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

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!

St. Pat’s, Excess and Chocolate 2014

St PatrickThis year we are wrestling over what and how to celebrate with chocolate on St. Patrick’s Day. It has always been one of our favorite holidays, and we have long known that the American version embraces the ridiculous over the serious — with effect great enough to change how the holiday is observed in Ireland.

Part of why we love the holiday is aspirational. It would be great to be able [somehow] to  trace our roots to the out-of-work, immigrant Irish chocolate-maker John Hanan, who in 1765 imported cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Mass., to refine them with the help of American Dr. James Baker (of BAKER’S ® chocolate). Another part of our feelings for the holiday is loving the idea of a guy who can chase the snakes away (even if some say there never were any), and who Arthurian scholar Norma Lorre Goodrich believes was also Merlin of the Round Table.

The issue we wrestle with is the level of our complicity in the whinge of the ever-increasing debasement of the holiday. In thinking it over, we assume the safe side of the issue includes adding chocolate stout to a slow-cooked corned beef. However, the line is likely nearer to being crossed when complementing the corned beef with a chocolate cabbage sheet cake.

It is even closer an unitdy linking of food and excess and St. Pat’s when fixing up Green Velvet Cupcakes. And most likely the line is in the rear view mirror when adding to the celebratory menu a drink/dessert like the Drunken Chocolate-Covered Grasshopper Tiramisu, where you soak the cookie crust in a grasshopper and then build a personal-sized tiramisu.

Finally, while the result is tasty and the name sounds safe, you should probably take our word for it that the demonstrators creating this Chocolate Guinness Cake are what puts total fear into the true believers

Anyway, whether or not you celebrate like us with a tinge of guilt, Happy [chocolate] St. Patrick’s Day!

Selling Chocolate to the Little Heads

BRING ON THE SENSATIONAL — Sex, Sex, Sex, Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate… a pinch of science and heaping cup and a half of hype — and see it if sells!

Somewhat under the radar for holiday news, but no doubt getting its engine revved for a pre-Valentines ejaculation of interest is the news that mega-cocoa provider Barry Callebaut will be “turbo-charging” at least one of its chocolate offerings, tweaking and enhancing flavenols and increasing blood pumping attributes, which has the suggestion and allure of “choco-viagra.”

(At this point we should probably apologize to anyone who has read this far after searching for “chocolate viagra” hoping for porn but ending up here. Sorry, but do still hope you’ll look around in case we might somehow satisfy another appetite.)

Chocolate traces its aphrodisiacal mystique back at least to the Aztecs and Montezuma’s alleged consumption of 50 hot cocoa cups a day. Unfortunately, killbuzz scientists do mostly find that the advertised ScINtillating properties are more likely psychological than physiological,(which doesn’t keep anyone from trying to come up with sexy chocolate bars … even if said sweets leave at least some critics limp).

We root for Callebaut to have created the breakthrough that will help us sell evermore chocolate to men for their own consumption and everyone’s enjoyment. At the same time, we can’t help beware the hype and persist in the hope that sex, sex, sex, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate doesn’t screw up the taste.

Chocolate Viagra indeed: a very odd love affair with one’s food.

Happy Chocolate Day 2012

IN case you haven’t checked the Almanac lately, we’ll be frontstore tomorrow, 7 July, with a couple special treats, but mostly celebrating Chocolate Day — an international note-taking of the Europeans discovery of the Mayan Goddess Ixcacao‘s cacao drink — by peddling the usual choco-deliciousness.

HOWEVER, for a few special friends who can make their way into the alley leading to Cupid Alley and, thus, our back door, make sure to stop in to see Grumps. As he announced loudly today, he’ll be honoring the day and dealing with the “frickin’ hellacious temperatures” outside by working on his Chocolate-Kahlua Ice Cream recipe in back. He’s mashed together some ideas and let us know that the base he’ll be tweaking all day for our backdoor visitors is

GRUMPS Choco-Coffee Liquor Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
4 teaspoons corn starch
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup evaporated milk (unsweetened condensed milk)
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup brewed double-strength espresso, cold
1/2 cup Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. When at a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder and egg yolks and continue heating for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the espresso, Kahlua and vanilla.

3. Pour into a zip-top plastic bag and submerge in ice for about 30 minutes (add ice if bag gets uncovered).

4. Pour the mixture into the canister of an ice cream maker, then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions (or just knead bag a few times to mix all up one more time and place in freezer, kneading again at least once within first ½ hour).

In case you can’t make it to us, want to celebrate at home, but don’t know what to make, may we recommend perusing from among Martha Stewart’s 55 “Best Chocolate Recipes” [link]. (We like a bunch of them, but find the chocolate ginger cookies, fairly simple and addictive.) Or perhaps you’d prefer to browse Real Simple‘s 50 Best Chocolate Recipes (whose chocolate Ice box cake recently caught our fancy). For those more disciplined among us, there is also Cooking Light‘s suggestions for the 16 Best Chocolate Recipes (and from their list we point you to the Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie)

In any case, whether you stop by or not and no matter with what delectable you choose to celebrate, Happy Chocolate Day … and we remain ever grateful Ixcacao. Thank you!

Headlines Eat It

We won’t lie. We love the fantasy inspired by news headlines like Gorging on Chocolate May Help You Lose Weight. Based only on that headline we hope we can count on you to order one or maybe two of everything in our shop.

The sad truth is that the actual study doesn’t seem to prove much, except as The Wall Street Journal quoted the study’s lead researcher, UC San Diego’s Dr. Beatrice Golomb, that “”Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight.”

We wish the opposite were true (it would be great for business and life), but, trust us, these employees of Xilinx — makers, they say, of superior FPGAs, CPLDs (among other acronnymed products) — and are not losing weight.