Don’t Hit Them, Eat the (Chocolate) Books

chocolate booksMuch can be said about chocolate as the hook upon which to hang a narrative. For non-fiction it might be the big bang for a review of issues arising from an incident of killing bears in New Hampshire, or destroying monkey habitats in the Cote d’Ivoire. The cacao pod can also germinate into a policy discussion on international trade as Canada and Mexico currently threaten a war using US chocolate as a hostage. It may also support an economics case study as in the case of how Venezuela’s President Maduro screws up Venezuela’s cocoa trade as he also dissolves the positives in the remainder of his country’s economy.

Or it could be the genesis for fiction. Recently, proving that powdered cocoa actually can expire, an Italian granny poisoned famiglia by serving from a package more than 30 years old. For novelists in search of ignition, there are also the tragic tales with comic elements of the Syrian refugee who on his eighteenth attempt to flee the country’s misery nearly drowned in a tank of British chocolate, and the Granite State hunter who killed the bears with dark chocolate but was so heartbroken he took the season off hunting them with bullets.

While the quality brown continues to intrigue authors and readers, changes in publishing provide less incentive to write those stories. However, as long as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tops lists of favorite books at least a few cocoa-themed books to make it to shelves.

Among recent publications to seek are mystery writer Joanna Fluke’s latest in the Hannah Swensen series, Double Fudge Brownie Murder, as well as the paperback Hallmark Channel movie tie-in for The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

For readers whose interests head in the direction of gay-themed steampunk romance there is H.B. Kurtzwilde’s Chocolatiers of the High Winds, while those with a preference for the more evangelical Christian of themes may find succor in the pages of Deb Burma’s Living a Chocolate Life.

Providing middle-schoolers interested in health (or needing to write a report on something interesting), something to chew on there is Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg. Finally, there is the most traditional of looks at chocolate: the methods and recipes book of a noted chocoaltiere, in this case choco-genius Fritz Knipschildt’s (and co-author Mary Goodbody’s) Chocopologie

If after reading all this you find yourself too tired to red, there is also Book, The Baking of courtesy of Ann Reardon.

#chocolate #videos #books

Was the Golden Ticket Really Necessary?

How Are Today’s Chocolatieres Promoting Their Products?

Ryan Bennett, Guest Writer

By now, everyone is familiar with Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and whether you saw the original movie from the 1970s or the 2005 remake, or enjoyed the book that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, you probably fell in love with the idea of owning your own chocolate factory, too.

You’re probably familiar with the premise of the story: Mr. Willy Wonka, “the most amazing, the most fantastic, the most extraordinary chocolate maker the world has ever seen” came up with the stellar idea to release Golden Tickets in Wonka chocolate bars. These Golden Tickets would grant five children access to his chocolate factory, and, in a surprise twist, one of the children would be invited to join him in running the company.

The Golden Tickets proved to be a clever marketing strategy, boosting Wonka’s sales tremendously. “And now the whole country, indeed, the whole world, seemed suddenly to be caught up in a mad chocolate-buying spree, everybody searching frantically for those precious remaining tickets. Fully grown women were seen going into sweet shops and buying ten Wonka bars at a time, then tearing off the wrappers on the spot and peering eagerly underneath for a glint of golden paper. Children were taking hammers and smashing their piggy banks and running out to the shops with handfuls of money.”

But we don’t have any Golden Tickets in the real world, and manufacturers and chocolatieres need to find other ways of promoting their products. While the appeal of chocolate as a delicious treat is already enough to entice consumers everywhere, manufacturers are in a race to see who can come up with the most ingenious and innovative ads.

While most chocolate advertisements follow the general example shown by Carre de chocolat above, showcasing the breathtaking and euphoric effects of chocolate, some seek simpler methods to promote their products.

