cover image Chocolate: An Illustrated History

Chocolate: An Illustrated History

Frederic Morton, Marcia Morton. Random House Value Publishing, $5.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-55765-5

What was once lauded by physicians as nutritious, imbibed but not eaten, and seasoned with pepper? In a detailed, lighthearted history, sans recipes, the Mortons (his books include The Forever Street, hers The Art of Viennese Cooking celebrate chocolate from Cortes's encounter with the treat at Montezuma's table in 1519 to the 1985 First International Chocolate Festival in Jerusalem. Abundant color and black-and-white illustrationswhich portray a turquoise mosaic mask of Quetzalcoatl, the god worshiped by the Aztecs as the giver of chocolate to the world, and The Cup of Chocolate, an 18th century painting by Nicolas Lancret, as well as the expected vat of chocolate, Sacher torte and candy boxesare more illuminating than the careless, rambling text (""Over in ancien regime France chocolate tripped along with the Bourbon kings''). Many absorbing nuggets are served up here but so is a lot of trivia: even confirmed chocoholics won't give two bonbons that cocoa trees grow as tall as 50 feet, cocoa blossoms are odorless and there are 20 to 40 cocoa beans in a pod. (May 23)