Saturday, July 27, 2002

Woo-hoo! Two more sponsors-- one a good friend, the other an anonymous I can't figure out. (Email me, anonymous, so that I may thank you personally.) Thank you both! Our total for Count Me In is $429, not counting contributions from Bean Tree Soap. I'm feeling pretty good about hitting $500...

Chocolove: Chocolove has a cute packaging concept. The bars are wrapped to look like love letters, with a stamp. Inside the wrapper is a love poem. Chocolove bars are made of organic Belgian chocolate.

Chocolove comes in 33% milk chocolate, and an assortment of dark chocolate bars ranging from 55% to 77%! There are also combinations of ginger, cherries and almonds, orange, and raspberry.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the milk chocolate and hazelnut bar. It tasted a little waxy. I tried the 55% dark chocolate bar, and it didn't melt in my mouth like I wanted; it took a couple of chews. However, I did enjoy the dark chocolate orange bar.

Cute packaging-- worth a try.

Next half hour: Men vs. Chocolate. Oh, ladies, you'll wanna hit the comment key for this one.
Can you become addicted to chocolate? There are certainly quite a few people who say they should belong to Chocoholics Anonymous. But can you really be addicted to chocolate-- like a drug?

Chocolate contains compounds similiar to those found in marijuana, and these compounds do give us a little buzz of pleasure when we eat chocolate. But our stomach acids break down these compounds before they get into our bloodstream.

And, it's true, chocolate triggers the body's natural opiates-- but scientists say that creates a craving, not an addiction. What's the dif? When you're addicted to something, it becomes less and less satisfying every time you use it.

While it's true that Hershey's lost its luster for me years ago, progressing from Hershey's to, say, Lindt, isn't the same as going from weed to nose candy.

Next half hour: Chocolove
The Bishop who was murdered for trying to ban chocolate: This took place in Chiapas, Mexico, I believe sometime in the 17th century.

A group of upper-class ladies basically said Mass was too long and exhausting without having a cup of hot chocolate to help them through. So they would have maid-servants to walk into the sanctuary bringing them cups of chocolate.

This didn't go over too well with the Bishop. It disrupted Mass. He told the ladies there would be no more chocolate served during Mass. Anyone who broke that rule would be excommunicated.

The ladies didn't care. It got so bad, at one point, folks pulled swords on each other when the priests tried to take the chocolate away from the ladies' maids. (In church! We got in trouble just for chewing gum!)

Finally, the ladies refused to attend the Bishop's services, and started going to Mass at a convent. The priests tried to warn the Bishop that if the women couldn't drink their chocolate during services, they were going to get revenge-- and that it could be deadly.

Eight days later-- the Bishop died a very painful death.

Rumors started spreading that one of the gentlewomen who was -- *ahem* -- "familiar"-- with one of the Bishop's pages got that page to give the Bishop a cup of poisoned chocolate.

Moral of the story: never come between a woman and her chocolate!

Next half hour: Can you become addicted to chocolate?
Montezuma's Chocolates: First, hello to all my friends in the UK. I want to come visit you. Actually, I want to go visit this chocolate company and stay with you so I can save money on lodging.

Montezuma's was started by two lawyers about two years ago. (Maybe less.) Their chocolate is hand-made using all organic ingredients, and they have some unique combinations of flavors. They offer bars, blocks, truffles, and drinking chocolate. The ingredients they use include brazil nuts, Australian ginger, bananas, coconut, apricots, pecans, cranberries, sultanas, almonds, cardamom, apple, lemon, coffee beans...

I ordered several of their bars last Christmas. Wow. I loved the white chocolate with cinnamon. Very smooth. And after I tasted the milk chocolate with nutmeg, I hid it from my husband. If you love dark chocolate, they have a 73% very dark chocolate bar. They also have what they call the "Emperor Chili" bar... chocolate with chili; I haven't got up the courage to try it yet. And they have some vegan chocolate bars. Yes!

