A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay

A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay* is the second book in the series A Dark History. The book had a lot of trivia-like snippets, which were interesting. It covers a lot of subjects, from piracy to slavery, including a few things on modern-day slavery, as I was expecting. While I knew some of the things she talked about, I feel that I learned a few more after finishing the book. For example, a Berlin-based company decided for their marketing campaign in 1926 to drop “bombs” of chocolate from aeroplanes, which proved to be unpleasant for the people who were hit with these. Marie-Antoinette makes an appearance in the book and, unsurprisingly, she is innocent of what she was accused of.

As for modern slavery, I didn’t know about the case she mentions, of Teun van de Keuken, a Dutch journalist who went to the police station, ate chocolate, and asked to be arrested for driving child slavery. His case was dismissed, but he didn’t stop. He started Tony’s Chocolonely​, a 100% slave-labour free chocolate. Today it has an important market share in the Netherlands and it is stocked at UK supermarkets too (Tony’s, in the old-fashioned wrappers, you can’t miss it).

There are many more subjects touched upon in the book, such as cocoa bean trade, medicine, art, public view of chocolate/coffee houses.

A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay

I was very excited to read the book, as the first one in the series, on Tea, was fascinating. Furthermore, I read a book by Kay before, on baking, which was great.

The reason I gave the book only 3 stars is because she included a lot of recipes, some directly related to what was talked about, but some just remotely connected. Either way, the flow of reading was disturbed and impeded in my enjoyment of the book. A much better way was to limit the number of recipes or make a separate chapter at the end of the book, for those who might like to read and/or try some of the recipes.

A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay

Details about the picture: had to include chocolate, both hot chocolate and chocolate bars (both vegan, of course)
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Pen & Sword History
Year it was published: 2021
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Broad history
Pages: 224

About the author: Emma is a post-graduate historian and former senior museum worker. As a food historian she published articles in publications such as BBC History Magazine and Times Literary Supplement. Furthermore, she has contributed to a number of television production companies and featured several times on radio shows, Talk Radio Europe, BBC, and LifeFM.
Emma appeared in several TV shows, like The Best Christmas Food Ever and on BBC Countryfile. In 2020 Emma presented a feature on Roman food and cooking for new Channel 5 series Walking Britain’s Roman Roads.
She delivered talks and food demos at different book festivals.
Other books authored by Emma: Dining with the Georgians; Dining with the Victorians; Cooking up History: Chefs of the Past; Vintage Kitchenalia; More than a Sauce: A Culinary History of Worcestershire; Stinking Bishops and Spotty Pigs: A History of Gloucestershire’s Food and Drink.
Website & Social Media Links: Pen and Sword

*I was sent a copy of A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

4 thoughts on “A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay”

  • As one who loves dark chocolate, I enjoyed the play on the title. I like having recipes in a book (I read several mystery series that include them), but normally they’re all in a section at the back of the book. They would be distracting (and harder to reference) spread throughout the book.

    I already have the tea book on my wishlist and may have to add this one, as well.
    Kelly recently posted…Musical Interlude #51My Profile

    • The title fits nicely with the subject, isn’t it? 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy the books, if you’ll get them. xx

  • It would really annoy me if the narrative was continually interrupted with recipes. As you say, much better to have a recipe section at the end of the book and keep them all in one place…… Thanks for mentioning Tony’s Chocolonely​, as I knew nothing about this, so I spent an informative few minutes on their website…… We are definitely trying to reduce the amount of unnecessary food we eat, from both a health and cost perspective, although I guess there are two sides to every story, as if we as a population, all cut back on consuming products, the supply chain from some of the developing regions wouldn’t be needed, causing even more misery and poverty for the people…… I would like to think that if we ate more responsibly and paid the correct price for the products, then those at the start of the food chain would be remunerated accordingly – but somehow I am still to be convinced by that argument! 🙂
    Yvonne (@Fiction_Books) recently posted…Second ChanceAgainst The Third Reichby Kent HinckleyReviewMy Profile

    • I think we should all cut on consumption, by a small amount, but pay the same for what we buy. If only a fraction of those money end up in the pockets of the workers it would make their lives so much better. People in Africa are living on a few dollars/per, so even a few pence on an item can make a big difference.

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