By Marge Knoth, Author, Activity Professional
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Author, Activity Professional
Valley Press Books

Marge Knoth attended Purdue
University and took her activity
director training at Indiana
University and her social
service at Ball State.  She is
the author of ten books for
activity professionals. Her
books have been used as
teaching guides in colleges,
trade schools, and in activity
director courses throughout the
U.S. and Canada. They have
won both national and state
awards from the National
Federation of Press Women
and Women’s Press Club of

Marge has written a monthly
column, "A Letter from Marge"
for Current Activities in Long
Term Care.  She has been
published in Family Circle,
Lady’s Circle, Women’s Circle,
Indianapolis Woman, Christian
Science Monitor, Event,
various Christian and craft
publications, and other
magazines and newspapers.
She wrote a weekly newspaper
column called “Do You
Remember?”, and wrote and
recorded a long-running series
of nostalgic radio
commercials.  Also, she is a
motivational speaker having
traveled the United States and
Canada speaking at many state
and province activity
To Order Books by Marge Knoth
The Mysterious, Magical Pull of Chocolate
by Marge Knoth

Remember those long-ago Sunday afternoons wiled away by whipping up a big batch
of chocolate fudge?  Remember how you saliva glands worked overtime as the sweet
aroma permeated the air?  Remember waiting, rather impatiently, for the soft-ball stage
so you could beat the luscious creation and then pour it into the pan?  Then remember
how, finally, while the fudge was setting up, you licked clean the big stirring spoon?  Ah-
h-h-h, the sweet flavor of chocolate melting on the tongue!

If you are like most activity directors, chocolate probably plays a part in your activity
program.  That is well and good.  It was a sweet part of your residents’ lives, too, so they
might as well enjoy it in these latter years.  You can help them.  

Let’s first take an enlightening stroll back through the centuries and unlock some of the
mysteries behind this potent, lusted-after confection.  Then we’ll explore some ideas for
activities centered around the rich delicacy.  

The cocoa bean tree is nothing new.  As far back as records exist, Latin American
Indians were enjoying a cold, thick, drink derived from the cacahuaquahitl, or cocoa
tree.  The Spanish called the beans cacao coming from the Aztec word cacahuatl.  They
called the final elixir chocolate with its root word coming from the Mayan/Aztec xocoatl.  
The drink was unsweetened and served at special ceremonies.

Columbus tasted the chocolate drink, very unlike the chocolate we know today, on his
fourth trip to America while exploring various islands.  Finding it distasteful, he did not
take any cocoa beans back to Spain with the other treasures from the New World.

Hernan Cortez, on the other hand, when he arrived in Latin America, loved the chocolate
sumptuous drink served to him upon his arrival by the Emperor, Montezuma.  
Montezuma generously presented Cortez with a cocoa plantation among other gifts,
and in 1528, Cortez took the first beans back to Spain.  There he introduced the drink to
Charles V who improved on it by adding expensive cane sugar which was imported
from the Orient.  Others added honey, orange, vanilla, almonds, pistachios, and
spices.  The most used spices were cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and aniseed.  
The chocolate, served very cold, was swizzled with a special wooden-carved utensil.  It
was so thick that it could hold up a spoon.  Later someone tried heating it, and this
caught on.  In 1765, an Englishman, who didn’t appreciate the spicy brew, hit upon the
idea of adding milk to the chocolate.

At first, only royalty and the rich were privy to chocolate  since it had to be expensively
transported across the ocean from Mexico or Latin America.  Non-royalty lustfully
desired it but were unable to afford it.  Probably because of its magnetic attraction,
chocolate was temporarily forbidden by the Church.  You know, “anything that good
must be sinful”.  In the late 1700s, nuns and monks in Spanish monasteries and
convents found that chocolate helped them endure long fasts.  They became quite good
at making the dark confection.  Songs and books were written about it as far back as

The Spanish tried to hide the wonderful new import, but while traveling in Spain, Antonio
Carletti had the privilege of sampling it.  He quickly introduced it to his native Italy where
another national love affair with chocolate began.  Soon the French and English were
sipping the precious drink.  Chocolate houses sprang up in London, and then all over

In the colonies, chocolate was first sold only to apothecaries, or drug stores.  It was
used just as a medicine or “confection” as medicine was called then, since sugar was
added.  In 1765, Dr. James Baker of Massachusetts joined with John Hannon, a
chocolate maker immigrant from Ireland, and established the first chocolate factory in
the New World.  Hannon, while sailing to the West Indies to buy the coveted cocoa
beans, was never heard from again.  Dr. Baker continued on.  Today, that company,
known as Baker’s, is famous for its one-inch baking squares.  Just a few years ago,
Walter Baker’s three chocolate factories were a $500 million industry.  