If you're lucky enough to live near Sussex, where Montezuma's is based, you can join "Monty's Club" and get invites to the company's chocolate tastings.

If you live in the US and want to try some of Montezuma's chocolates, which I do recommend, order from www.chefshop.com. You'll save a little bit on shipping-- and since it's summer, it's probably safer.

Next half hour: The bishop who was murdered for trying to ban chocolate
Best Hot Chocolates: It's 10pm in my corner of the world: Time to cozy down with some hot chocolate.

(Or maybe not. I'm in the South, where it's cooled down to 72 degrees. It's so hot during the day, I've got fried green tomatoes on-the-vine.)

So, hey, if it's cold enough in your world to cozy down with a cup of chocolate, here are some of my favorites:

*Ibarra Authentic Mexican Chocolate Drink Mix comes in a nifty yellow and red box. Inside are large tablets containing cacao nibs, sugar, and cinnamon. You heat up some milk, then put the milk in a blender with a few wedges of the chocolate tablets and give it a whir. Frothy and flavorful.

*Lake Champlain of Vermont makes a nice powdered cocoa mix, in several different flavors (chocolate, chocolate raspberry, chocolate orange, and chocolate mint). When you follow the directions on the package you get a nice, rich drink. Oh, this is a "no water" mix. Gotta use milk. By the way, Lake Champlain makes some nice chocolates and truffles-- I love their holiday truffles (like the hazelnut praline Easter Egg)-- and they have a box of thins, with a dark chocolate peppermint candy crunch. It's a dark chocolate I really enjoy.

*My mom sends me a canister of this every Christmas: Williams-Sonoma's peppermint hot chocolate. It is actually chipped chocolate that has been infused with peppermint oil. You mix a few spoonfuls into some hot milk. Mmmm. I do believe it is a seasonal product.

Next half hour: A British chocolate company with some great combinations-- Montezuma's.
Why Every Chocolate Lover Should be an Environmentalist: Basically, because cacao trees don't just grow anywhere. They're very picky about where they'll flourish. And the best gardener for the job is Mother Nature.

Cacao trees only grow within about 15 degrees of the equator. They need constant warmth, and constant rainfall. They can reach 50 feet high, but they must grow under the shade of other trees. Under the right conditions, they can produce pods for 100 years or more.

There have been some attempts to create large plantations, but it just doesn't work. Only about 3 percent of all the blossoms on the cacao tree actually produce fruit-- and the number drops when man steps in to try to industrialize it. Some people have even tried hand-pollination, and it doesn't increase the success. Any chocolate that is produced just doesn't taste the same. Fact is, 90 percent of the chocolate we get is grown by small farmers who just help Mother Earth do her thing.

I think it's divinely ironic that the "food of the gods"-- one of the greatest pleasures on earth-- is something only God (if you believe in one; if not, nature or whatever) has the recipe for. And if you're a chocolate lover, you can see why mowing through the rainforests threatens your passion.

Learn more about the cocoa tree through a special interactive project called The Cocoa Tree.

Next half hour: Best hot chocolates

Woo-hoo! The halfway mark! 12 down, 12 hours to go.

I think this is a good time to remind you why I'm making you drool.

I'm supporting Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence. Don't let your eyes glaze over! Behind the long name are some good stories about real people. Count Me In helps women who want to start their own businesses, but may not have the cash to do so. Women in America still make less than their male counterparts. Women who want to get a bank loan often have the hurdles of a start-and-stop career (taking time out to care for children), no credit or little credit (if the husband had the credit in their name), or even bad credit (from a husband who didn't take care of business). Sometimes women don't need a huge loan and banks don't want to loan out small amounts because they make less. Sometimes women don't have a lot of collateral to put up.

This isn't only about helping one person reach their own goals. That one person may be able to support her family, create jobs in her community, and boost the local economy if she can just get the funds to get started. A boost in the economy is what we all need right now. Plus, small businesses are responsible for the largest amount of new jobs in America. So, really, giving to Count Me In is, in my view, helping yourself indirectly.