Product developers know that packaging comes first and foremost. After all, when a consumer walks into the chocolate aisle, they 1) approach familiar brands, and 2) reach for brands that have attractive packaging. A common trend seen in the packaging of chocolate products shows simple, minimalistic design, in which the word “chocolate” remains the star. Colors remain neutral, with shades of brown varying based on the type of chocolate being sold.

Most manufacturers, however, have begun adding a touch of elegance to their products. Sleek silver and gold line the packaging of chocolates and chocolate products, and on the off chance that a chocolate bar is decked in a color other than brown, black or cream, you can be sure that the colors remain elegant and sophisticated, if not seasonal.

Many manufacturers have also begun turning to stranger combinations of flavors for their products. Following the Kit Kat craze that saw dozens of strange chocolate combinations enter the market, now other companies have also started relying on less conventional chocolate flavors, tying these into crowdsourcing and charity events. Anyone for chocolate-covered sun-dried tomatoes? Everything from broccoli to sweet potatoes and even squid has been paired with chocolate.

This has inspired desserts from around the world to be created. Chocolate éclair hotdogs, chocolate and cauliflower cakes, and even mayonnaise chocolate cakes have been developed. 2012’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning saw Chocolate and Orange cakes being sold by M&S and raising thousands of dollars for Macmillan Cancer Support. Renowned chef Jose Garces also sold specialized chocolate cakes in his restaurants to raise money for his charity foundation, offering flavors like spicy chocolate cake and passion fruit sorbet and chocolate.

Of course, all this is just the icing on the cake. Chocolate remains a malleable market, and it’s going strong. Studies show that 91 percent of females and 87 percent of males still love chocolate, and the sales of seasonal and boxed chocolate products are expected to expand by 13 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Horror, but Not Horrible Chocolate

killing cookiesThere is a time and place for chocolate … and for many that is today’s Halloweenapalooza.

And there is a time and place for horror … (see above).

For those whose All Hallows eve is the time for a horror update to the more refined observance, but not the place for the crapchocolate that is passed out in “fun sized” globs, then we suggest some horror in keeping with the chocolate theme, or an evening’s entertainment spiced up (and down and in fact run through) by Masters of Horror: Chocolate, the unsettling 2005 teleplay of a young divorcee aromatically and psychicly linked to a beautiful, deadly woman. It was written and directed by Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris, director of The Standand The Shining:

Give ’til It Tastes Well

chocolategoldmoney January is ended, as are many aspirations people began the year with — as demonstrated through their new year’s resolutions — dashed by their own stopdoingitiveness. However, there are folks, some part of the greater choco-community, who have persevered with their dreams into February.

So, if by chance you have saved money by quitting the gym or the weight loss program or the book or wine or cheese or whatever club you signed up for while in post-holiday self-help mode, there is still time and an easy way to make yourself feel better. Consider supporting folks looking for some financial support for their projects in chocolateland.

For example, you can help buy a new cocoa grinding machine for the Saqui Family and Maya Center Village to help produce a unique, Belizean chocolate that also — and, no, we’re not exactly sure we understand how — aids a jaguar preserve and cacao farm in the Central American country.

Also thought provoking, but in a very different way, is the request for funding of the promulgation of Naples, Fla., Judy Cakes’ fluffy chocolate covered beermallows (recipe and samples available for a $50 pledge), a combination of beer, chocolate and marshmallow that we bet you weren’t expecting to read about here either.

Although not strictly chocolate related, it is chocolate-relevant (and sad) that a proposed film will bring to light chocolate used for evil. Chocolate Boxes is Leeds’s Sean McMahon’s proposed student film telling a coming of age tale set in 1937 Yorkshire and taking its name from the explosive devices, strewn by Spanish Fascists where Spanish Republican children could find them.

Finally, while we are always admittedly a bit ambivalent about promoting competition, there is another reachout from fledlging chocolate makers, Cocoa Loco, trying to grow some wings in Stamford, Connecticut, who as part of their fund raising pitch promise a random distribution of a chocolate-covered Oreo or marshamallow in exchange for a pledge of $2.

