Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Warning labels on choclat? Just say non!

I am a complete and firm believer that a chocolate a day (at minimum) keeps, if not the doctor, then the psychiatrist, away. And that a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. Or something like that.

I must acknowledge that I have taken my belief in the restorative and joy-giving powers of chocolate a real workout over the last couple of years. And that I’m now trying to shed the handful of entirely unnecessary and, frankly, pretty mean-spirited – haven’t I been going through enough, without having to experience a weight gain while I’m at it? – extra pounds that I’ve acquired of late.

Still, while I’ve cut down, my passionate affair with chocolate is one of long-standing, and I suspect it is one that I’ll take with me to the grave.

Ah, chocolate.

How miserable it was when we stopped at the Cherry Bowl for ice cream on a summer’s evening, and my father declared that we would not be eating at the Cherry Bowl, but consuming our cones in the car. That meant no chocolate, which apparently did terrible things to the cloth seat covers in a Ford Fairlane.

As one of my sibs would likely be quick to point out, the fatwa on chocolate ice cream – which was directed to me personally – may have come about because of my peculiar habit of biting the tip off the bottom of a sugar cone, and sucking the melting ice cream out that-a-way. A guaranteed mess, especially when the melting ice cream sucking out was performed by a child who was none too fastidious.

So on non-chocolate nights, I had to settle for chocolate chip, maple walnut, or peach.

Similarly, if the Fahrenheit exceeded 90, my father would omit chocolate frosted from the weekly Sunday run to Dunkin Donuts. Jelly donuts are all well and good, but just cannot compare to a chocolate donuts, my friend. If only there’d been such a thing as a chocolate honey-dipped back in the day.

Ah, chocolate.

Chocolate-chip, my favorite cookie.

Brownies, my favorite bar.

Devil Dog, my favorite snack cake.

Layer cake, cupcake, pudding, candy.

Chocolate ‘r me.

At the age of eight, I almost OD’d on it.

Somehow, I had in my possession a full quarter to spend in the vending machines at the YWCA. This at a time when a candy bar cost a nickel.

Well, five candy bars later I was sick to my stomach and breaking out in hives.

I blame this incident less on my eight year old lack of self control than on a demonic possession that was inflected upon me by the dark powers when I, as a Catholic, stepped toe in the YWCA where, it was well known, Catholics were not supposed to step toe. It was not quite on a par with stepping toe into Bethany Congregational Church, but it was right up there. (So I blame my parents for ignoring the wishes of the nuns and sending me and my sister to the Y to learn to swim, where we stood out not only as Catholics, but as the girls with the most hideous swim caps. What was up with my father that he bought us completely hideous “flesh” colored caps when everyone in the world wore white?)

Anyway, I just wanted to establish my chocolate bona fides.

Given my deep and abiding love of chocolate, I was alarmed to read a recent article about a proposed nutrition-labeling plan in France:

…that would classify chocolate as a food to be avoided. In a country where the day often starts with a pain au chocolat and ends with a mousse au chocolat, you can guess how that’s going down. (Source: Business Week)

Talk about the sorrow and the pity…

France is considering this move because of an uptick in obesity rates there. In response to the concerns over obesity:

… the government might require color-coded labels on food packaging to encourage healthier eating. Consumers would be urged to eat more foods labeled “green,” such as fruits and vegetables, while avoiding those labeled “red,” including items high in fat, salt, sugar—and chocolate.

While the French obesity rate has more than doubled over the last twenty years, at 14.5 percent, it can’t hold a Ring Ding to the US, which has an obesity rate of 33 percent. (American exceptionalism in action.)

However, as those who are opposing the French anti-chocolat plan maintain, there is no correlation between chocolate and obesity. The Swiss average 13 pounds of chocolate noshing each year, but have a relatively low obesity rate: 11 percent.

And for Americans, apparently, chocolate is not the obesity culprit. We only consume about 5.4 pounds of chocolate per year. You can thank sodas, chips, and super-sized everything for our obesity plague, thank you.

France’s chocolatiers—makers of chocolate pastries and confectionery—contend that discouraging people from eating chocolate would have an economic impact, too, endangering the jobs of some 4,500 “artisan chocolatiers” who employ roughly 15,000 people in their bakeries and shops.

So it’s just plain bad for business.

And that’s only part of France’s chocolate industry. Importers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and other industry players hold the world’s largest chocolate trade show…[and] more than 30 professional schools around the country offer degrees in chocolate confectionery-making.

Maybe I’ll go back to school and become a chocolatier!

Meanwhile, my cousin Ellen and her husband Mike will be spending the month of September in Paris. Mike is not much of a chocolate man, but I trust that Ellen will do her part on the chocolate front. And I’m happy they’re getting to spend some quality time in France before the chocolate warnings go into effect.

Warning labels on chocolat?

Just say non!

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