Read some of Count Me In's success stories... then hit that sponsor link and make a pledge! $5 is enough to give me a second wind.

By the way, by giving to Count Me In, ladies, you make yourself eligible to apply for their scholarships and loans.

Chocolat: (This is an excerpt from a blog on my other site.) Usually when you read a book and see the movie based on the book, the film leaves you disappointed. While the movie script did take some liberties from the novel, each was satisfying in its own way. For an analogy, I'd call the book a 70% dark chocolate, and the movie could be perhaps a 35% or 40% milk chocolate. Both worth savoring-- but one containing more essence than the other.

Not only do I love the driving force of the story-- chocolate-- I have to admit I truly appreciated elements of the message. The people of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes eventually learn to free themselves and enjoy life, including our heroine, Vianne Rocher.

In the novel, author Joanne Harris creates a more direct battle between the church and the chocolate shop. For example, in the book you see more dramatically how Vianne enters the town during Mardi Gras, disturbs Lent by tempting people with life-altering chocolate, and plans a chocolate festival on Easter Sunday. This is toned down in the movie. Also in the book, the "bad guy" is Pere Reynaud, the priest of the town's church; whereas in the movie, the "bad guy" is the mayor, the Comte de Reynaud, who happens to have the young Elvis-imitating priest on puppet strings. The book gives us more insight into Reynaud's character through letters he writes to another priest.

The novel also gives us a slightly different Vianne than the film. The novel shows Vianne's skills with chocolate goes beyond those of a simple chocolatier... and people in town suspect she is a witch. Vianne also has a different history in the novel, yet in both the film and the book, she struggles with her past.

When I first saw the film Chocolat, I was afraid it would be considered too artsy for the general public to enjoy. I was glad it received Academy Award nominations. As for the novel, if you enjoy creating the world of the book in your head and living with the characters as they explore themselves and change their lives, put it on your summer reading list.

Next half hour: Why every chocolate lover should be an environmentalist
The Right Way to Eat Chocolate: Don't you hate it when you give someone a really good chocolate and they just chew it like it was okra or something? My dad did that all the time... my mom would get us girls a box of some special chocolates (she had educated us in the proper eating of fine chocolates), but my dad chewed it like he was chompin' down chow in the Army mess hall. (Men. Always rushing through good stuff.)

The whole point of chocolate is to enjoy it... not go through it like a weed-eater. Take your time, do it right.

Here's the proper way to eat chocolate... according to the Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate (so you don't have to believe me). First, the chocolate should be at room temperature. Second, let the chocolate sit in your mouth for a few moments. I personally recommend an inhale after those few moments.

Now-- Cook's recommends a few chews-- 3-5 if you're eating a filled chocolate, 5-10 if you're not. I agree for the filled chocolates, but for others, the chocolate should be melting in your mouth right about now, so skip the chewing. No chewing!

Press the chocolate up against the roof of your mouth. Let it swirl in your mouth. Take another inhale. Enjoy the secondary and lingering flavors.

Wasn't that yummy?

Next half hour: Chocolat, the movie and the novel!
Brownie Puddle: Rose Levy Beranbaum created this dessert-- and anyone who could create something this good must be my soulmate.

Basically, it is a dark brownie (on the fudgy side) baked in a fluted, removable-bottom tart pan. Nuts if you like. Then, right after it comes out of the oven, poke holes in it with the end of a wooden spoon. Fill the holes with some chocolate ganache.

Did I hear an "mmmm" all over the Blogathon world?

To get this recipe-- pick up The Pie and Pastry Bible, page 297, or visit this page.

Next half hour: The Right Way to Eat Chocolate
Are lowfat chocolate desserts worth eating? The other day on Oprah, she had guests on who had lost incredible amounts of weight. One woman said she completely gave up chocolate.

My dark-chocolate-loving co-worker and I looked at each other.

