Thursday, December 03, 2015

A bittersweet chocolate pill to swallow

As a lifelong chocolate lover, it comes as no surprise to me that chocolate is good for you. And I firmly believe this to be true even though, at the age of 8, I lived through a chocolate incident. With a quarter on my hands and no parents monitoring me, I spent that quarter buying five chocolate bars from the vending machine at the Y,

It was exactly what one might expect to happen in the Young Women’s Christian Association, which – back in the day – Catholics were discouraged from joining. I don’t think it was a mortal sin to join, and it wasn’t an excommunicate-worthy offense, but it wasn’t exactly a good thing to do.

But the Y had swimming lessons, was inexpensive, and was relatively easy to get to – straight shot on the 19 Burncoat-Cherry Valley bus line. And my quasi-free-thinking father considered things like fatwas on the Y ridiculous. So away my sister Kath and I went.

Unfortunately, my father’s quasi-free-thinking extended to his taste in bathing caps.

My mother had dispatched him to pick up caps for us at Sol’s Pharmacy. At a time when the average bathing cap was white with a rubber pink or blue flower on the side, my father managed to find two unbelievably hideous caps in what was then known as “flesh-tone.” Think of the dark beige color of the industrial strength support stockings your grandmother wore with her black lace-up shoes, and you’ll have an idea about what those caps looked like.

It was, no doubt, because we stood out in that pool full of white-capped little girls that I felt it was okay to console myself with chocolate.

I do remember that a lot of the chocolate bars were “off brand”. There was one that was a HoJo bar that tasted more like vomit than chocolate. But I washed it down with a York Peppermint Patty (one of the few ‘real’ brands on offer).

I did feel a bit sick to my stomach when I got home, but there was chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting) for dessert. And I couldn’t turn that down.

All this exploded into a magnificent case of hives – hives the size of that very quarter I’d spent so unwisely on all those candy bars.

My mother slathered the hives with Vaseline – whatever good that did – and I do believe I got to stay home from school the following Monday.

But this episode did not in the least put me off of chocolate, and, to this day, I firmly believe that a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. And, during the last couple of years of my husband’s life, I came to the realization that chocolate is my drug of choice.

While I used it for my psychological well-being, chocolate is considered good for your physical health. And the candy-makers are exploiting the opportunity they see here:

…pumping up production of nutritional supplements with flavanols, a cocoa extract said to improve blood circulation. Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s No. 1 maker of bulk chocolate, is planning flavanol pills that have been approved by European health authorities as a supplement that’s beneficial to the heart, and Mondelez International Inc. is researching the benefits of flavanols for potential future products. (Source: Bloomberg)

Mars is also in on the act, with a supplement called CocoaVia (which will cost $45 for a 30 day supply).

I’ve lived the Cocoa Via, but I’d rather take my chocolate with the calories, rather than in boring pill form. Where’s the fun, the satisfaction, the joy in popping a pill?

Lindt, maker of those terrific truffles, as well as the chocolate I use to bake orange-chocolate pound cake for Christmas:

…said it isn’t considering cocoa supplements at this time because it wants to keep focusing on indulgence. Nestle SA says it’s researching the health benefits of flavanols but has no current plans to include them in its products.

Note to self: swing by the Lindt store on Boylston Street today…


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