By David Nelson
The rich scent of melted chocolate curls into your nostrils a good 50 feet from the entrance to "CHOCOLATE." The sweetest exhibit ever presented by San Diego's stately Natural History Museum covers all sides of the story, opening with an actual cacao tree that bears amazingly large seedpods, taking visitors through the history of this treasured food to contemporary chocolate production, and ending with a well-stocked shop of specialties from an international galaxy of chocolatiers. Along the way, learn how the Mayans originally harvested cacao beans to create a spicy, unsweetened beverage they drank and used in religious ceremonies.
"For me, the fun of the exhibit is seeing how recently chocolate has become widely disseminated," says Natural History Museum president and CEO Mick Hager. "The Spaniards didn't find gold when they conquered Mexico, but they found cacao seeds."
Hager finds wisdom in some weighty chocolate statistics: "The United States has the ninth highest standard of living in the world, and we consume 11.2 pounds of chocolate per person per year. If we want to raise our standard of living, we just need to eat more chocolate."
Indulge in style at the museum's two upcoming "Chocolate Sundays," February 24 and March 3. Top local artisan producers including Chuao Chocolatier, Eclipse Chocolate and David Bacco Chocolatier will offer samples from noon to 4 p.m. - or until the samples run out.
CHOCOLATE, the exhibit
Through March 10
San Diego Natural History Museum
1788 El Prado, Balboa Park