Nope! We couldn't do it.

And I started to wonder... because when you look at me you can tell I love chocolate... since I absolutely refuse to live without chocolate, could I settle for a "lowfat" dessert... or would I be happy just having a teensy bit of the real stuff? Would you rather have a bowl full of Healthy Choice ice cream, or two spoons of Ben & Jerry's?

My first choice would be a spoon or two of the real thing. (The trick there is restraint, or "stretching out the joy" as I like to think of it.) There are too many "lowfat" products out there that taste like empty calories. For example, Hershey's Sweet Escapes have just too much sugar for me; and Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches are okay, but sometimes I want the chocolate and peanut butter flavor to slap me in the face.

I go for lowfat treats much better if I make them myself-- and here are two books that deliver lowfat satisfaction: Let Them Eat Cake by Susan G. Purdy; and Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich. If you can go for only one, get Medrich's book; she's known as "America's First Lady of Chocolate."

Next half hour: A great dessert that doesn't skimp on fat-- Brownie Puddle
Chocolate for dinner: It's dinnertime in my corner of the world. Before I plate up, how about a little chocolate? Scroll down to the entry on "weird chocolate combinations that work," read the comments and you'll find a link to a chili recipe that contains chocolate. And here's a recipe I like for Barbequed-Chicken Potpie which contains a little chocolate. It just kind of deepens the flavors.

It took a while before people thought about using chocolate for dessert. Both the Spanish and Mexicans use chocolate in sauces for meat, game, and fish.

And-- The Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate describes a collection of recipes that once belonged to an 18th century Italian priest. It contained recipes for chocolate polenta; chocolate pudding with veal, marrow, and candied fruit; and floured slices of liver dipped in chocolate and fried!

Yikes-- I think I just ruined my own appetite!

Next half hour: Are lowfat desserts worth eating?

Ever met a chocolate you didn't like? Every once in a while, you run into a dud.

Last year I went to Morocco, and one day, I just had to have some. Not that there hadn't been anything sweet to eat-- we had mint tea and cookies just about every night. I just needed some smooth, creamy chocolate.

So my husband got me a bar. The wrapper said "chocolat." It looked like chocolate.

It wasn't chocolate.

It tasted like brown wax. Like I was eating a candle or a crayon! I turned the bar over and chocolate was like the fourth or fifth ingredient on the list. (See? Told you it wasn't chocolate.) I don't remember what the name of the bar was, or who the manufacturer was, and I didn't take a chance on any other chocolate while visiting Morocco; I stuck with the tea and cookies. I just lived with theobromine withdrawals for a few weeks.

Next half hour: Chocolate for dinner
Classy S'mores: I can't take credit for this idea-- it belongs to Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbeque! Bible.

Basically, roast your marshmellow to your preferred standard of donness. But, use homemade chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers, and use something more sophisticated than Hershey's bars... perhaps Lindt or Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares.

Mmmmm!

Next half hour: Ever met a chocolate you didn't like?
A few cocoa facts. Cocoa is what's left when you squeeze all the fat out of unsweetened, solid chocolate liquor. It's then ground to a powder.

In 1828, Conrad J. van Houten treated the cocoa with alkaline to try to make it blend better with water. The alkaline darkened the color and mellowed the flavor: ta da! Dutch-process cocoa.

If you ever make a devil's food cake (without the red food coloring), you're kind of dutching the cocoa yourself, according to What Einstein Told His Cook. Most devil's food cake recipes call for regular cocoa powder, but the baking soda in the recipe neutralizes the acid in the cocoa and changes the color.

Next half hour: Classy S'mores
Can men ever love chocolate like women do? There's a man I work with who says he's a chocolate lover. So, a few days ago, I e-mailed him about the Blogathon and how I was going to write about chocolate. Then I asked him, "Can men ever really love chocolate like women do? Any thoughts?"

He stopped by my desk a while later. "You know, I have to give that some thought. I'll get back to you."

