Megan Giller is a longtime friend of ours and one of the most prolific journalists and authors in the field of chocolate. She’s also a feminist, a food historian, and our guest blogger for this post. Note that the video mentioned below is not suitable for children.
When I was working on my book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution, one of my favorite sections to write was “Chocolate Is for Everybody,” about craft chocolate being made by all sorts of minorities, including women. (After all, my business card says, “food writer, feminist, chocolate eater.”)
I’ve always wanted to write more about women and food, and when I asked Professor Kathryn Sampeck if she knew of some good stories, boy, did she deliver. She sent me two scholarly articles, “Chocolate, Sex, and Disorderly Women in Late-Seventeenth and Early-Eighteenth-Century Guatemala,” by Martha Few, and “Potions and Perils: Love-Magic in Seventeenth-Century Afro-Mexico and Afro-Yucatan,” by Joan Bristol and Matthew Restall.
These dense, academic papers contain a treasure trove of illicit activity. Long story short: In the 1600s and 1700s in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, thousands of women were accused of bewitching their lovers, enemies, and frenemies with magic hot chocolate. At that time, chocolate was a pretty gritty drink, and you could hide all sorts of ingredients in it. Fears of women spiking hot chocolate stemmed from anxiety about their changing roles in society, and women who challenged the status quo were persecuted — just as they were in every age, and all around the world.
One of the stories is so powerful that it inspired me to start a new project, a digital TV show called What Women Ate. The first episode is about one of the so-called witches, named Cecilia, who was accused of bewitching her husband with hot chocolate and making him impotent (sure, sounds likely). Before I write any more spoilers, here is the full episode for you to watch, just in time for Halloween. If you like what you see, subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow @whatwomenate on Instagram!