VDay. Ruining Good Chocolate Via Stress for at Least 147 Years

dead cupidSTRESS! But a few days left until #VDay2015! What to do, to do, to do, etc. The whole 24 hours are supposed to be about “love” … and not (in polite society anyway) the kind between mother and child. The love we’re talking about is fed by CHOCOLATE!

The tradition is a fairly long one. Richard Cadbury began to mass produce the “chocolate box” 147 years ago. The first one featured a picture of daughter Cadbury’s daughter cuddling a kitten and the success led to first Valentine Day candy box — for what it is worth, VDay and Candy begins 496 CE when Pope Gelasius I claims 14 February for St. Valentine and then meanders its way through history. Paradoxically, Cadbury’s time was Victorian, so in keeping with the age the giving of purpley-wrapped candy was a way both to suggest and sublimate sexual urges.

If perchance you want to suggest or sublimate in other, more modern ways and honor old St. Val on or before Saturday, there is always Nutella make-uping;

creating animal chocolates;

mixing your wines and chocolates; or booking a chocolate vacation or cacao-themed cruise.

Of course, you could just go it alone … and without even thinking about chocolate

But not thinking about chocolate can never be recommended. It’s probably better to give in, to not even try and face down this fiesta de amor. Better to live and love another day. Succumb to the pressures of what has become — thanks in no small part to that Victorian capitalist Cadbury — a “manufactured lovefest” no matter the cost in terms of taste.

#chocolate #valentines day #travel #humor #history

Someday It Won’t Be Thanksgiving Without Chocolate

chocolate turkeysTurkeys be damned, or at least brought down a peg. Thanksgiving turns out to be a holiday of a lamb … as in Mary Had a Little Lamb …

As in, we don’t have the 1621 Pilgrims and Wapanoag (who together likely savored venison, and certainly not the pictured chocolate turkey) to thank for the upcoming onslaught of overdoing both food and shopping. We should actually thank Godmother of Thanksgiving, Sara Josepha Hale, who is more famed as progenitor of the rhyming tale of the young miss and her wooly pet.

Hale, an editor of early 19th century magazines for New England gentlewomen, made it her mission to lobby for a national holiday for giving thanks, which President Lincoln decided in 1863 would be a useful way to mark the third year of America’s Civil War.

Regrettably, we can’t also thank Hale much for anything in the way of chocolate. Additionally a cookbook author, she seemed to think of it mostly as a drink and gives very chocolate short shrift in her very long-named 1856 work, Mrs. Hale’s new cook book. A practical system for private families in town and country; with directions for carving, and arranging the table for parties, etc. Also, preparations of food for invalids and for children.

Given the mythmaking that has been part of its history there is no reason that just because Godmother Hale wasn’t a proto-chocolatista that chocolate should not in future years play a prominent place in the T-Day story and traditions (chocolate-loving mythmakers wanted).

It would be nice for a full cornucopia of cacao creations to be a central place in the holiday’s mystique, but the fruit of the cacao tree does already have a small place among the day’s desserts, although that place is primed for expansion.

Perhaps the holiday’s prandial delights could be made even more robust with a post-meal palate cleanser such as chocolate cabbage leaf cups for vanilla ice cream, or chocolate pudding shots to accompany viewing television or touch-football-in-the-backyard. (If the thankful spirit moves you so, feel free to thicken up what is billed as a “health” recipe libation with another chocolate-based liqueur.)

Ultimately, the history and traditions and myths of the day don’t matter. Life is about mouth (and soul) pleasing. To insure some pleasure, one can always rely on genius chef Michael Symon and his newly developed Chocolate Pumpkin Pie. As likely everyone already knows, with the right chocolate added and no matter whether there is or isn’t turkey on the menu — or even if its journey to the the table was a disaster — the day and meal will be the stuff(ing) of family legend as well as national myth.