And that was all he ever said!

So I'm thinking not. I mean, a real chocolate-lover would have defended his passion, right? And I did stumble upon several studies showing men crave chocolate less frequently than women.

I'd love to have a guy chocolate-lover chime in: I'm curious. Do guys ever crave it? Does something inside you say, "I gotta have it?" Does the same feeling of bliss wash over you, making you feel that all is once again right in your world, even for a moment?

Next half hour: Cocoa
Why do women crave chocolate? I'm not going to get too scientific here. But I've read some articles that say women crave chocolate at certain times during the month when they're low in magnesium or other chemicals-- but then other studies say that when the women are given the actual chemical in pill form, they still crave chocolate.

Then there are some studies that say women crave chocolate because we need more "feelgood" chemicals to go off in our brains when we're more stressed.

Sorry to leave you out, guys, but ladies know what I'm talking about: certain things in a woman's life just aren't clockwork. They just happen. And I just happen to crave chocolate right before the other happenings. Sorry I can't give you any definitive answers. Fellas, I'd say, it's always good to have a stash of Haagen-Dazs or some other chocolate around-- it might get you out of the dog house in a pinch. (But then again, it might not.)

Next half hour: Can men ever really appreciate chocolate like women do?
Chocolate to Save the Animals: The man who founded the Endangered Species Chocolate Company uses chocolate to bring awareness to endangered animals.

There are 18 different bars, and each is named after an endangered animal. (For example, the "Harp Seal Bar" is Belgian white chocolate; "The Panda Bar" is a swirl of dark and white chocolate.) The wrappers not only feature a picture of the animal, but interesting facts about the species and what dangers it faces are printed on the back. The company also makes "Bug Bites"-- little mini-bars with a bug trading card inside, meant to highlight the important roles insects play in the environment.

Ten percent of the proceeds from Endangered Species chocolates support environmental organizations dedicated to saving the endangered species and their habitats.

I've got my hands on the "Manatee Bar"-- milk chocolate and rice crisp (and let me just say I think manatees are beautiful animals). Time for a little real-time tasting:

Say, this certainly isn't your standard Krackel bar... really crunchy rice... smooth... the chocolate isn't complex... the texture is good. I'll put it on my favorites list.

Next half hour: Why do women crave chocolate?
A chocolate-lover's dream vacation: I've actually got two to mention.

First, my dark-chocolate-loving co-worker went on a cruise (I'm not sure what line it was) and they had a midnight chocolate buffet. She said the table stretched forever and everything on it was full of chocolate. Mmmm...

Here's my dream vacation. I want to see the origins of chocolate, so the destination is Oaxaca, Mexico. There you can see how chocolate was traditionally made by hand; taste the original chocolate drink; visit chocolate mills; and learn about chocolate's role in the pre-Hispanic culture.

You can do this on your own, or in October, when Oaxaca hosts the Food of the Gods Festival.

Off-topic (sort of): Zel asks-- if you could only eat one type of chocolate for the rest of your life... what would it be? Hmmm...

Next half hour: Chocolate made to save endangered animals
Is Your Chocolate Contaminated? Earlier this year, the American Environmental Safety Institute went to a Los Angeles court to sue chocolate makers for allegedly putting dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate. (Read article) The group wanted to force chocolate manufacturers to put warning labels on their products, according to California Proposition 65.

Both lead and cadmium are naturally present in chocolate (and in other foods-- fruits, veggies, fish, meat), but the levels are too low to impact your health. As for companies adding those minerals: California's AG and the Chocolate Manufacturers' Association said the claims lack merit; and the US Food and Drug Administration and some Harvard University studies backed them up.

So... go enjoy your chocolate in peace of mind.

Weird combo update: Wanna try that chocolate and chili thing? Go down two blogs to "weird chocolate combos that work" and read the comments. There you'll find a link to a recipe for hot chocolate with cayenne.

I'm off for a sandwich!

