Chocolate Topped MOHAI

Chocolate goes with a lot of things: coffee, raspberries, and naked performance artists, but the Museum of History and Industry seemed like a bit of a stretch. Yet that sexy aphrodisiac is on display there, and of course when you get right down to it chocolate is an industry and has a history, so the exhibit at MOHAI,  once you get your mind around it, like chocolate with oranges, makes yet another perfect combination.

The exhibit which is on tour from Chicago’s Field Museum is as rich and a varied as its subject, taking you from deep in the Amazon rain forest where the cacao tree grew undiscovered for centuries with only birds sipping its fruit’s nectar and dropping the fruit’s bitter seeds, where chocolate comes from, on the fertile rain forest soil to its discovery by ancient civilizations where it was made into a spicy drink and revered.

Then Spaniards conquering South America found it, not quite gold but close enough; it was also used as currency by native people. Its history takes an especially brutal turn when sugar and cocoa are married by Europeans. One simple display says it all: an elegant teaspoon spilling its holding of sugar – the value of a day‘s work for a slave.

When you come to the modern age, there’s a reminder that all is still not well in the world of commercial chocolate but the rise of artisan chocolates is helping to change that with fair trade and sustainable farming practices. And chocolate is another good reason to save our global rainforests, cocao’s natural home.

The exhibition, which runs through September 28, is all ages friendly with a lot interactive elements for kids, and MOHAI is offering additional toppings to go with it including a double-chocolate feature outdoor movie night August 23 of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Chocolat.

“But there’s something missing,” I said to my husband as we left the exhibit. “Yes,” he said, “samples.”

So for a quick fix, visit MOHAI’s gift shop, which offers a nice selection of local chocolates. Or make a plan to head over to your favorite chocolatier and savor the food first offered only to kings and gods.