Copyright © 1998 The Seattle Times Company
Posted at 01:57 a.m. PST; Friday, March 13, 1998
Students hear, taste their history lessons
by Sherry Grindeland
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
"Chocolate: A World History" sounded good enough to eat.
Students at the Puget Sound Community School, a Bellevue-based
alternative educational program, bit on the unconventional class taught
by Eastsider Rob Scott.
"Itís a class Iíve thought about as Iíve studied chocolate," said Scott,
manager of Chocolat, a Bellevue Square candy store. "This first session
was an experiment."
It was a tasty experiment where sampling was encouraged.
On a recent afternoon, Meghan Williamson of Issaquah not only reported
back on a taste test of high-quality chocolates but also presented her
final report connecting world events with chocolate.
Do you know which royal European marriage included a dowry of chocolate,
and resulted in chocolate becoming popular in the French court? And
which ultimately meant the French would challenge the Spanish chocolate
monopoly by planting cacao trees in Martinque?
"Chocolate used to be something only the rich could afford," she said.
"When Anne married French King Louis XIII, she brought chocolate to the
That was in 1615, almost a century after Aztec ruler Montezuma offered
Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes a sample of an unsweetened chocolate
drink called xocoatl. Cortes took chocolate back to Spain, and
eventually Spanish settlers in Mexico were exporting cacao beans. High
taxes limited chocolate to the palates of the wealthy, which in the
17th-century meant the nobility.
Williamson and fellow student John-Michael Spangler of Issaquah traced
historical events through the dispersal of chocolate throughout Europe,
to the chocolate houses in London and to the common people in Austria.
Although studying history through chocolate sounds like a sweet
assignment, the development of chocolate does parallel the rise of the
middle class, Scott said, as well as other milestones in Western
For instance, the Industrial Revolution helped smooth the way for the
first chocolate factory, opened near Paris in 1824.
"A modern-history timeline of chocolate shows what was happening in the
world," Scott said. "M & Mís were developed for soldiers going to war
in the early 1940s. It was a chocolate that kept well and was portable."
The small school has no building and meets for tutorial sessions in
locations such as bookstores, libraries, nursing homes and
coffeehouses. Computers keep everyone connected.
Scott explained his idea of history through chocolate, and the recipe
for a five-session tutorial was finalized.
"I didnít want this to be a basket-weaving class," Scott said. "I wanted
the students to learn things."
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