Monday, November 22, 2010

Cacao! The Worlds Best Bean That Grows on a Tree...

I was probably a bit into adulthood before I met someone who didn’t like chocolate. The very idea was so very foreign to me. Not liking chocolate was just about as unbelievable as being against breathing air. How could anyone think chocolate was not good!

I can hardly imagine a world without chocolate. It was only widely available over 100 years after the conquistadors brought it back to Spain from the ancient cultures of Mexico and Central America. Originally served as a drink only, new technologies and innovations brought chocolate into a whole new realm of flavors and textures. In fact, chocolate has gone a long way since Montezuma had his cacao (Ka KOW) drink.

Chocolate is available in so many forms. Spain, where you’ll find chocolate served around the clock – for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks – has taken to chocolate like no other place in the world. Of course, they had that 100 year head start on most of the world.

I prefer chocolate in one of its purest and simplest forms – a bar of chocolate. In fact, I have been watching the labels closer lately. Often, packages are labeled with a certain percentage of cocoa, which refers to the amount of cocoa bean solids in the chocolate. The rest is sugar and milk. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the chocolate will taste. The percentage of cocoa isn’t all that affects the flavor, though. Like wine, chocolates can vary greatly in taste depending on where the cocoa bean is from, its combination with other beans and how long it was roasted.

One other attractive quality of chocolate is that it doesn't have a "peak season." It's always chocolate season. I am grateful for all those people who work hard making chocolate just for me to eat, drink and use in cooking. I am grateful for all those chefs in all those kitchens who’ve spent so much time designing new ways to make tasty chocolate treats. I am grateful that my body hasn’t any adverse response to chocolate – well, besides getting fatter.
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