Valentine’s Day is rapidly advancing, and much to everyone’s delight, there will be chocolate. To everyone's delight but mine, that is. What is this fondness that everyone seems to have for chocolate? Did I say fondness? Sorry, I meant addiction. The die-hard chocoholics wear their addiction like a badge of honor, always quick with a chocolate-coated anecdote or confession. Cookbooks on the art of chocolate cuisine abound. Why, chocolate is as American as… brownies!
There is a rare mental disorder called chocophobia. It is not the fear of chocolate. Instead, it is the fear of failing to find something satisfyingly sweet that isn’t chocolate. Go to the local ValueMart and you will find that at least 75% of the candy purveyed is chocolate or chocolate-enhanced. The same goes for most grocery stores. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 there were 1198 locations producing chocolate and cocoa products in 2005, but only 477 that produced non-chocolate confectionary products.
For people who dislike chocolate, cookies aren’t so bad despite the abundance of fudge bars, chocolate chips, chocolate coatings, and chocolate biscuits. Cookies, however, cannot satisfy the overwhelming desire for something sweet like Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy, an item long ago pushed off the shelves by America’s love affair with chocolate. As for chocolate drinks, let’s just say you’ll never catch me with a YooHoo. To me, hot chocolate is what you pour over a cupful of marshmallows to make them all melty and gooey.
I confess, I have eaten chocolate. All my life. I still eat chocolate, but not much of it and not if there’s any other choice. Chocolate always looks delicious; descriptions of it are enticing. There is nothing that offers the same wonderful mouthfeel as good chocolate melting on the tongue. Good milk chocolate. White, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate are abominations. Being able to discriminate between good and cheap chocolate doesn’t mean that I like it. I am always disappointed when I eat chocolate, and wish they held the chocolate when enrobing hazelnuts or almonds.
Ancient Mayans (c. 600 BC? 1100 BC? Archaeologists don’t all seem to agree) used chocolate. Well, not exactly chocolate. They combined ground cocoa and hot water (as well as, possibly, chili peppers) and drank it. Soon after the Spanish discovered cocoa and imported it to Spain, chocolate was born. Chocomania came centuries later.
The average American consumes 26 pounds of candy a year. Which translates to about 20 pounds of chocolate a year (others place this number at 10 or 12 pounds per year). Candy industry statistics report that throughout the year 75% of chocolate is bought by women. Hubpages reports that, in the days before Valentine’s, roles reverse and men buy 75%, spending one billion dollars nationwide on chocolate alone. Chocolate is not actually an aphrodisiac, but around Valentine’s Day the thought seems to be, “It can’t hurt.”
Google “chocolate” and you will get 132,000,000 choices. “Jersey Shore” produces only 21 million, and “Taylor Swift” provides 39 million. Can anyone (besides Calvin Klein) spell "obsession"? It’s amazing how much time we spend thinking, writing, eating, and dreaming about this essentially nasty product. Even chocophobics are drawn into it. Okay, maybe I’m the only chocophobic; I have never met anyone who felt anything less than passion for the substance.
Essentially, chocolate is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate contains milk products. One of the reasons that chocolate prices never go down is that when sugar is cheap, cocoa goes up and vice versa. At least that’s what I was told when I was a little girl, the granddaughter of a chocolate factory owner.
We always had chocolate in our house. Chocolate bars, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate milk powder, cocoa. In trying to figure out how I could dislike something so intensely that, it seems, most people seem to love, I thought the easy availability of chocolate throughout my life made me that way, that as a child I simply had too much chocolate. This theory is as valid as “the devil made me do it,” or “blame it on the Bossa Nova.” A discussion of my aversion to chocolate revealed that my younger brother is—gasp!—a chocoholic. Learning that was like finding a big pod at the foot of the bed.
Is chocolate necessary? Sadly, it is. In what else can you serve fluffy nougat centers, cream fillings, or cherries and syrup? I have a fantasy that a food scientist somewhere is working on a product that would work, but know that economics are against it. Why spend time on something maybe one person will like when you can just throw together chocolate and stuff and have a big seller?
While you’re enjoying your Valentine’s chocolates, think of those less fortunate, those who can’t even find Marshmallow Peeps hearts anymore. At least there’s Easter.Powered by Sidelines