Domingo Ghiradelli and Henry Maillard, two now familiar names in the chocolate world,
operated similar factories in the mid-1800s.  In 1875, Daniel Peter, tried adding Nestles
condensed milk to his chocolate, and then poured it into bars.  BINGO!  The first milk
chocolate bar was born.  In 1889, at Christmas, Queen Victoria of England wanted to
encourage her troops at war, so she sent them a half-million pounds of chocolate.

Shopkeepers, in the late 19th century, would carry a huge slab of chocolate from which
they  would hammer off chunks for customers as needed.  It sold for a penny a bag.
(That reminded me that as a child my grandmother bought me a bag of M&Ms.  The bag
was not a little package, but rather a bag like those you pack a lunch in.  The cost was a
mere dime, and I couldn’t begin to eat them all.)

In 1900, a man who now has a Pennsylvania town named for him, opened a plant in
that state.  Actually he built the town with schools, a swimming pool, bowling alley, golf
course, community center, playground,  junior college, hotel, and a sports arena.  That
plant today has the reputation of producing the best chocolate in America.  Of course
you guessed his name–Milton Hershey.

The cocoa bean has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac.  The Aztec, during the
various stages of cultivation of the bean, practiced many sensual fertility rights.  
Casanova insisted chocolate empowered him as much as did champagne.  Kings
drank it thinking it would increase their sexual prowess, and they offered it to their
mistresses.  Montezuma would down a golden goblet  chocolate before entering his
harem, and then wastefully throw the goblet into the river.  Even today, lovers give
chocolates on Valentine’s Day and on other special occasions.  Perhaps there’s some
basis for it all.  Phenylethylamine, or PEA, for short is a chemical found in the brain of
happy people.  Falling in love, or other positive happenings in life, causes one’s level of
PEA to rise.  When bad things happen, the level plummets.  Chocolate is loaded with
PEA.  Studies show people unhappy in love tend to eat more chocolate.

Eighty-four percent of all U.S. households eat chocolate, and 86% of these chocolate
eaters do so at least once a week.  One study showed that the average American
consumes more than 10 pounds of chocolate every year.  I would guess it is much

The cocoa beans were considered so priceless that the Aztecs used them as currency.  
According to Jeanne Bourin in The Book of Chocolate, four beans would purchase a
pumpkin; ten, a rabbit; twelve, a prostitute; and 100 a slave.  Chocolate bars, issued to
soldiers in WWII were just as powerful an exchange.  They could buy about anything,
from gifts to girls.   Today Chocolate is still quite valuable being the third largest
international cash crop after coffee and sugar.

So how does all this fun information apply to you as an activity professional?  Let’s
check out together some chocolate-centered activities you might try.

* First, share  the above information with residents for a lively reminiscence group, or
even quote a few chocolate facts in your newsletter.   It should bring some good laughs
and some good “chocolate”  stories.
* Invite a candymaker in to talk to residents and to bring some samples.
* Take able residents to a candy store to watch it being made.
* Hold a “best chocolate recipe contest” among families and staff.  Let residents act as
judges.  Have those entering the contest bring in, not only the actual creation, but the
recipe as well.
* Hold a cake walk with all cakes being chocolate.  After they have been won, cut,
sample, and judge the best one.
* Have a “chocolate chip cookie tasting party.”  Buy various kinds of chocolate chip
cookies: frozen rolled cookie dough (and bake them), bakery brand cookies, packaged-
type cookies, and home-baked ones.  Let residents choose their favorite.
* Bring in many familiar containers that once held chocolate for residents to reminisce
over: Hershey cocoa box, Russell Stover candy box, valentine-shaped box, decorative
candy tins, etc.  After the discussion, pass out Hershey kisses.
* Have a chocolate sampling:   Russell Stover’s, Whitman’s, Hershey’s, Nestles, and
imported brands.  Or buy several candy bars and cut them in bite-size pieces.
* Dip pretzels in both white and dark chocolate for a special treat.  Serve with various
herbal teas.
* Let residents butter bread and then top it with chocolate sprinkles.  This is an old time
recipe         they’ll no doubt, thoroughly enjoy.  You can even do this activity at the
* Make chocolate-covered bananas.  Cut bananas in half crosswise, and put a wooden
stick in the cut end.  Lay them on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet, and freeze them
overnight.  The next day, in a medium-size bowl, microwave a 12-oz bag of chocolate
chips with 1/4 cup or vegetable oil on high for one to two minutes.  When melted, add a
teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.  Hold each banana over the bowl and spoon
chocolate over it until it is covered.  They harden quickly.
*  Roll ice cream balls in chocolate sprinkles.  Put in a pretty bowl, add a little whipped
cream and serve.
*  Create an old-time soda fountain and serve chocolate sundaes and sodas.
*  Make your own chocolate ice cream.
*  Involve the kitchen in your chocolate fiesta.  Maybe they will serve desserts with meals
such as chocolate custard, pudding, cake, cupcakes, or pie.  A chocolate angel food
cake would be great.
*  Make a cookbook of favorite chocolate recipes.  This can be as simple or as
elaborate as you wish.  It could even be a fund-raiser for the activity department.
* Make hot chocolate mix using cocoa, powdered creamer, powdered milk, and sugar.  
Keep this on hand as an easy treat for future activities.
* Hold a “chocolate decadence day”, a great idea sent to me by an activity director.  Call
bakeries, restaurants, and candy stores and ask for a small donation, a pie, cake,
cookies, a little chocolate, whatever.  Cut them all in small pieces.  Invite residents,
families, and staff.  Everyone attending, except residents, pays a dollar each.  They can
taste all the items they wish.  Whatever is left over can be sold.  Use the money for your
* Why not make those scrumptious turtles that are so outrageously expensive?  All you
need are caramels, chocolate, and pecan halves.  Here’s a simple recipe.