#chocolate #Thanksgviving #recipes #foodhistory #history #myths

Halloween & National Chocolate Day DIY

chocolate skull cakeWhy is today National Chocolate Day? It just is, so have a bite (or two, at least) and celebrate! And consider this your three-day warning to Halloween, which also is celebrated with something of a chocolate patina.

Regrettably, H-Day is filled with tricks on kids, provided “alleged” treats that are “fun sized” drugstore chocolate bars. The adult who cares about kids — and we don’t imagine any other kind of reader — is caught between Scylla and Charybdis, either knowingly pandering with choco-crap or not satisfying kids, who don’t know better.

Admittedly, Cupid Alley Chocolatieres does not exist or aspire to anyone out of that moral conundrum. So, let us first distract with the elation-inspiring mash-up of JPop, deathmetal, and #GrlPwr that is Babymetal’s Give Me Chocolate!

… which is vaguely Halloweenish, given the subject matter and a skeleton drummer.

Then let’s get to what you can do to make things better. Ignore stupid myths about how kids are poisoned by unwrapped offerings. You may still decide to offer kids what they think they want, but at least consider aiding young (and old) in rethinking creative ways to enhance the day (again, with its onset heralded by today’s National Chocolate Day huzzah).

Perhaps the right way to do this would be with chocolate skulls made from dark chocolate, or chocolate dirt cupcakes topped by gummy worms, or the seasonal pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. For the ambitious, who wish to span a cultural abyss by engaging T-or-Ters with homemade versions of drugstore chocolates, the Today show offered a short session for DIYers. Just wrap and serve.

While there is little as pleasing as making kids happy with chocolate (preferably good, but if they want lesser then ….), there is that imp of curmudgeonliness within that says come Friday the best thing may be to forget the kids. Put “fun sized” chococrap outside for the taking and cloister behind the door with like-thinking adults to enjoy better chocolate and other delights of a oldster’s life.

Finally, if by chance for today’s “National Chocolate Day” or Friday’s Halloween you find yourself in the mood to initiate a holiday tradition, you can certainly do worse than — in the spirit of the Christmas cookie swap — invite over friends for a [fill in the holiday] chocolate creation exchange.

#chocolate #Halloween #NationalChocolateDay #deathmetal #JPop #recipes

Funeral Cakes, Death, Chocolate & More

chocolate skull cakeOctober is National Dessert Month, and also in its build up to Halloween, a celebration of death in various but still appetizing forms. What could be a better time than to talk about the choice between cake and death, as Eddie Izzard does,

or a touch more soberly to discuss (Chocolate) Funeral Cakes?

Not yet completely soberly. We note that serving a chocolate skull cake might work for some, but is for most people a goober of bad taste at funerals.

Funeral cakes are traditional, and traditionally quick and easy to construct: death is not something for which one is supposed to prepare. Generally, they also aren’t the most sophisticated taste fusions, as there should not be that much time to make them, and, presumably, the baker has more imposing thoughts hanging above his or head. That said, they do come in a multitude of varieties, ranging from the out-of-the-box ordinary to the out-of-the-bottle versions such as Coca-Cola chocolate funeral cake with Coca-Cola icing.

None of this should be confused with Day of the Dead cakes — often, surprisingly enough, baked for weddings. That holiday, blooming from Mexican roots is celebrated post-Halloween, over November’s first two days.

Back to funeral cakes, which also (in hopefully the final tangent) are also not to be confused with the popular restaurant dessert, “death by chocolate,” which is usually an excuse for a junior, so-called,”patissier” at a chain restaurant to see how much chocolate s/he can cram into a dessert at an appropriate for the owner price point.

While death by chocolate is not related, food studies Ph.D. candidates will surely be able to trace the links between funeral cakes, funeral biscuits, funeral cookies and journal cakes. All of which is apparently within the domain of knowledge required of your average funeral director.

For most non-funeral directors, however, all the knowledge of funeral cakes usually required is that it be relatively easy to make and that it mostly arrives as a sheet (or half sheet) cake in the spirit of what The Pioneer Woman calls The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.

