The True History of Chocolate -- 3d Edition, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, Thames & Hudson '13, $22.95, 280 pages, ASIN #0500290687. Index, bibliography, notes, two groupings of color glossy images, other b&w images sprinkled through text.
"When we modern Westerners think of chocolate," write authors Sophie and Michael Coe in their Introduction, "we think of it in its solid, sweetened form, and this is reflected in the under emphasis which much food writing gives to solid chocolate. Yet during nine-tenths of its long history, chocolate was drunk, not eaten."
So begins the authors' survey of one of mankind's greatest pleasures, in which their Chapter One examines "its economic botany and chocolate's chemistry and properties." Chapter Two discusses the origin of processed chocolate among village farmers. Chapter Three digs into evidence on the use of cacao as both drink and coinage. Chapters Four and Five show how the "transformed, renamed, and taste-altered drink" was brought to Europe. Chapter Five involves the Catholic Jesuits and examines dating Italian experiments with the substance. Chapter Six tells of the producers who were responsible for the cacao and chocolate that reached the palaces, noble courts, and chocolate houses of Europe. Chapter Seven examines how coffee and tea replaced drunk chocolate. Chapter Eight deals with the industrialization of chocolate. Chapter Nine considers the "sometime worrying ethical concerns of the chocolate industry."
About the authors: Sophie D. Coe is an anthropologist and food historian. Michael D. Coe is professor emeritus of anthropology at Yale University.
The Venetians -- A New History: From Marco Polo to Casanova by Paul Strathern, Pegasus Books '13, $27.95, 354 pages, ASIN #1605984892. Index, bibliography, footnotes, grouping of color glossy images. b&w images of maps.
"The Republic of Venice," writes author Paul Strathern, "was the first great economic, cultural, and naval power of the modern Western world. After winning the struggle for ascendency in the late 13th century, the Republic enjoyed centuries of unprecedented glory and built a trading empire which at its apogee reached as far afield as China, Syria, and West Africa. This golden period only drew to an end with the Republic's eventual surrender to Napoleon."
From the dust jacket:
"The Venetians illuminates the character of the Republic during these illustrious years by shining a light on some of the most celebrated personalities of European history -- Petrarch, Marco Polo, Galileo, Titian, Vivaldi, Casanova. Frequently, though, these emblems of the city found themselves at odds with the Venetian authorities, who prized stability above all else, and were notoriously suspicious of any 'cult of personality.' Was this very tension perhaps the engine for the Republic's unprecedented rise?
"Rich with biographies of some of the most exalted characters who have ever lived, The Venetians is a refreshing and authoritative new look at the history of the most evocative of city states."
Author Paul Strathern is a Somerset Maugham Prize-winning novelist, who has also written numerous nonfiction works. He lives in England.