  • 12 caramels
  • 8 oz semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips or baking chocolate.
  • 4 dozen pecans.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Arrange 48 pecans, flat side down, in groups of
four, with ends meeting in the center.  Flatten 12 caramels to 1 to 1-1/2 squares.  Place
one ca5ramel in the center of each group of pecans.  Melt eight 1-oz. Squares of
chocolate (or chocolate chips) stirring occasionally until smooth.  Spoon over caramels,
leaving nut tips showing.  Let stand in a cool place until firm, about one hour.  Store in
the refrigerator.  Makes 12.

Hold a fudge making day.  Locate several hot plates or electric cooking pots and line
up volunteers to each make a batch of their fudge while residents watch, and eventually
sample.  If you like chocolate and peanut butter, I’ll share a recipe my mother-in-law
gave me when I was a new bride nearly 47 years ago.  She is known for her great
fudge.  If not overcooked or over beaten, it remains soft and delicious.

In a heavy sauce pan combine:
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup white corn syrup
  • dash salt
Cook till you can just barely make a soft ball when a little of the fudge mixture is
dropped into a cup of very cold water.  Remove from heat.

  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1  12-18 oz jar peanut butter.
  • ½ stick butter or margarine
Beat with mixer until it just begins to loose its gloss.
Pour into a buttered biscuit pan (10x7x1-1/2") Let it set up briefly.

Even bed residents can have a little sensory activity as the sweet aroma of chocolate
filters in their rooms.  Then, if able, they might enjoy a taste of the rich candy.

I’m sure you have numerous other chocolate recipes.  Why not pull some of them out
along with any of the above you wish to try, and have a very special time with your
residents?  When I began this article, I thought I’d suggest holding a chocolate “day.”  
As I continued to research, I determined it would have to be a chocolate “week.”  Now I’
m convinced it must be a “chocolate month.”  How else could you uncover all the
possible activities surrounding the rich, dark delicacy?

One thing I’m sure everyone knows.  Eating chocolate requires discipline–discipline
that is often tested severely by this sweet confection.  The last few days while
researching and writing this article,  I have been tempted to run upstairs and whip up a
luscious batch of my mother-in-law’s mouth-watering fudge.  But then I remembered
“discipline”; I think I will wait till tomorrow.  God bless you all.  Marge.
The End

Chocolate, An Illustrated History, by Marcia and Frederic Morton
Then Book of Chocolate by Natalie Bailleux, Herve Bizeul, John Feltwell, Regine Kopp,
Corby Kummer, Pierre Labanne, Christina Pauly, Odile Perrard, Mariarosa Schiaffino
Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
Hershey’s Timeless Desserts, Ideals Publishing Company
White Chocolate by Janice Wald Henderson
Mr. Food Simply Chocolate by Art Gisburg
Oh Fudge!  A Celebration of America’s Favorite Candy by Lee Edwards Benning.
“Everybody Loves Chocolate, Country Living, April 1986, by Joanne L. Hayes
“The Birth of Baker’s Chocolate”, Country Living, by Hannah Campbell