One last (promise!) side note, while name-brand chefs have recipes for almost everything, none seems to have put their name on a funeral cake concoction. It’s not clear at all why. Would it really be that bad for their brand? It’s not like they would likely be dragged into a bit of funeral cake and workplace noir (as envisioned by Team Action Seal for the 2014 Austin 48-hour film project), featuring stolen break room swag and the may-it-live-forever-online quote, “My [funeral] cake was gone and my life was over. Things couldn’t get any worse. Then things got worse …”

#chocolate #halloween #dayofthedead #foodhistory

Beginning with Charlie and Chocolate

chocolate booksA new Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book cover appears gratuitous, not least because the book biz is hurting enough without shooting itself in the face with artwork.

But maybe it is genius?

Perhaps it’s a diabolical plan to spend a bit for a new, outrageous cover in the British market that is so off-putting as to inspire worldwide publicity and drive book buyers to pony up for other copies of Charlie? It may be the fiftieth anniversary of the title, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use a bit of push to get off the shelves. (Maybe instead of the ugly cover they should have made more of the lost chapter?)

In that spirit, our rose-colored-glasses, glass-half-full selves are inspired to note a few more books about chocolate that deserve their own push as holiday buying season opens up. Having started with Charlie, we’ll note that piggybacking on the anniversary celebration is Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory, a miscellanea of information on how the book came about.

On the subject of books for kids, there is a new picture book for young (to be) reader, The Cookie Catastrophe, and a new title for libraries and schools, Chocolate (Explore!), as well as a young readers’ mystery, Secrets at the Chocolate Mansion .

With any luck for embattled publishers, readers of that Secrets will age into exploring further the niche chocolate has in the mystery genre. Current queen of the genre, Johanna Carl (who kindly answered questions here) is newly represented in her Chocoholic Mystery series by The Chocolate Clown Corpse. Also new is the initial “Chocolate Covery Mystery,” Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates], which situates bad happenings in a small chocolate shop in Maryland.

Regarding small and unexpected things, there is a recently released chapbook of well reviewed poetry built around a rhapsody on chocolate, This Is Belgian Chocolate: Manifestations of Poetry.

Not last. Never least. There are words to be read about chocolate as food. Consider sharing Chocolate: 90 Sinful and Sumptuous Indulgences, which includes a particular coffee-chocolate cake celebration. Recipients will also be grateful for The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book, which includes background on the Toll House Cookie creation myth; a print adaptation of lessons from the Ecole Grand Chocolat Valrhona in Chocolate Master Class: Essential Recipes and Techniques; a recap in pictures, notes, chef profiles and recipes of the 2011 World Chocolate Masters Competition in A World of Chocolate; and a revelry of mini-masterpieces to bring to life at home that comes with its #foodporn…

as trailer for celebrichef Will Torrent‘s new book, Chocolate at Home.

From controversy to food porn via chocolate-inspired poetry. Honestly, publishing has seen worse days.

#chocolate #books #foodporn

Labor Daying with Choc, Veg & Fru

broccoli dipped chocolateUnsuccessful is the search to find a natural connection between Labor Day and chocolate,which is as good a reason as any to create one. But why shouldn’t work be honored and summer’s end commemorated with a chocolate themed repast featuring vegetables and fruits despite this being a day most people (boringly) think has to be only about charred meat?

It is the season for a sort of [vegetative?] thinking. Vegetables and fruits are ripe in stores and on farms stands, making it the perfect time to clear up the confusion that seems often to exist when parents and young children deal with chocolate and vegetables … assuming you need another reason to eat well.

On the subject of confusion regarding chocolate and vegetables, it is also worth pointing out to veggie-phobic adults and children that sadly for them there is no truth to reporting from satirical site, The Onion, “… that many vegetables, including carrots, eggplants, and zucchini are evolving rich, creamy chocolate centers in order to ensure their survival as a species.” Dear Veg-Phobes, you need to find the recipes that bring the flavors together, not misplace faith with Frankenfood manufacturers!

