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.”