CHOCOLATE EACH YEAR.

Holiday makers are constantly on the hunt for a reason to munch on chocolate, so the calendar offers plenty of excuses to buy a bar. July 7 is also Chocolate Day, a nod to the historical tradition that the day marks when chocolate was first brought to Europe on July 7, 1550, though a number of sources argue that it might have hit the continent’s shores as far back as 1504, thanks to Christopher Columbus. Official day or not, we do know that chocolate first arrived in Europe some time in the 16th century. There's also National Milk Chocolate Day on July 28, International Chocolate Day on September 13, and, of course, National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day on November 7.

2. CHOCOLATE IS ACTUALLY A VEGETABLE—KIND OF.

Milk and dark chocolate come from the cacao bean, which grows on the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), an evergreen from the family Malvaceae (other members of the family include okra and cotton). This makes the most important part of the sweet treat a vegetable.

3. WHITE CHOCOLATE IS NOT CHOCOLATE.

Because it doesn't contain cocoa solids or chocolate liquor, white chocolate isn't chocolate in the strict sense. But it does contain parts of the cacao bean—mainly cocoa butter.

4. THE CACAO BEAN IS NATIVE TO MEXICO AND BOTH CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA.

It’s believed that inhabitants of these areas first started cultivating the bean as far back as 1250 BCE, and perhaps even earlier.

5. HOT CHOCOLATE WAS THE FIRST CHOCOLATE TREAT.

Cacao was brewed in both Mexican and Aztec culture, though the result was nothing like today’s hot chocolate—it was a typically bitter concoction that was often used for ceremonial occasions like weddings.

6. MARIE ANTOINETTE LOVED HOT CHOCOLATE (THE MODERN KIND).

Marie didn’t just love cake, she also loved chocolate, and hot chocolate was frequently served at the Palace of Versailles. It wasn’t just the taste everyone loved—it was also believed that the drink was an aphrodisiac.

7. CACAO WAS ONCE USED AS CURRENCY.

The Aztecs loved and valued the cacao bean so highly that they used it as currency during the height of their civilization.

8. SPANISH FRIARS HELPED SPREAD THE LOVE.

After cacao and chocolate were introduced to Europe, traveling Spanish friars took it to various monasteries, handily spreading it around the continent.

9. A PAIR OF BRITISH CONFECTIONERS INVENTED SOLID CHOCOLATE.

The Fry and Sons shop concocted what they called “eating chocolate” in 1847 by combining cocoa butter, sugar, and chocolate liquor. This was a grainy, solid form of the treat.

10. COCOA AND CACAO ARE THE SAME THING.

The words are interchangeable! It’s all one bean.

11. NAPOLEON LOVED CHOCOLATE.

The French leader demanded that wine and chocolate be made available to him and his senior advisers even during intense military campaigns.

12. BAKER'S CHOCOLATE ISN’T JUST FOR BAKING.

Dr. James Baker and John Hannon founded their chocolate company—later called Walter Baker Chocolate—in 1765. That’s where the term “Baker's Chocolate” comes from, not to denote chocolate that’s just meant for cooking.

13. MILTON HERSHEY REALLY WAS A CANDY KING.

The Pennsylvania native may be best known for starting The Hershey Chocolate Company in good old Hershey, PA, but he got his start in candy long before hooking up with chocolate. He founded his first company, The Lancaster Caramel Company, when he was 30 years old.

14. MILK CHOCOLATE WAS INVENTED IN SWITZERLAND.

Daniel Peter created the tasty treat in 1875—after eight years of trying to make his recipe work. Condensed milk ended up being the key ingredient.

15. MAKING CHOCOLATE IS HARD WORK.

Despite its regal background and revered status, the cacao bean doesn’t just magically turn into chocolate—it takes about 400 beans to make a single pound of the good stuff.

16. THE FIRST CHOCOLATE BAR WAS MADE IN ENGLAND.

Way back in 1842, the Cadbury company made the very first chocolate bar. The company is still in existence, and is perhaps most famous for their delightful Easter-themed treats.

17. MOST CACAO IS NOW GROWN IN AFRICA.

Despite its Amazonian roots, most cacao—nearly 70 percent of the world’s supply—comes from Africa. The Ivory Coast is the largest single producer, providing about 30 percent of all the world’s cacao.

18. CACAO TREES CAN LIVE TO BE 200 YEARS OLD.

That may sound impressive, but the tropical beauties only make viable cacao beans for just 25 years of their lifespan.

19. THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF CACAO.

Most modern chocolate comes from forastero beans, which are considered easy to grow—though the crillo bean is believed to make much tastier chocolate.

20. CHOCOLATE HAS A SPECIAL MELTING POINT.

Chocolate is the only edible substance to melt around 93° F, just below the human body temperature. That’s why chocolate melts so easily on your tongue.