To help all along with feeling better about their veggies, why not begin the Labor Day feast with chocolate frozen cocktails? If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and want something non-alcoholic kids can put something non-alcoholic in consider Bakerella’s chocolate cups. Maybe even throw onto the table some OurBestBites’ Chocolate-Strawberry Nachos.

If more convenient to stay inside during the preparation and before taking the party al fresco, keep in mind the somewhat finger-foody Sweet Potato and Tofu Enchiladas courtesy OhMyVeggies; Cara’s Craving’s Mole Tofu Tacos; or combining a slow cooker roasted veggies with an Americanized mole.

On the other hand, if you prefer bringing naked veggies to perfection on the grill consider dressing them with a luxurious chocolate port sauce.

Maintaining the party theme, chocolate notes are well savored when mixed with grapes and grains so check labels or just see what stores offer (or track down the particularly unlikely such as Dogfish Brewery’s surprisingly savory Choc Lobster brew.

For dessert, it’s hard to disappoint by mixing a quality chocolate sauce with fresh watermelon, strawberries or any other in-season fruit as a drizzle prior to serving or with a dusk to darkness fondue. To step the fancy up a bit for guests, there is also a chocolate espresso mousse with strawberries option.

All making the labor for this holiday very well worth it, indeed.

#chocolate #recipes #vegetarian

Ice Cream Done Right with Chocolate

chocolate ice creamJuly is National Ice Cream Month and today, 20 July, is National Ice Cream Day, which is an easy excuse to offer a quick primer on making chocolate ice cream at home as the perfect summer day activity.

Subjectively adding to the newsworthiness of the idea is a recent press release from downmarket ice creamer Baskin Robbins. Their research found that chocolate is the best at bringing the happy. While BR doesn’t bring any real science establishing the dominance of chocolate ice cream, there is enough anecdotal evidence to ease the acceptability of glomming on to this bit of news puffery.brhappy

There is a googleplexplus of chocolate ice cream recipes, but a couple to highlight are the David Lebowitz Easiest Ever, which is used with an ice cream maker, and Beyond the Stoop’s Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate No Ice Cream Maker version

A quick summary for using other ice cream recipes without having the slurry meet its maker is to: Chill completed mixture in a pan filled with ice. When chilled pour into freezer-safe stainless steel bowl which has been in freezer for at least a half hour, cover and return to bowl to freezer. Combine the ingredients for your ice cream mixture following the recipe. Every 30 minutes for three hours stir it up vigorously (if it has become too hard then soften it briefly in refrigerator). Give it at least another hour before eating.

A marvelous demonstration for using a contraption is outlined by the New York Times’ Melissa Clark as she showcases her basic recipe by taking on strawberries, although it is easy enough to use chocolate instead (switch strawberries puree, with seven-ounces shaved 70-75 percent dark chocolate, an additional quarter cup honey, and two teaspoons vanilla extract all eased in during mixing).

And while it is probably too late for starting Chocolate Mint for use this year, consider growing it in the garden or a windowbox as a great add-on for dishes of chocolate ice cream, among other uses.

Celebrating Columbus & Chocolate Makes More Sense

ColumbusIt is silly to celebrate Italian-navigator-sailing-for-Spanish-royal-glory Christopher Columbus as discoverer of the United States of America on an October Monday. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about recognizing the Genoan for the much more important role he played in bringing chocolate to Europe, which then sent it back this way.

But, mostly, we don’t.

Even as he brought cacao beans with him upon return from his fourth voyage in 1504 Columbus doesn’t get the nod as a prime player in the drama and joy of development of the magic bean. Today, July 7, “international chocolate day,” we honor instead Spanish Franciscan Friars who by means history does not chronicle achieved a tipping point of popularity leading to today, in 1550, being the official (?) “discovery” of chocolate by Europeans.

