A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on November 8, 2021 No comments

What is the essence of the book?

Chocolate may be deliciously decadent but it turns out that it also has a sinister side which is explored in renowned food historian Emma Kay’s latest book, A Dark History of Chocolate. From the outset the reader is embroiled in the murky past of this popular treat. There are pirates, witches, murder and exploitation. But among the more sensational events the book also examines how the chocolate industry influenced Europe’s social and cultural trends over the centuries. Be warned – I defy anyone to look at a bar of chocolate in the same way again after reading this riveting book.

About the author

If you enjoy books on food history you may well be familiar with Emma Kay’s work already. She is a prolific writer (you’ll find reviews of several of her books on this blog) and has contributed to a number of television and radio programmes. She also owns an impressive collection of antique and vintage kitchenalia. You can discover more about Kay’s work on her website.

Who will like it?

A Dark History of Chocolate is the perfect book for a fans of food and history, particularly if you have a penchant for reading about the more gruesome aspects of life. If you happen to adore all things chocolate there are plenty of appetising recipes for you to try out too.

Actually, I don’t think you need to be a chocaholic to enjoy this book (in truth, my own attitude to chocolate could be described as ambivalent, and I love this book).

Who won’t like it?

Don’t like chocolate? You are not alone but I wouldn’t dismiss this book on the basis that you hate the brown stuff particularly if you love history. On the other hand, if you are in the least bit squeamish and would prefer not to have your future chocolate consumption tainted by its unsavoury past you may want to pass on reading A Dark History of Chocolate.

(A word to the wise – don’t accept a cup of hot chocolate from any disgruntled lovers. It appears chocolate drinks have been used throughout history as vehicles for poison).

What do I like about the book?

It is evident that Kay has meticulously researched the subject at hand. A Dark History of Chocolate is detailed without being cumbersome to read. In short, the information has been condensed into a most digestible format. This means you can dip in and out of the text at will although once you start reading the book you’ll find it incredibly moreish. So, while I may not be a huge fan of chocolate myself, I still found this a compelling and fascinating read.

Would I cook from it?

Despite what I have said about my own opinions on chocolate there are still plenty of recipes to tempt me into the kitchen. These range from Mint Chocolate Truffles to Curried Lamb Stew with Bitter Chocolate. Although there are no food porn images I still believe a chocolate loving cook would get great joy out of making these recipes.

Where can you buy it?

A Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay (Pen & Sword Books, £15.99) 

Sam BiltonA Dark History of Chocolate by Emma Kay (Book Review)

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