Next half hour: A chocophile's dream vacation
Contaminated Chocolate: In 1660, England placed a high tax on cacao beans and all chocolate made or sold in that country. So chocolate makers started cutting the chocolate with other ingredients-- husks, shells... even brick dust and red lead!

About 100 years later... laws were enacted to keep husks and shells out of chocolate.

Eventually, taxes on chocolate and cacao beans were dropped, after a group of folks convinced the government that chocolate was nourishing.

Now, of course, England is home to some pretty fine chocolate makers. More on those folks in a few hours.

Next half hour: Details on recent allegations of lead in chocolate
Weird Chocolate Combos that Work:
*chocolate and popcorn-- check out Williams-Sonoma's chocolate covered caramel popcorn.

*melted chocolate or cocoa powder in barbeque sauce or chili (I've tried a bbq chicken pot pie that called for chocolate... mmm... really!)

*remember chocolate and potato chips?

*chocolate and chili-- which really isn't so weird; it's a 3,000 year old combination.

*chocolate, wasabi, and sesame seeds? chocolate and curry? I haven't checked those out yet, but those combos are available in truffle form from Vosges-Haut Chocolat in Chicago. (If you want to buy some chocolate and support a good cause, they have a chocolate hatbox-- 25% of the proceeds will go to V-Day, to help stop violence against women.)

Next half hour: The strange things British chocolate makers used to put in their chocolate
Beat the Blues: Chocolate is my cure. (Okay, I also head out for the best Indian restaurant in town. I just love the way the cuisine combines spices -- it makes me feel so warm and soothed. But this is a blog about chocolate.)

My favorite? Something ultra chocolatey, ultra-creamy. Usually I go for a good chocolate pot de creme.

And you?

One more non-chocolate interruption: My sweet hubby just brought me some peaches from the state farmer's market. Oh, they are sweet and juicy...

Next half hour: Weird chocolate combos that work
Chocolate and mood: I love chocolate pick-me-ups. I don't care if it's scientific or just in my head. Fortunately, there's some science to it, so I have an excuse!

The International Cocoa Organization says chocolate affecs the neurotransmitters in our brains. An increase in seratonin makes us relax. An increase in endorphins bring on that Dr. Feelgood thing. And, there is evidence that chocolate triggers our natural opioid system... whee!

Chocolate has also been called a botanical prozac.

And here's a good reason to start a petition at your office for a no-charge snack machine: the folks at ARISE (the Association for Research Into the Science of Enjoyment) say everyday pleasures such as coffee, tea, a soft drink, or a few pieces of chocolate help people combat work-related stress.

And the next time someone tells you chocolate's bad for your health, here's some more ARISE ammo: medical studies show happy people live longer, so "pleasurable experiences from moderate use of... chocolate can only be beneficial." (Honest, I didn't make this up-- read it for yourself!)

Here's a fundraising update: last I checked, we're up to $359 for Count Me In, not counting donations from sales of chocolate gift baskets from Bean Tree Soap. Yay! Thank you everyone! Would it be too ambitious to set a goal for a cool $500?

Next half hour: Chocolates to chase away the blues
Cookies that should be candy: And that's what the company calls them.

Jo's Candies makes these chocolate-covered cookies-- or maybe I should say chocolates with a little cookie underneath! My favorites are the milk chocolate-covered graham cracker (which Grandma Jo started making after a happy accident), and the Mint Coco Jo's-- a dark chocolate cookie covered in dark mint chocolate. Mmm.

You can find them at Williams-Sonoma, Nordstrom's, Border's, Caribou Coffee, and other places.

Next half hour: Chocolate and mood
July is National Ice Cream Month! Ronald Reagan made it so in 1984, and he said we should all observe National Ice Cream Month with all "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Say, who am I to disobey the former commander-in-chief?

Some of my favorites:

*Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk
*Dreamery's Chocolate Truffle Explosion
*a recipe from Cooking Light for chocolate malt ice cream (I change the recipe a little when I make it-- substituting fat-free half and half for some of the milk, and adding some melted Scharffen Berger dark chocolate.)

