C is for Chocolate, of course

I’m not sure why I chose Chocolate for today’s topic. I mean, what is there to say about chocolate? It’s simply manna from heaven. I must admit, however, that I am rather picky about my chocolate. It has to be dark, and high quality. It must be ethically sourced; Green America is a great resource for figuring that out. And I like my chocolate to have a little something extra: maybe something fruity or nutty or spicy – or all of the above. Otherwise it’s got to be really, really top notch. Like the chocolate I had in the former Soviet Union. Supposedly they suck the air out of it, leaving little holes (think Swiss cheese). I was in Moscow back when Russia was still the USSR, and I met someone who worked in the state-owned chocolate factory. I begged him to give me a tour of the factory. He asked permission, which was denied, because that factory supplied chocolate to the Soviet army, so its production methods were considered state secrets. Go figure.

Nowadays it’s pretty well known that chocolate is, in moderate amounts, very healthy. It’s got all those anti-oxidants, which are really good for you but please don’t ask me why. It’s also got theobromine (“food of the gods” in ancient Greek), an ingredient that’s rumored to simulate the feeling of being in love – which is why we give chocolate on Valentine’s Day. (Betcha didn’t know that!)

Cocoa pods, source of chocolate. At a demo at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC.
Cocoa pods, source of chocolate. At a demo at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC.

Although chocolate is often associated with Belgium or Switzerland (and, in my case, Russia), it actually originated in Central America, where the Aztecs and Incas and other tribes made a thick, unsweetened drink that they used in religious ceremonies. Just one more reason to thank Native Americans for the many delicious and nutritious foods they contributed to global cuisines.

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C is for Chocolate, of course

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