Of course, if you happen to be coming to this post post-deadline for any of these funding campaigns, we encourage you to visit crowdfunding sources Kickstarter, GoFundMe, ChipIn, DonorsChoose, IndieGoGo, Quirky, Etsy and RocketHub [] to check out artists, entrepreneurs, dreamers, and (alas, yes, possibly) the overly self-indulgent and scam artists as well, who are trying throughout the year to live out their chocolate dreams … and maybe yours as well.

Charlie and the Chocolate Novel

IN PREPARATION for holiday gift buying, how ready are you to re-read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The novel celebrates the magic and imagination and promise of (mostly chocolate) has sent people off in very different directions — from movies to legal arguments, although, oddly enough, never in the direction of creating a decent chocolate — but should mostly just remain a book unique for everyone.

The oft dark Welshman‘s choco-fantasy ranked No. 61 among School Library Journals 2012 Top 100, an unfortunate slip from the No. 19 2010 rank. Since its 1964 publication the tale of how a humble dreamer melds with a candy visionary has been a perfect (well, “wonderful” anyway) holiday gift for a young reader — or parent who wants to read to their young child. It has also served as the catalyst for (among many, many oddities) a behind-the-scenes legal tussle (escalating into farce) over an elementary school adaptation and production; the basis for lessons teaching different recruitment strategies for managers; a discussion regarding candy copyright and the legal efforts around candy and corporate trade secrecy; an opera, a musical, a Nestlé brand (“The Willy Wonka Candy Company”) that is ironically the kind of cheap, mostly derivative confections the book’s Wonka rails against, video games, and, coming next summer to London’s West End, a musical [Earlier: Charlie Sings Dahl, Probably Disappointingly] already promoting itself with handy page to stage materials for teachers who might want to purchase classrooms-worth of tickets; in addition to the two fairly well known and oddly different movies featuring imaginative concepts but not the spirit of the book.

The 2005 movie version highlighted the eccentricities of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, while the 1971 version showcased a somewhat dyspepsic Gene Wilder

In the end, unfortunately, none of the spinoffs, reimaginings or intellectual riffs have lived up to the book — nor did Dahl’s own sequel (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, nor the licensed cookbook, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes).

In short: buy the book, find a young person to read it with and as preparation stop in to CAC in downtown Riverside and pick up some appropriate nourishment for both of you.

Charlie Sings Dahl, Probably Disappointingly

Many will welcome the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical, set to debut in London June 2013.

Unfortunately, we at CAC don’t expect to find ourselves among that many. Perhaps the production will sway us. The 1971 Gene Wilder adaptation was a bit manic and creepy. The 2005 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp exploration was stylistically interesting, but came across a bit soulless. Neither had the humanity of Dah’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” book. Nor do we expect the musical to satisfy, although we have not a doubt the music will be much more pleasurable than the execrable “Candy Man Can.”

There’s a light from darkness to the book that so far defies capture. Charlie Bucket is living in soul-grinding poverty before the golden ticket materializes in his hand. It is not clear at book’s end, but even as he becomes the new Wonka, it is possible his family may have to stay ground down as The (current) Wonka does seem to live a very solitary (possibly even melancholy despite the chocolate) life. Dahl also throws in some torturing of children. For their sins (i.e., gluttony, greed, gum chomping and tv addiction), Charlie’s fellow golden ticketers are put through the ringer … in one case, literally.

All in all, there is an overlay of darkness — albeit not as gruesome or historically intriguign as the new book from history professor Catherine Higgs, the Cadbury-indicting Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa — from Dahl that neither movies nor stage is likely to capture.

In short, Dahl (perhaps due the dark texture of his own life and soul, did justice to dark chocolate with C and the CF perfectly balancing the bite, the nuances and the sweet. The adaptations, at least so far and we’re not counting on that changing, just don’t measure up.