Two of my favorite ice creams disappeared from local shelves when Godiva decided to change up their line: chocolate hazelnut truffle, and white chocolate macadamia toffee.

You know what-- this is a good month to start the ice cream diet!

Next half hour: Another personal favorite: cookies that qualify as candy
Is There Really a Chocolate Shortage? It all started in the late 90s-- newspapers began reporting that chocolate lovers were eating chocolate quicker than it could be grown, and that we'd soon eat ourselves into chocolate-less-ness. (Check out an old Seattle-Times article.)

Then-- the Environmental News Network reported that news of a shortage was a hoax...

After that-- along with the Y2K bug, some said chocolate would be scarce in early 2000. (Gee, thanks, all the computers will get zapped with no chocolate around to make me feel better?)

Then the US Government said they were working with cacao growers to find good fungi to go after the bad fungi and save the chocolate...

Okay. so here's the truth. Finally-- the Chocolate Manufacturers Association says there's no need to panic. Plenty of cacao growin' and making happy pods to keep us all chocolate-intoxicated. Whew!

But-- there are issues chocolate lovers should be aware of! A bit on chocolate and cultivation concerns is coming up around 9:30pm ET tonight.

Next half hour: National Ice Cream Month
Had your morning coffee yet? If not, stop and run to your favorite gourmet store and grab a Cafe-Tasse chocolate bar.

I discovered Cafe-Tasse while walking through "the obstacle course" at Foster's Market. (If you're ever in North Carolina, you should definitely visit Foster's. What I call "the obstacle course" is a wall-plus of little chocolates and candies right by the check-out counter.)

Cafe-Tasse, a company in Brussels, seeks to find the perfect marriage between the great combination of coffee and chocolate. My favorite is the milk chocolate with coffee praline bar. The milk chocolate melts oh-so-smoothly in your mouth, and then all these wonderful little coffee granules burst out to play on your tongue.

Big inhale--

Oh!

Next half hour: Is there really a chocolate shortage?
Who were the first chocolate lovers? Many people, and historians, think the Aztecs were the first to cultivate the cacao tree. But the Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate says many historians believe an earlier civilization can claim first dibs on cultivating the food of the gods: the Olmec people, a Mesoamerican civilization, who hung around what is now Veracruz about 3,000 years ago.

By the way, you might want to check out a recent article on ABCNews.com about a recent discovery showing chocolate predated Christ.

Next half hour: One of my favorite chocolates -- Cafe Tasse
The debate for milk chocolate: First, let me 'splain what I mean by milk chocolate. When I crave chocolate, it's for milk chocolate, and I go right past the candy machines and out to the parking lot. I head out to one of the gourmet specialty stores or dessert places nearby for something more luxurious than the machine fare.

It's not that I don't like dark chocolate -- there are quite a few I enjoy. (I admit, my mom and I "fought" over the Special Dark bars in the miniature Hershey's bag when I was a kid.) It's just when I've gotta have chocolate, I need it to be smooth... to melt in my mouth easily, without chewing... something I can hold up to the roof of my mouth and feel the silkiness... I can inhale and the chocolate just rushes through my head...

Yeah, I've heard the darker things in life are sweetest...

Next half hour: The first chocolate lovers
The debate for dark chocolate: Some people say dark chocolate is the only real chocolate-- everything else is "junk chocolate." (Ouch!)

I'm not a dark chocolate lover-- so I spoke with a co-worker, who is passionate about it. She says she discovered dark chocolate when she realized mint chocolate chip ice cream had dark chocolate in it. She's been hooked ever since.

She says, "Some people think that milk chocolate is smoother, but to me, dark chocolate is smoother. It just adds class to chocolate."

She says, for coffee lovers, dark chocolate makes sense. "Dark chocolate is the closest taste you can get to coffee without the bitter aftertaste."

