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Food For Thought

Newsflash! In England, chocolate has been declared a health food. The flavinoids (whatever those are) in dark chocolate have been proven to be beneficial in helping the body absorb some of the nutrients in food. And it is now recommended even to diabetics, who long have been deprived of such decadent treats. There’s one catch, though. Contrary to most people’s thinking that if a little is good, more is better, you should have no more than the equivalent of half a candy bar per week. Hardly enough for a good chocolate binge– or even a mild self-indulgence.
The comfort of chocolate is more than the psychological kick of self-indulgence. There’s something in chocolate that gets the endorphins flowing and causing a sensation of well-being, much like the feeling of being in love. This is probably why people become addicted to chocolate. Who wouldn’t like to go through life wrapped in a giddy haze of delight and bliss!
I sometimes wonder if my mother knew about that over 70 years ago when my sisters and I were little girls. She always had one of those big Hershey bars hidden away for emergencies. Chocolate bars in those days were a lot thicker than the ones we buy today. On those occasions when we were bored, depressed, disappointed or otherwise in need of cheering up, she’d bring out her big chocolate bar and break off just one square of chocolate for each of us. At the time, I didn’t realize just why she would suddenly decide it was time for a chocolate treat. And maybe I’m wrong about what triggered her decision. It might possibly have been simply that she was in the mood for something sweet and knew she didn’t dare indulge without sharing with us. For all I know, she ate a lot of chocolate on other occasions when we weren’t around to catch her at it.
Whether or not this is childhood memory or the actual effects of the chocolate itself, I still tend to crave chocolate when I’m tired, bored, sad, or lonely. There used to nearly always be a bag or two of chocolate chips in my cupboard, available for the next batch of cookies when my cookie jar was empty – which was often with four kids in residence. And I usually had a tin of cocoa powder handy for baking or making fudge or hot chocolate. In a real emergency, there was a squeeze-bottle of chocolate syrup for topping a dish of ice cream or stirring up a quick glass of chocolate milk. It was easy enough to indulge my chocolate hunger without a trip to the candy store. These days, I tend to rely on chocolate stars or kisses, but hardly ever a whole chocolate bar. I almost bought a candy bar the other day, until I realized that I’d be paying around a dollar for what we used to get for a mere five cents.
Not so many years ago, I could buy, for a reasonable price, a bag of individually wrapped chocolate truffles, dark chocolate with a smooth, soft, buttery center of nearly liquid dark chocolate. Just about the closest thing to the perfect chocolate treat I’d ever tasted. Then, one day there were none on the shelf in the store where I usually bought them. I assumed the store had just run out and would soon replenish the supply. Not so. I checked other stores. No chocolate truffles– at least not the kind I was after. There were some with harder shells, some with crispy shells, and some with gooey caramel centers. All more expensive than they should have been and less delicious than I hoped for. Thinking that recent publicity about the benefits of dark chocolate had caused a temporary shortage, I resolved to be patient. I’ve often said that, if patience is a virtue, it may be the only one I have managed to consistently exhibit, but even that has its limits. I’ve just about given up all hope and am beginning to wonder just where all that dark chocolate is going these days. Certainly not into bags of the dark chocolate truffles I crave.
Now that England has declared dark chocolate a health food, maybe our government will follow suit and declare it the same. It would probably have to be taken off the market for years for all the testing and approval. And, in the end, it will probably be relegated to prescription status, and you’ll have to have clear proof of an acute condition requiring the benefits of dark chocolate in order to get the real stuff. Meanwhile, start getting used to the “generics.” There are several time-tested ones to choose from. Most have been around for a long time and, although they cost about 20 times what they did when I was a kid, they’ll probably still be around for 60 more years. I’m going to stock up on Tootsie Rolls, peanut butter cups, bridge mix, turtles, chocolate covered raisins, peanut clusters, Snickers bars, Milky Ways, Mounds and Almond Joys, Baby Ruth and Butterfingers for starters. And chocolate truffles, if they should suddenly and magically reappear.