It is officially National Chocolate Week and so I turn my attention to the scintillating properties of that dark god we all know so well, chocolate.
There is something borderline sexual about the dark, velvety smooth, rich and sweet characteristics of one of the most ancient and well known foods in history. The sinful dark master that preys on unsuspecting individuals, intoxicating them and releasing it potency into the blood stream. Inflicting incurable addictions on its victims and imposing an infinite quest for the ultimate ‘Cocoa’ fix.
Could we therefore call Chocolate a drug? Yes, I believe so. Studies have shown that the consumption of chocolate can lead to the release of endorphins, similar to those of an orgasm. If indeed this is the case, I know we are all hiding far more chocolate in the house than we are letting on! The cocoa plant (Theobroma Cacao) produces over 150 different chemicals in its leaves, fruit, seeds and bark. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years and can be traced back to the ancient Mayan & Aztec civilisations.
Its medicinal use in Europe can be traced to over 500 years ago when it was first brought over from the Americas, and was used to treat, amongst other things, anaemia, emaciation, kidney stones and cuts and burns. Even more good news for chocoholics is that the darker the chocolate, the more anti-oxidants it contains. The saturated fats found in cocoa beans, unlike saturated animal fats, can also help lower bad blood cholesterol and actually raise ‘good’ cholesterol levels which is even more good news for us chocolate lovers!
What is it about Chocolate that seduces our senses and tantalises our taste buds? It is well documented that millions of women would choose Chocolate over sex. I know you guys aren’t as forthcoming with such admissions as we women are, but I know grown men who quiver at the very mention of the word ‘Chocolate’. Even the infamous Italian lover (This is where you Iranian studs start taking notes, huh?) Giacomo Casanova, ate chocolate before bedding his conquests, because of its reputed aphrodisiac qualities. So I guess Chocolate is possibly like an old-world Viagra? The message here Gentleman, is if you want to increase your prowess, stock up on ‘Valrhona’ (the best in the world) and the women will be pounding down your door!
Ask yourself, have you ever stopped to really TASTE chocolate? No? Well its time to set you a little task. All I ask is that you find some good quality chocolate (nothing with Cadburys or Hershey in the title is remotely acceptable!) You should only seek the highest quality chocolate, even if it’s just a small square, because a little goes a long way. Take a moment, slip the chocolate in your mouth and close your eyes, allowing the chocolate to stay in your mouth, without biting or chewing it. Just let it melt. Now take a deep breath, inhaling through your nose and release it SLOWLY. At this point you will not only be tasting the chocolate, but also inhaling its potent scent. As the chocolate starts to melt, you should be savouring every bit of it and of course go ahead and chew it a little and you will find it will disappear entirely. Go ahead, try it. You won’t be disappointed and if executed correctly, you will taste chocolate as you have never done so before and you will stir your senses like no food has ever done before.
I know people who do this on a regular basis and it becomes an erotic experience for some and each to their own. But the point of this exercise is to isolate your senses and ensure that you are experiencing all that chocolate has to offer. It is truly sensual.
It has the ability to warm you from the inside and stimulate your brain into taking a brief, yet sensory journey. A lot of people tend to think of sex or have sexual thoughts during this time… Which of course isn’t a bad thing, but the experience is very individual for each person. I must stress that this exercise deserves your undivided attention in order to complete it correctly, so please ensure you are relaxed and have a few minutes to follow through.
Chocolate is so revered by some cultures that it appears in many savoury dishes also. I know a lot of you may be thinking that it couldn’t possibly work, but chocolate is often melted into rich red wine sauces to be paired with red meat such as beef, venison, game birds and even rabbit. It has the ability to create a rich silken texture in dishes, without actually lending any obvious cocoa flavour. Chocolate is also partnered with other foods, sometimes creating an unlikely marriage of flavours such as chocolate with chilli, mint, lavender, cardamom, orange and even curry! As well as many different spirits, particular whisky and brandy. Also, did you know that a new trend has been set for creating the same richness that chocolate provides, without the fat by reducing the actual chocolate content of (For e.g.) a chocolate cake by substituting 1/3 chocolate with beetroot (beets)….???!!!! The mind boggles. And I bet you didn’t know that white chocolate is actually not a chocolate at all, but in fact a confectioner’s creation? As yummy as it is, I always wondered how chocolate suddenly became white!
From chocolate fountains, truffles, bars, fondues, mousses and cakes, to the more insane side of chocolate, there are very few people in the world who can’t find a way to enjoy chocolate every now and again. One of my absolute favourite ways to enjoy chocolate is to have some wonderful ‘Churros’, which are piped Mexican donuts, which you then dip into a small pot of molten chocolate. Absolutely heavenly and I find myself naughtily using my finger to clean the little pot of all its remaining traces of chocolate… “Finger Lickin’ Good” as the Colonel used to say. Chocolate adoration aside, there also exists a strange minority of people that do not enjoy chocolate, and I think its just plain weird to be honest! UNLESS you have allergies or dairy intolerances, of course, in which case you could be forgiven.
So whether you eat 3 bars a day or just have the odd bar stashed away to cure those late night sugar cravings, chocolate deserves your respect. I hope that next time you eat some chocolate, you will allow yourself to get lost in the labyrinth of its complexities and remember that this is one of the only sins that you can indulge in time and time again, without going to hell!