Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 30, Tuesday, December 23, 2003







RICH, dark, and velvety, chocolate is an experience by itself. Some like it straight, some like it a little bitter, while some like it loaded with fruits, nuts, marzipan, and other candy accessories. From little kids to grand-folks, all the world's a chocoholic.

Remember the birthday parties of old? The balloons, the gifts, the music and the games…and lets not forget the enormous chocolate cake. Most of us lived for those cakes, loaded with the wickedly wonderful dark stuff. The parties that had the most chocolate dishes like muffins and brownies were invariably the most popular ones.

Valentine's day? Wedding anniversary? First date? A box of chocolates is the fail-proof gift to carry; the perfect icebreaker. So your significant other is out of sorts with you. A few Hershey's Kisses® might prove to be more effective than your own. Who can resist the feeling of all that milk chocolate melting in the mouth?

Chocolate is also a great medium to aid the bonding of souls. Imagine sharing mugs of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. Or baking choco-chip cookies with Grandma on a lazy afternoon, or even helping your weepy fe-friend get over her recent break-up with her boyfriend, as you cry and cajole over a box of Godiva's pralines…the possibilities are endless. Chocolate has literally become the world's favourite dessert.

From the pod to the pedestal…
The tasty secret of the cacao (kah KOW) tree was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The pods of this tree contain seeds that can be processed into chocolate. The story of how chocolate grew from a local Meso-american beverage into a global sweet encompasses many cultures and continents.
The first people known to have made chocolate were the ancient cultures of Mexico and Central America. These people, including the Maya and Aztec, mixed ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink. The word 'chocolate' itself comes from the Aztec word 'xocolatl' meaning 'bitter water'.

Later, the Spanish conquistadors brought the seeds back home to Spain. The Spanish didn't like the bitter flavour of chocolate. To spice up the brew a bit, they began heating the beverage and adding a variety of ingredients. Once the drink migrated to Europe, someone eventually got the idea to add sugar, cinnamon, and other spices to the mixand sweet, hot chocolate was born. In the late 1600s, Sir Hans Sloane, president of the Royal College of Physicians, introduced another culinary custom: mixing the already popular chocolate drink with milk for a lighter, smoother flavour.

Eventually, and the drink's popularity spread throughout Europe. Since then, new technologies and innovations have changed the texture and taste of chocolate, but it still remains one of the world's favourite flavours. And how. Americans consume a whopping 11 pounds per person annually. If you think that's a lot of chocolate, then take a seat before you read on: the current record for the highest rate of chocolate consumption per capita, is held by the Swiss, who consume a mind-boggling 22 pounds per person. Talk about a sweet tooth!

Chocolate controversies: the myths and the facts
Many of the old myths about chocolate and health are crumbling under the weight of scientific fact. The once prevalent belief that something that tastes so good just can't be good for you has given way to a more balanced picture of chocolate and cocoa products and their relation to health and nutrition. Here are brief reviews of recent findings that correct common misperceptions of the effects of chocolate on health.

Myth #1: Confectionery is a major cause of tooth decay.
Tooth decay is primarily the result of poor oral hygiene. Dental caries are caused by any foods containing fermentable carbohydrates that are left on the teeth for too long. In fact, there are ingredients found in chocolate products that may retard the tooth decaying process.

Myth#2: Chocolate is high in caffeine.
The amount of caffeine in a piece of chocolate candy is significantly lower than that in coffee, tea or cola drinks. For instance, a 5 oz cup of instant coffee has between 40 and 108 mg of caffeine, while a one oz milk chocolate bar contains only 6 mg and many confectionery items have no caffeine at all.

Myth: Confectionery has a high fat content and leads to weight gain.

"Candy, in moderation, can be part of low-fat eating. In fact, an occasional sweet treat helps you stick to a healthy eating plan." - Annette B. Natow, Ph.D., R.D., author of The Fat Counter and The Fat Attack Plan.

The evolution and controversies aside, there's no denying that chocolate has carved a permanent niche in our lives, and is here to stay. So why fight it? You know you want it…

LS Picks:
Hot Breads. One bite of their chocolate bon-bon, and it's a guaranteed addiction.

King's Confectionery. They have a wide selection of chocolatey treats that are bound to keep you coming back for more.

Shumi's Hot Cake. Their Black Forest cake is definitely one of the most popular.

Mr. Baker. This hot new outlet in Uttara has some great pastries that have to be tasted to be believed.

Cooper's. These guys have been around for the longest time, and their eclairs are still worth sinking your teeth into.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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