Belgian cuisine is widely varied and has significant of regional variation while also reflecting the cuisines of neighbouring France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is sometimes said that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine but with quality of French food. Outside the country, Belgium is best known for its chocolate and beer.
Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The earliest record of using chocolate dates back before the Olmec. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC. The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink. The Maya civilization grew cacao trees in their backyards, and used the cacao seeds it produced to make a frothy, bitter drink. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The chocolate residue found in an early ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, Guatemala, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD.
Mayan writing referring to cocoa.
The sweet chocolate residue found in jars from the site of Puerto Escondido in Honduras from around 1100 BC is the earliest found evidence of the use of cacao to date. An early Classic (460–480 AD) period Mayan tomb from the site of Rio Azul, Guatemala, had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink. The Maya are generally given credit for creating the first modern chocolate beverage over 2,000 years ago, despite the fact that the beverage would undergo many more changes in Europe.
By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica, and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility, and often used chocolate beverages as sacred offerings. The Aztec adaptation of the drink was a bitter, frothy, spicy drink called xocolatl, made much the same way as the Mayan chocolate drinks. It was often seasoned with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote, and was believed to fight fatigue, which is probably attributable to the theobromine content, a mood enhancer. Because cacao would not grow in the dry central Mexican highlands and had to be imported, chocolate was an important luxury good throughout the Aztec empire, and cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans. South American and European cultures have used cocoa to treat diarrhea for hundreds of years. All of the areas ruled by the Aztecs were ordered to pay a tax, leading those that grew the beans to offer cacao seeds as tribute.