The Why Not Men and Chocolate FD Rant

chocolate necktiesFather’s Day couldn’t possibly be the wrong day to ask when did common sense die and leave chocolate to the ladies? Moms get chocolate (and flowers, but that whinge is for a different site), but on “his” day, dad gets a handshake and left alone while he grills the FD dinner. Or, maybe as a joke he is handed a necktie of chocolate — really, is there a dad alive made gleeful with receipt of a silk or silk/polyester work noose — that is often crap chocolate poured in a necktie mold that will be eaten by non-discriminating kids or tossed after only a few good will bites?

If men could talk about the pleasure they take in chocolate (and we know from experience and talk every day in the store they do) as women can, perhaps shopping for dad on “his” day wouldn’t be such a trial? We aren’t ready to rail from a soapbox — in our case more of an overturned milk carton — but something definitely went wrong in the culture a long time ago. Where are the claques of men who society lets be connoisseurs of chocolate in the way it is socially acceptable to be of wines, beers or cigars (and, no, we’re not talking  chocolate cigars)?

Whatever one may think of a sensory pleasure comparison, none of those vices offers the health benefits dark chocolate gives to men. In addition to mouth pleasures, dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks, lower risks from stroke, lower bad cholesterol and even reduce blood sugar levels.

And yet it is rare and often sad when man and chocolate are juxtaposed. Results are often something like Lazy Man’s Chocolate Lava Cake, where you dump ingredients in a crock pot and walk away

Or Poor Man’s Chocolate Cake, with its provenance tracking back to at least the happy gustatory days of The Great Depression, which admittedly did introduce the chocolate chip cookie to the world.

With men and chocolate it’s almost always how to buy it in satisfaction of a distaff yearning … or maybe how to make it for the to-be-honored her.

Why can’t America steal the Japanese custom of giri-choco, the “obligation chocolate” women buy men on Valentine’s Day, even if it is a custom based on a mistranslation of a chocolate company employee just trying to juice sales? And why must an unscientific search turn up very few ways to honor a dad with chocolate other than the widely syndicated recipe to mix, chocolate chips, maple and bacon as elements of a dad-themed cookie recipe? And, finally, why must the most famous celebration of men and chocolate be the cartoon character “Chef” singing out joy at his own chocolate salty balls

Okay, we got a bit off track: stop by to pick up something chocolate and delicious for dad or just flout all tradition and offer him a seat at an all-gourmet taste test of the best dark chocolate bars you can buy or make take care of the grilling.

Sometimes a Chocolate Is Not a Chocolate

chocolate trainChocolate use is not always about chocolate consumption. It’s almost Freudian that way.

The most recent example of this comes from a media-conscious, progressive, post-modernish arty, activist collective, the Fresh Juice Party, who claim to have sent 5,000 gruesomely rendered soldiers made of chocolate to various opinion-makers as part of a protest of American military policy. They call their confection-conception a FUBAR and claim it is delicious.

Of course, the tastefulness of the actual chocolate is inconsequential, except, perhaps, in service to their political point. It’s similar in that way to all the various things that over the years have been made from chocolate as a way to call attention to themselves … and their creators such as the random assortment compiled on one list of 30 Things Made of Chocolate and another of Amazing Things Made of Chocolate.

The idea of cacao creations being used not for taste but for the ideas conjured in the audiences’ mind can evolve into a nesting doll idea of self-referentialness finding it ultimate — at least to us and so far — when a box of chocolates made of chocolate appears on what Hulu refers to as chocolate television.

Admittedly, it’s a long sidetrack away from making chocolate confections that just taste good for their own sake. But enough of the philosophizing. Back to the kitchen for some and to the sales counter for others.

Know It When You Taste/See It?

hershey kissHeard a mediocre talent describe herself on a TV chat show as an artist. It is probably true, which told us two things: 1) we realized it no longer means anything special to be identified — particularly self-hailed — as an artist, and 2) what’s going on with chocolate art.

And the answer is we don’t really know. Is Alexander Lervik’s Lumière au Chocolatea art, a fixture, conceptual dessert?

Is it “art” or just “decoration” if chocolate is used to create abstract designs in a kitchen?

What about when chocolate is used like any other sculptured material? (It is quite the niche.) Would this be museum quality art if it didn’t melt or wasn’t edible?

It seems that basic advertising for chocolate shops, products or themed events is immediately labeled art when taken out of context, framed and hung on a wall? But why, exactly?

The point is probably made. After a good 30 seconds of thought and 25 or 30 minutes of web surfing we failed in figuring out the defining characteristics of what is and what is not “chocolate art,” other than, of course, chocolate is involved. Taste is involved, but it is not clear at all from what is labeled as “art” or produced by an “artisan” how to define that. Basically, we’re back where we started, with the concept of art that we started with: it’s something person-created that dramatically and consequentially changes the audience’s perception of the world around them — and in the case of chocolate art it has at least a bit of cacao in it.

Actually, we’re not quite back where we started: we’re behind on getting everything baked up for Valentine’s Day, now less than 200 hours away.

Not So Special Delivery

chocolate trainAPPARENTLY, someone got the midwinter blahs and so a new company, Good Cacao, threatens to take all the fun out of chocolate by selling le gran cacao as just a delivery system for other nutritional products. The basic pitch is that they throw a lot of healthy crap into some good chocolate and all bites are super-wonderful-food-functional chocolates. Consider yourself warned.

We’re not knocking chocolate as a delivery system. It’s raison d’être, after all, is to deliver mouth pleasure. We also have recently found ourselves pleased that ye olde brewmaster Samuel Smith brought the buzz with his Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout a valuable contribution to both the beer and chocolate families. Still, there is something cynical about using chocolate to deliver an eyelid jolting dash of caffeine in Awake Caffeinated Chocolate or even as a tourist delivery system to York, England.

We get it. Chocolate is a marketing tool (another word for delivery system) and that is why there is going to be a flood of chocolate-themed junk in the run-up to Valentines Day showing up on tv, in the email inbox, throughout social media and on screens everywhere in between). It just shouldn’t get out of hand.

Although it probably already has.