And, yes, we recognize this overlooks the historical fact that the actual “discovery” of the human-elating properties of roasting the beans inside the cacao pod, which had taken place years before and thousands of miles away in a different hemisphere. For a somewhat elementary look at that, consider The Discovery Channel’s 40+ minute look at the history and discoveries of chocolate

In case you don’t have the time or interest to learn a few more things about chocolate then just remember the key takeaway from the video: chocolate gets you drunk.

Happy Chocolate Day 2014, the most important 464th (?) anniversary you’ll ever celebrate!

Chocolate Pudding One and All, 2014

chocolate puddingCelebrate National Chocolate Pudding Day with a contemplation (and, soon enough, with the chocolate pudding itself). Alone, pudding can mean nearly anything

Its dictionary definitions are a bit more (well) definitive, but not much more. Basically, it can be almost any dish someone finds delicious [i.e.,edible, for some] but is usually soft, sweet, creamy or thick and served as a dessert … unless it has some sort of protein baked in.

And even pudding’s history is a bit murky. However, where we’re talking “chocolate” pudding, and will ignore the history and meat and fish versions. Which still leaves an enormous amount of room for improvisation.

For a few bites with extra “good” fats — also offering an easy vegan version with a maple-syrup/agave-for-honey trade — consider bacon chocolate guinness challah bread puddingthis Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Or, going whole hog (so to speak) in the other direction, there’s a land out yonder where Bacon Chocolate Guinness Challah Bread Pudding  can run wild.

You can also go southern or secular, as is your want. There’s enough time left in today’s celebration to whip up some Chocolate Banana Pudding with Louisiana flair, or inspire some Jewish guilt in others by serving a Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding.
As the Marketplace podcast [http://www.marketplace.org] punningly pontificated, the goal of this whole contemplation is to be “pudding you in the mood for chocolate.”

DO NOT, we repeat DO NOT end up with some store-bought pudding style cup. While, yes, we did start out by saying almost any comestible could qualify as a “pudding,” you definitely deserve better. And we’re positive of that even though we may not know you.

Chocolate and Cheese, If It Please

chocolate & cheese adIt seems there is a day to celebrate nearly everything chocolate (Thursday was National Chocolate Chip Day; see the Almanac for more). But ’tis untrue. There are still chocolate and cheese combos to honor.

Actually, there are a host of chocolatish delectables more , but this particular un-embraced celebration is brought to the forefront by the recent announcement from British grocerpalooza Tesco that they are expanding their chocolate-cheese offerings. The first thought is “why?” The taste of a good chocolate is distinct with undertones and subtle aroma notes. That taste of heaven makes for an unlikely fit with a delicious bit of cheese, often a standout highlighted by esters and overtones on display like the new girl trying to stand out and drum up a bit of business in Amsterdam’s Rossebuurt. Of course, the answer turn is easily discovered with a quick Google (as most answers are): lots of folks love this sort of thing — whether it is the idea or actual flavor will not be argued here, today.

Particularly when you are trying to steer a few piastres into the till it seems worthwhile to accept that since people like chocolate and people like cheese — not necessarily the same people for both categories, but with enough overlap — there will be experimentation. Folks with enough biz-smart will pimp some of the results despite a culinary natural selection process un-guaranteed to bring about best in breed(ing). Consider, for example Philadelphia Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese spread courtesy of Junk Food Guy.

There will be Frankencheeses you can make at home like the chocolate cheese ball or outlier indulgences such as Paula Deen’s chocolate cheese fudge or Trader Joe’s chocolate cheddar, which appeal to some tastes or others.

Anyway, while it isn’t our cup of cocoa, kudos to everyone who embraces the idea of chocolate and cheese (and that other “c,” Capitalism), with a particular shout out to the Wisconsin dairy industry. On the soft-sell side they offer a a guide to chocolate/cheese pairings and for the harder sell they market their Valentine’s Day chocolate cheese delights (?!).

Back to Tesco’s announcement. We sympathize with why you might not want publicly to own up to such taste. However, for those at home with tastebuds stirred to the point of yearning, consider tossing together a chocolate cheese sandwich or batch of parmesan chocolate cheese crisps to quiet them down.