"Dark chocolate describes so many things on this earth... like your man," she said.

And it's clear, as she rolls her eyes, one of her favorite ways to enjoy dark chocolate is with some contrast. "To set it off with some cream, like vanilla hazelnut? Oh...!"

Next half hour: My love for milk chocolate
We're off! I've always wanted to indulge in chocolate for a whole day!

First up-- a little debate between dark chocolate and milk chocolate. I have comments from a woman who loves her chocolate and man the same way-- dark! Vote in the poll-- hit that comment link and tell me where your passion lies.

Oh, and sign my chocolate GuestMap! You can mark chocolate "landmarks"-- I put in a few for starters-- and put a pin in for yourself. Don't forget to tell us your favorite way to enjoy chocolate.

Next half hour: The Debate Begins!

Friday, July 26, 2002

We are about 10 hours away from the start of Blogathon 2002. I'm stocking up on eats, music, movies, and some "research materials." (mmmm...) But I wanted to post a preliminary "kick-off": a quote that I think is quite fitting for the cause I'm supporting:

"How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself." Anais Nin, a writer who started her own publishing company when other publishing companies refused to print her work.

A Blog of Chocolates Blogathon 2002 Details:

What's this all about?
I'm blogging about chocolate for 24 hours to support one of my favorite charities, Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence during Blogathon 2002. Count Me In helps women
who want to start their own businesses by offering loans, education, and consultation to women who may not otherwise be able to get a traditional business loan. Basically, they help women live their dreams, support themselves, create jobs (something much needed in the current economy), and help build their local economies.

Sponsor Me:
You can make a pledge until 9am ET/6am PT Sunday. Any amount is appreciated; Count Me In is striving for $5 for every woman in the US. Also, when you fill out the online sponsorship form, replace "anonymous" with your name, so I can list you here, unless you want to remain anonymous.

Money:
You don't have to send money now, and don't send money to me. You'll get an e-mail asking you to send your money directly to Count Me In.

Tax deductions:
Your donation to Count Me In is tax deductible, so be sure to get a receipt from them (I think they send you a thank-you e-mail that can serve as a receipt if you contribute through their website.) So don't write me when tax time rolls around-- since I won't actually collect money, I can't give you a receipt. (However, if you need an accountant, my dad's a good one.)

About me:
I'm not a pastry chef, historian, or chocolatier; I'm just a woman who loves chocolate and wanted to support a cause I think is important. (My best friend shaved her head bald for Locks of Love; I'm just not that brave.)

Commenting:
Please use common netiquette, or I'll have to ban you.

Fellow Blogathonners:
E-mail me, and you, too, can be listed as an admirable insomniac.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

I'm so excited about a special arrangement I've just made, I can't wait 'til Saturday to tell you about it. Bean Tree Soap has put together a special gift basket just for this fundraising event. You get a chocolate massage bar which contains cocoa, cocoa butter, and shea butter; a bottle of chocolate lotion, chocolate massage oil, and chocolate bath salts... all for just $20. $5 of each basket purchase will support Count Me In. The owner-- a work-at-home mom herself-- uses all natural, non-toxic ingredients which are safe to use on even a child's skin. If chocolate's not your thing, you'll find plenty more products at Bean Tree. Everything's made to order. So soap up... you'll smell so good, someone might slap you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit!

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

(In your favorite Mr. TV voice)
Here's what's coming up this weekend on A Blog of Chocolates:
*Debate-- dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate
*what chocolate has to do with the oldest profession
*share favorite chocolates, cookies, ice creams...
*the story of a bishop who was murdered for trying to ban chocolate
*and put the kiddies to bed early-- at 1am ET, is chocolate really an aphrodisiac? Or is it in our heads? (Or are we just glad it works?)

Blogathon 2002 starts at 9:00am ET Saturday... drop by and help keep me awake. It's a 24-hour marathon for a good cause. (Quick details to the left, more below.)