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Chocolate lovers might find something delectable at the library

By Gretchen Beilfuss Witt

Rowan Public Library

As part of the Adult Summer Reading program and ongoing Book Bites, Rowan Public Library will present an evening filled with that most delectable treat – chocolate. A little background might be in order.

Chocolate or Xocalatl began, not as the candy kiss we all know and love, but as a slightly bitter and highly spiced drink. Toltecs and Aztecs used the dried beans, cacahuatl, as currency as much as a thousand years before Spanish conquistadors encountered the native Mexicans.

“The Chocolate Bible” by Christian Teubner details the progress of chocolate from its equatorial origins to the courts of Europe and into the hands of the great chocolatiers. The cultivation of cacao trees and the methods of production in the processing of cocoa are explored as well.

“Bible” continues to the main event, the luscious looking recipes for chocolate indulgences — the famous Viennese Sacher Torte, mousse, candies and of course the original drink — Tejate, frothy and mixed with corn, annatto, mammee seeds, cacao blossoms and ivory nut. Chile peppers, cinnamon, ginger, white pepper, vanilla and other spices have also been used to flavor this unique beverage. The savory side of chocolate is also represented in mole and noodles.

Kay Frydenborg, in her book “Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets,” explores the many aspects of chocolate. She looks at the science involved in producing chocolate, the chemistry and the medicinal use of chocolate as well as the social and commercial history.

In her chapter titled “Dark Side of Chocolate,” Frydenborg maintains that until very recently and even still in some places, chocolate was produced by slave labor. The original Mesoamerican societies used their own servant classes for the production of cocoa; the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors continued the practice.

In the early 1900s, one of the leading chocolate makers of England, Cadbury, faced a serious scandal and trial. They were accused of turning a blind eye to what was, in essence, slavery in the making of cacao. The subsequent British push for reform inflamed relations between England and Portugal, which still allowed the harsh forced labor practices.

In 2001 a “Cocoa Protocol” was signed by all the big chocolate companies pledging to keep their cocoa production child labor free, but compliance has been difficult. Fair Trade Certified programs help ensure that commodities such as coffee and chocolate are produced safely, sustainably and efficiently and without child labor. The book finishes with a timeline of interesting tidbits in chocolate history — The US military has issued chocolate as standard rations since the 1940s at Milton Hershey’s suggestion. A solid chocolate bar for eating first appeared in 1847.

For a fascinating look at the great chocolate houses, “Chocolate Wars” by Deborah Cadbury should not be missed. It examines the early rivalries of Rowntree and Cadbury and their Quaker antecedents, as well as the histories of the big American chocolate companies Mars and Hershey.

For a more humorous look at our cultural obsession with chocolates, Steve Almond writes an enjoyable romp in “Candy Freak.” Last but not least, check out a copy of the novel “Chocolat” with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and of course, chocolate. As a finale, Rowan Public Library will show the film “Chocolat” and attendees will be invited to indulge in some chocolate creations on Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the South Rowan Regional Library.

Summer reading:  Reading hours may be tracked through Aug. 8. Prizes are awarded when children read 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 hours. Children who read 20 hours receive a special certificate and are entered in the 20-Hour Reader Raffle to be held Aug. 10.

Adults summer reading: “Escape the Ordinary.” Reading hours may be tracked through Aug. 8. Prizes include gift cards and two tablet computers. Prize winners will be announced at the end of summer celebration, Be Your Own Hero;, Monday, Aug. 10, 6:30 p.m., headquarters. Grand prize drawing held.

Assume your own alter ego and come dressed as your favorite character — literary or cinematic (book, stage or movie). Awards for best costume include most recognizable literary character, most original, best movie hero(ine), etc. Show us what you know at “trivia crack” game. Free refreshments and prizes at this end-of-summer bash.

Reads to Reels: August Book Bites Club. “Chocolat.” Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m., South Rowan Regional. Escape the ordinary with a delicious discussion of “Chocolat” by Joanne Harris. Copies of the book are available at all three library locations. Screening of the film adaptation of “Chocolat” (PG13), accompanied by a few treats sure to make your mouth water. Please call 704-216-7841 for more details.

Summer movie series: All movies start at 6:30 p.m. Headquarters. Aug. 4, “Indiana Jones: Last Crusade” (PG13); Aug. 11, “Captain America” (PG13). Movies are free and all ages are welcome. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.

Dr. Who Comics Day: Saturday, Aug. 15, 2-3 p.m., headquarters. Teens are invited to create Dr. Who related crafts. Free and open to middle and high school teens. Bring your sonic screw drivers and Red Fez Hats for an interactive viewing of “Dr. Who: Day of the Doctor,” at 3 p.m. Aug. 15. Open to all ages.

Friends concert series: BackPorch Bluegrass, headquarters, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7-9 p.m. The band is from Wilkes County and is known for traditional hard-driving bluegrass. Sample the music at http://backporchbluegrass.com/music. Admission is free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Sponsored by Friends of Rowan Public Library.

Computer classes: If you’re new to computers or never felt comfortable, Computer Basics is for you. The class will cover the very basics. Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7-8:30 p.m., headquarters.

Displays: Headquarters, Community Care Clinic; South, lunch boxes by Sharon Ross; East, lunch boxes by Sharon Ross.

Gallery at headquarters: Photographic prints and tintypes by David Lamanno.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

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