Keep Your Kitchen Clean With This Spoon Rest That Clips Straight Onto Your Pot

Amazon
Amazon

No matter how clean you keep things between meals, your organized, tidy kitchen can easily turn to chaos when it's time to start cooking. You can take steps to mitigate this, like setting up a mise en place and cleaning as you go, but some messy kitchen habits are hard to avoid. One of them is resting a dirty spoon on the counter while making stews, sauces, or anything else that requires lots of tasting and stirring as it cooks on the stove. If wiping off your spoon after each dip is an unrealistic goal, there's another way to stay neat.

The Trudeau flex pot clip, currently available on Amazon, is a spoon rest that keeps utensils raised off clean surfaces. It's made from tough stainless steel and silicone that stays cool to the touch even when attached to a pot of boiling water. The opening is big enough to hold bulky cooking tools like wooden spoons, tongs, and pasta forks. There's also a small divot for securing smaller items, like regular silverware.

Spoon in a spoon rest attached to pot.
Amazon

Strong enough to withstand temperatures of up to 482°F, the pot clip is a great tool for stovetop cooking. But even if you're not cooking with fire, the accessory can help you maintain a clean kitchen. Clip it to the side of your bowl before mixing cookie dough, or use it as a spot to hold the ladle for your punch bowl. And when you're no longer using it, you can toss it in the dishwasher for easy clean-up.

You can purchase a Trudeau flex pot clip for $8 on Amazon. If you're looking for more tools to round out your kitchen inventory, here are some affordable basics to consider.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

10 Frank Facts About Hot Dogs

StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images
StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images

Americans love a good hot dog—so much so that, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, we consume about 20 billion of them a year, which works out to about 70 hot dogs per person. In celebration of National Hot Dog Month (July) and National Hot Dog Day (July 17), here are some facts about franks to enjoy during your own summer barbecues.

1. Hot dogs have a surprisingly contentious origin.

Sausages have a history that stretches back to at least the time of Homer’s Odyssey, but the origin of the hot dog is just as tricky to pin down. There are multiple claimants to the invention of the hot dog, each with a slightly different innovation. Was the hot dog invented by the first person to shorten the name of German dachshund sausages to “hot dogs,” or the first person to put a sausage in a bread roll, or the first person to create a dedicated bun for holding a sausage? All of these creators have laid claim to the title of Hot Dog Inventor, but none have been conclusively verified.

2. Hot dogs might be sandwiches.

Hot dogs are tricky to define in another way as well, and both the general public and official organizations seem to have very strong opinions on whether hot dogs fall into the category of sandwiches or not. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says hot dogs are their own entities, but Merriam-Webster supports calling a hot dog a sandwich, based on the fact that it is just a piece of split bread with a filling.

3. Los Angelenos consume the most hot dogs per year.


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While you might expect Midwestern grill-masters to buy up the most hot dogs, the actual top consumers are Los Angelenos, who purchase 34 million pounds of franks a year. And Californians also top the per capita rankings: as of 2010, San Francisco consumed the most hot dogs per person per year.

4. Regional hot dog styles add a serious punch to the basic dog.

Chicago is famous for dogs with onion, relish, pepper, pickle, tomato, mustard, and celery salt, but Coney Island-style hot dogs with chili, cheese, mustard, and onions are popular in their eponymous region and in Michigan. The South prefers slaw and chili on its hot dogs, while wrapping them in bacon and deep frying are popular in other regions.

5. Japan has invented some colorful hot dogs.

The Japanese also love their original hot dog varieties, and black hot dogs took over the Tokyo market in 2013. The bun and sausage are dyed with black charcoal ash, which apparently makes no difference to the flavor.

6. Hot dogs and baseball have a long history.

Sausages have been served at baseball games since at least the 1890s. One story says that they were first served at the ballpark by the German who owned the St. Louis Browns, while another story claims an ice cream vendor decided to switch his product on a particularly cold day at the ballpark. Either way, they're still going strong after more than 120 years.

7. Hot dogs are the headliners at America's most famous eating competition.


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While legend has it that the first hot dog eating contest was held in 1916 to settle a casual bet—over who was the most patriotic, no less—the first recorded contest was in 1972. In that event, the winner ate 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. In 2018, competitive eating legend—and now 12-time Nathan's champion Joey Chestnut—set a new event record, polishing off 74 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes.

8. Hot dogs have been fed to royalty.

In 1939, the King and Queen of Great Britain visited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York. In true American spirit, the First Lady made sure to serve hot dogs during a picnic at their Hudson River property. Apparently, King George VI enjoyed them so much that he asked for seconds.

9. Hot dogs made Clara Bow famous.

To drum up business, the newly minted Nathan’s Famous hot dog restaurant at Coney Island hired a pretty redhead to serve its customers. Soon after, she was discovered by a vacationing talent scout, and became internationally famous as the silent film era's "It Girl," Clara Bow.

10. There is official hot dog etiquette.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council put out this video on the correct way to eat a hot dog. The whole video is worth a watch, but some highlights include: no ketchup if you're over the age of 18, no wine pairings, no utensils, and it should only take five bites to consume the entire hot dog (though you can take seven bites for a footlong). It might not be proper Emily Post material, but how can you argue with the "Queen of Wien"?

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