At least two dozen days each year are devoted to the celebration of chocolate -- National Chocolate Souffle Day, National Chocolate Milkshake Day, or National Nutty Fudge Day among them-- but Wednesday is the only day that appears to be solely and purely dedicated to chocolate. In honor of National Chocolate Day, here are facts about the beloved ingredient that offers physical, psychological and emotional benefits -- as well as details on how to get your hands on free chocolate.
Chocolate has an ancient history. More than 3,000 years ago, the Maya and Aztec peoples made a drink from cocoa beans and sometimes even used the beans themselves as a currency. For the Maya, chocolate was considered the food of the gods, and the cacao tree from which it comes was viewed as sacred, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Don't let its ubiquity in modern times, however, fool you into thinking chocolate-making is easy. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, harvested from cacao trees. It's a laborious, time-consuming process that involves roasting and fermenting the beans and grinding them into a liquor. The beans are later transformed into baking chocolate, cocoa powder or, ultimately, eating chocolate. Approximately 400 cocoa beans go into a single pound of chocolate, and it takes anywhere from two to four days to make one bar of chocolate.
Chocolate is good for you, inside and out. The benefits of cocoa butter, which is extracted from cocoa beans during processing (what remains of the beans becomes cocoa powder) on skin are well documented -- besides being a source of antioxidants, it is gentle on sensitive skin and can also help reduce scarring -- while dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar, milk and butter than milk chocolate, has been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.
Ready for the freebies? Here are a few ways you can get sweet deals or score free chocolate:
In New York City, Pastry Chef Pierre Poulin from the renowned restaurant Aureole will be offering a free cooking demonstration and give away free chocolate desserts at Bryant Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday. It's first-come, first-served, and supplies are limited, so get there early.
Ethel M. Chocolates is giving away 16-piece nut and caramel collections with orders of more than $50, which is worth $20. If you subscribe to Ethel M.'s email list, you also receive $10 off any purchase, according to Delish.com.
Joining Godiva's Chocolate Rewards Club also gets members a monthly free piece of chocolate, plus other rewards for spending, and right now Godiva also has a deal where it offers 15 percent off any dark chocolate online purchase of $65 or more. Lindt has a similar rewards program, and through Thursday will be offering 25 percent off its entire site.