Did Peter Paul Rubens use chocolate as medicine?
Who doesn't like chocolate? Flanders is world famous when it comes to chocolate. Our country produces more than 730,000 tons of this deliciousness every year.
Today, chocolate is pure enjoyment. Back in the 17th century, however, chocolate was available from the pharmacy as a strengthening medicine. This is due to the origin of cacao, which the Aztecs considered to be nourishing and sensually stimulating. And they weren't far off with their theory. Scientists recently discovered that certain parts of our brain become active when we eat chocolate. Magnesium and other stimulating substances in chocolate have a positive effect on our mood.
Chocolate used as a medicine is very much in vogue with the food trends of the 17th century, a time during which people became much more aware of healthy eating. In 1627, Ludovicus Nonnius, a doctor and friend of Peter Paul Rubens, wrote 'Diaeteticon', one of the very first diet books. This book can still be found in the libraries of Rubenianum, Plantin-Moretus and the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library. Whether Rubens took advice from his friend is unclear. What we do know, is that Rubens suffered from gout towards the end of his life and as a result was very aware about what he ate so that he did not worsen his condition.
Enough about the past. Belgians eat an average of 6 kg 6 kg (13 lbs) of chocolate per year. Flanders is the ultimate place to go to experience the superior quality of this divine treat.
Find out where you can buy the most tasty Belgian chocolate or experience interesting workshops, tasting sessions and events.
It has also been scientifically proven that women are slightly more sensitive to the positive effect of chocolate. No wonder that Flanders has an increasing number of female chocolatiers. Visit the Ghent chocolatier Hilde Devolder. Buy delicious creations by Julie Vanborn in De Zwarte Vos in Deinze. Or, if you fancy getting more hands-on, take part in one of Carolien Krijnen's chocolate workshops in Antwerp.