|Ripe cacao pods, whence chocolate comes from. Not very appetizing...yet!|
A true treat from the Americas. At least originally it was. Despite the fact that westerners altered the original ways of consumption by adding massive quantities of sugar, it is so popular that one can find a blend that suits one's own particular taste.
|Ah! More like it...a piece of a bar dipped into melted chocolate.|
Now we know there are health benefits to it, as well. Since it comes from plants it contains some of the health benefits of dark vegetables through flavonoids. Flavonoids act as antioxidants which protect the body from free radicals. Dark chocolate contains the most antioxidants, so I call it "medicinal chocolate". A small piece every day can keep one's heart and cardiovascular system in shape. Chocolate can lower both blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol up to 10 percent. It also creates endorphins, which create a feeling of pleasure, and serotonin, an anti-depressant. Because it contains theobromine, which is a stimulant like caffeine, no matter how much Rover or Tabby like it, they shouldn't have any because it's poisonous for them.
|Probably a full year's worth of chocolate calories.|
There are a couple of caveats, however. (Isn't there always when something is too good to be true?) Chocolate is high in calories and fat, so stick with the amount that studies use, which is about 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. If your choice contains nuts you're okay, but any filling like caramel or nougat adds excess fat and sugar, lessening the benefits. Some research shows that consuming it with milk could prevent the antioxidants from being absorbed, so you should avoid eating it with milk for the time being.
Although in the U.S. we mostly consume chocolate in milk, desserts, or candy, it has come to my attention that eating chocolate doesn't have to be so boring. There are many ways to eat it that can complement your interests and I've decided to share them with you:
First of all, you are going to need a laptop to find all these goodies. A Chocolap would be perfect! Chocolap is a cardboard computer containing a roughly ten ounce chocolate bar in the shape of a computer. It comes in milk, dark, or white chocolate from the Netherlands. You can even have it customized. Intel, Hewlett Packard, and Mercedes-Benz are a few of the companies who have ordered them for gifts.
Perhaps you are interested in typography, and have need of a chocolate font. Typolade will make you a set of letters. Select chocolatiers make these sets by hand in small batches with custom-designed molds. You can get letters A-Z or have them make a custom message. The percentage of cacao is 60 percent, placing it in the "medicinal" category.
If you are "old-fashioned" (a nicer word than "Luddite"), then you would probably prefer chocolate pencils. These pencils come with a pencil sharpener. If you can restrain yourself and not eat the pencils, you can sharpened them over your favorite dessert - the shavings add a nice touch. Designed by Japanese designers Nendo for the Tokyo patissier Tsujiguchi Hironobu, they come in a variety of blends. I used to chew the ends of my pencils. Perhaps I was just waiting for these to come along.
If you are constantly watching the calories you consume, there is a chocolate that can help. "Rompicollo" by L'Agenzia per il Disegno e la Funzione, in collaboration with Cinzia Curitti, has the calorie count of each piece on top, so you can easily monitor what you are eating. The chocolate bar has several piercings along the sides of the pieces so you can break off the correct amount for your diet.
Maybe a good way to burn up some calories would be to walk your dog. Don't have one? Well, you can buy a charming French Bulldog, that also tastes great. Fetch Chocolates is the brainchild of Manhattan Fruitier and Fritz Knipschildt. Using high quality chocolate, they are made from custom designed molds, and are solid chocolate. Available in 34 percent milk chocolate (not so healthy!), white chocolate (even less healthy!), or delicious AND healthy 71 percent dark chocolate. Currently they are "breeding" Bulldogs, but there are plans for Labradors, Dachshunds, Yorkies, Golden Retrievers, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Roughly an inch and a half, the Bulldogs come in litters of six. The chocolates come in gift sets as well. You can also buy natural peanut butter dog cookies from them, so you and Fido can snack together.
Speaking of walks, do you have the right shoes for this activity? Or for golfing? If not, try Gayle's Chocolates where you can get a variety of shoe types, including golf shoes and men's oxfords. These shoes are six-seven inches long and about 3.5 inches wide. The golf shoes come with a white chocolate golf ball. Gayle also makes women's shoes.
I don't know if Imelda Marcos was a chocoholic, but if she was she would buy all of Gayle's shoes, and all the ones from ChocChic. Here you can buy a pair of heels with a handbag to match. They will even customize the inside labels for you. Made of Belgian chocolate, there are a variety of types of chocolates and flavorings you can pick.
Okay, so you and your dog are out walking and the heel of your chocolate shoe gets stuck in the grass. Never fear, you can pull out your chocolate Swiss Army knife and save the day! It even has the Victorinox Swiss Army logo, but this one has a hazelnut praline filling inside instead of gadgets. It is 3.5 inches long, and you can buy a gift tin with six inside.
After you've taken your walk, or instead of walking, you can hang out indoors and play a game. But beware! There is a real danger in losing these pieces, so be sure you are playing with someone you trust! At Chocolate Games you can choose a variety of games to play. Scrabble? Monopoly? Trivial Pursuit? Pictionary? Clue? How about playing poker with chips made of chocolate? Perhaps you'd prefer chess, or draughts (checkers)? Sure to bring family fun and a delicious way to spend some time.
This has been a very trying post, and I'm off to make some fudge...
All images from their respective websites.
Others from Wikipedia.