A chocoholic's dream at the Field Museum
Friday, October 28, 2011
I'm no chocoholic, but the Field Museum's Chocolate Around the World exhibit is inspiring.
As in, it inspired me to go straight home after my visit and make a huge mug of hot chocolate.
Back at the museum for the first time since 2002, Chocolate Around the World is engaging from the start, even for children. Before entering the exhibit, visitors are handed a free sample of a chocolate bar. That small taste of Toblerone definitely piqued my interest in the history of chocolate, something I barely thought about before.
The exhibit starts with a visit to the tropical rainforests of Central America, teaching visitors about the cacao tree and the seeds it bears. Visitors learn how the ancient Mayans and Aztecs used the seeds to create a spicy drink, a specialty for kings and a food of the gods.
Visitors are taken across the Atlantic to Europe with Spanish conquerors, where sugar became an important addition to chocolate drinks. Each stage of chocolate history is sprinkled with different chocolatey artifacts and interactive pieces that are fun no matter your age. From ancient clay vases decorated with images of cacao seeds to modern day chocolate bar wrappers from all over the world, the exhibit illustrates just how widespread, and widely loved, chocolate is as a global treat.
But Chocolate Around the World, which will remain at the museum until Jan. 8, has just as much substance as it does sugar.
Along with a detailed history lesson on how the cacao seed became such a cavity causer is the story of how mass consumption has affected industry and the environment.
Of course, Chocolate Around the World ends on a sweet note. There is a place to rest on chocolate-shaped stools while watching "chocoholic confessions" and a kiosk allowing visitors to log their own chocolate stories and memories.
The last leg of the exhibit also features demonstrations on selected dates by local artists and pastry chefs.