I saw an article yesterday about “A Battle to Save the World’s Favorite Treat.” Apparently, chocolate is under threat from a blight referred to as frosty pod rot, a disease threatening production throughout Latin America.
Using cloning, scientists in Costa Rica are working to develop cacao hybrids that are resistant to the blight. I imagine we all wish them well. I don’t know what (if any) data the article used to conclude that chocolate is the world’s favorite treat, but if we were to guess, I think we’d come up with the same answer.
Last spring we took a train (in Spain, though not mainly on the plain) from Valencia to Alicante. It was the first leg of our trip to Germany to visit Liebling and Chiquito in Kiel. Our “in-flight” entertainment was a documentary about chocolate. I wish I could say that I’m now an expert, but I’m afraid I can’t remember many of the details.
I do recall that the narrator rehearsed some of the history of cacao in Latin America, that the beans were highly valued, and had for a time been used as currency. I have some experience with this myself: last semester I was paid in chocolate for some work I did for a Berklee student. His favorite jacket had come unsewn, and El Guapo confided that I was an expert mender. So I sewed up his seam invisibly, and was paid in Lindt chocolate bars.
One was a very nice dark chocolate with strawberry bits–I savored it for a long time. Another was darker than any I had previously tried–99% cacao. This was the first chocolate bar in my experience to come with what amounted to a warning label.
It didn’t actually warn against ingesting, but it did emphasize the need to work up to the product. I quote an excerpt from the fine print on the gold foil: “We recommend that you progressively develop your palate through our range of high cocoa content chocolate bars, starting with Excellence 70%, then 85%, and finally 99%.”
Instructions like these are no doubt meant to fend off phone calls from irritable consumers complaining that their expensive chocolate tastes like bitter dirt (or maybe frosty pod rot). If it strikes you that way, you have apparently failed to progressively develop your palate.
I guess my palate has developed enough that I can enjoy various dark chocolates, but the 99% bar was further than I was willing to develop. I ended up chopping the chocolate finely and stirring in some sugar, enjoying it by the spoonful. I admit that it looked like potting soil, but it no longer tasted like potting soil. Faced with the choice of appearing high brow or enjoying the taste of the chocolate, I went with the latter.
Have you had any experiences with high brow foods that take some getting used to?
[Images: nytimes.com, yours truly]