Saturday, February 10, 2007

Book Review - Chocolate by Mort Rosenblum

I picked up this book, Chocolate - A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light, the other week, having read about it in this review about books concerning chocolate, and I was eager to read it. Mort Rosenblum did not start out as an expert on chocolate and write a book, he was a complete novice, and learned about chocolate in his travels, from experts and individuals, exposing truths and fictions about this wonderful food we so love. In that, he mirrors my quest to find great tasting chocolate. Not that I would travel the whole world, as he has done, well, perhaps a few places, but my expectations of what chocolate is has changed, having myself grown up on sweet milk chocolate and candy bars, and only in the last few years, have seriously discovered and enjoyed dark chocolate, and have come to dislike milk chocolate, and have quite frankly turned into a 'chocolate snob'. I am eager to learn more, what to look for, how to tell if something is potentially good, or bad, how to find chocolate I really like and continue to like. I like the colour of the book binding, a medium-brown chocolate.

The meat of the book concerns chocolate, certainly, it starts out with a chapter on how cacao was discovered, how it was brought to the world, from the Ancient to the Young. Then it goes on with a chapter on how chocolate has influenced the world, what it means to people, followed by a chapter on the different species of cacao, and how they differ, where they are grown and what is better. There is a chapter on mole sauce, in which I found out that traditionally there are 27 ingredients, one of them being chocolate, and that the meat traditionally served with this sauce is not chicken, but turkey. A chapter on Hershey, so beloved by the American public, so despised by Europeans. Another on the Ivory Coast in Africa, where 50% of most cacao comes from, and most of it does not rank among the good stuff. Chapters follow on Valrhona; chocolate in France (are they the best makers of chocolate); chocolate in Belgium (are they better than the French); Godiva chocolate; chocolate in England (in which we learn about using different fats to replace cocoa butter); chocolate in Switzerland (where all chocolate seems to be uniform in taste and well loved - the Swiss eat the most chocolate per capita); Nutella (a wonderful product, how could I not like hazelnuts and chocolate together in the same product); chocolate for the body and soul (is it an aphrodisiac, is it good for your health); and chocolate in America (where we find makers of excellent dark chocolate). Each chapter is interesting and well written. Here, too, I have discovered the person with the best palate for chocolate, Chloe Doutre-Roussel, she has her own book, in which she reveals the secrets to enjoying good chocolate.

The lesson that I have taken from this book, is that chocolate is an individual thing, it is not a matter of facts and logic, but of opinion, and that what is good and tasty for one, might be horrible for another. Too, each cacao bean is unique in its taste, and how it is prepared can make it shine or fail, that one needs good cacao to make good chocolate, but you could just as easily make bad chocolate from those same beans. Finally, there is a whole world of chocolate to explore, and I am just beginning my adventure.

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