World's largest chocolate sculpture pays tribute to Mayan civilization
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World's largest chocolate sculpture pays tribute to Mayan civilization

Irvine : CA : USA | May 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM PDT
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Mayan priests participate in a vigil in 2010 in celebration of the end of the Mayan calendar

Discussions of the Mayan Calendar just got a little more interesting. Whether you believe the reports that the world is coming to an end in December or not, one thing that will be coming to an end is the gigantic chocolate replica of a Mayan Temple.

The record for the world's largest chocolate sculpture was broken this week in Irvine, Calif.

Measuring 0.6 m (1 ft 11 in) in height, and 3.7 m by 3.7 m (12 ft by 12ft) at its base, the chocolate sculpture by Qzina Specialty Foods depicts the Kukulkan pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico.

The sculpture weighs 8,273.3 kg (18,239.5 lb), breaking the previous record 4,870 kg (10,736.5 lb).

Created by corporate chef Francois Mellet (France, USA), the chocolate pyramid was set up at the the Qzina Institute of Chocolate & Pastry.

Qzina plans to destroy the sculpture on Dec. 21, 2012, when the Mayan calendar comes to an end.

Origins of chocolate

The Mayans were not the first to discover the cacao plant. An ancient tribe called the Olmecs (1200 to 300 BCE) from the tropical lowlands of South Central Mexico were the first to domesticate the plant and use the beans. They had a name for these bitter seeds that held secrets to health and power: kakawa, or cacao. According to recent archaeologists’ findings, the beans were an integral part of this ancient civilization’s diet and culture from as early as 600 BCE.

The Mayans are considered the most culturally advanced among the Mesoamerican civilizations. During the Mayan Classic Age (300-900 A.D.), they had cities with majestic pyramid-temples and palaces, a calendar calculated to end in the 21st century, and a complex written language that filled thousands of books. They also were the first true chocolate aficionados, treasuring cacao as a restorative, mood-enhancing cure-all. It became an integral part of their society, used in ceremonies, given as gifts and incorporated into their mythologies.

Chocolate was so precious that it was used in offerings and found in burial tombs. Pictures of the plant appear on ancient pottery showing Mayan gods scuffling with kings over the beans.

Chocolate plays a part in Mayan religion. The Mayan’s sacred book, Popul Vuh, contains their story of the creation, and instead of an apple tree, there’s a cacao tree. In this myth, immortal ball-playing twins are beheaded by the gods of death. One has his head hung on a cacao tree. The magical head manages to mate with a woman who becomes the mother of twin gods. These two defeat the gods of death and then end up in the sky as the sun and the moon.

The Mayans used cacao beans ground up into a paste as a spice. Today it is used similarly in the popular Mexican dish called mole which is meat seasoned with chilies, chocolate and spices. It was also mixed with milk to make warm drinks. Sometimes the beans were mixed with corn to make porridge. Today, we know these were very healthy dishes high in nutrients.

Guinness Books did not say what Chef Mellet would do with the chocolate structure once it is demolished, nor does the Chef give his recipe for the chocolate used. Modern uses of chocolate do not come close to the many ways the Aztec civilizations used the beans, but they would be honored to see their discovery commemorated in a sculpture meticulously created of a sacred temple.

Resources

http://www.allchocolate.com/understanding/history/pre_columbian.aspx

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2012/5/worlds-largest-chocolate-sculpture-erected-in-california-41753/

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World's largest chocolate structure is Mayan Temple.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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