Thank goodness there’s no gluten in chocolate.
Real chocolate, that is. Cheap chocolate — meaning mass-manufactured candy bars with milk chocolate or chocolate-like products, what most of America has come to think of as chocolate — can have gluten. Beware before you chomp down on that Snickers bar — you just might get sick. Actually, you could feel ill after eating bad candy bars for other reasons, of course. Gross. Once again, it turns out to be a blessing that I can’t eat gluten, if it means avoiding that stuff.
However, I could not live without good chocolate.
Now, I grow tired of sad little jokes about women and chocolate. You know, the Cathy cartoons, where the plump girl squinches up her face for four panels, working hard to not give into her cravings. And in the next panel, chocolate flies in the air around her mouth, because she can’t cram it in fast enough. And in the last one, she sighs, chocolate smeared around her mouth, shoulders shrugging, hands in the air, as if to say, “Oh, don’t get between a girl and her chocolate.” Hasn’t this cartoon, and every shallow insight about women like it, run the same little image over and over again for twenty years? (And why is that cartoon strip still running? Can anyone explain that to me?) Aren’t we more complex than this?
I do like chocolate, though. Just with a bit more nuance.
Chocolate, as you probably know, has some mysterious substances in it that triggers a rush of pheremones in a woman’s body, which can
mimic the feeling of being in love. And there are biological reasons why we seem to crave it in the potent days before our periods. (I refuse to reduce myself to euphemisms like “time of the month.”) More importantly, scientists have identified that dark chocolate (the only chocolate in my house) has powerful antioxidants. Chocolate, along with a glass of red wine, green tea, and even coffee (!), stimulate the antioxidants in our bodies that fight free radicals (I’m sorry; that phrase has always cracked me up) that destroy cells and cause abnormal growths. Even hot chocolate could be helpful. Some doctors are even advocating that we eat an ounce of dark chocolate a day.
I can live with that.
So lately, I’ve been choosing my chocolate carefully. As with everything else now, I want to eat only the best, the freshest, the most evocative tastes. I want to slowly unwrap a square of good, dark chocolate and savor the scent. Then place it on my tongue, taste the thin, waxy wall, then feel the chocolate burst through with bitter sweetness. Solid and liquid at the same time, melting on the corners of my teeth, the feeling of chocolate fills my mouth. Bright with darkness, no bitter patches, smooth and slowly dissipating. My tongue probes around it, trying to find all the tastes. And there is time, because good chocolate takes long minutes to melt. But soon, too soon, there is only a tiny bit on the tip of my tongue, and then it’s gone.
(And yes, I did have to eat a square of chocolate and savor it to write that. Research. This is one of my favorite writing assignments for my students: taste something and write the experience of eating it. Don’t rely on any words you use to describe taste. You try it. It’s hard.)
I’ve become a chocolate snob, because I deserve it. And what I have found is that one small square of truly fine chocolate fills the place that once took an entire bag of M&Ms. This is what I have found out about food since my celiac diagnosis: slow down and savor it. Anything that doesn’t taste great when you give it your full attention isn’t worth your time. Truly, eat your food.
Some of my recent chocolate discoveries:
Bonnat dark chocolate from France. Now produced by the fourth-generation of a family that has been making chocolates in the same town since 1884, this chocolate is 75% cocoa and I can taste it all. (For those of you who don’t know, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the darker the chocolate, and the better.) I like the Ceylan one, which the company describes as: “A hearty cocoa taste, yet not aggressive, a flavor warm with the Asian touch.” I don’t really know what the Asian touch is, but it tastes phenomenal. And, at nearly $7 for a large bar, it should. But believe me, that bar lasted for a month around here. Well, maybe three weeks.
Pralus bars, also from France (bien sur), have captivated me lately. The Sao Tome, also 75% cocoa, is particularly gorgeous, and the one I had to eat to describe the taste of dark chocolate. And according to Chef Shop,
“Francois Pralus is a true chocolate aficionado. He is able to discern the best beans, and the best characteristics of each type of bean the As one does with wine, he can talk about chocolate’s vintage and origin characteristics: the powerful and heady nose, aromas of burnt butter and liquorice of the Venezuela Trinitario bean chocolate, and the fresh nose, and slightly minty and fruity flavor of the Madagascar Criollo bean chocolate.”
How can you not love that?
And of course, there’s always Lindt. Far more commonly available than these other two, Lindt would probably evoke raised eyebrows of disdain from true chocolate snobs. But I don’t care. It still tastes great, and it’s available in most grocery stores. Making it the perfect choice when I had to make an emergency stop at the QFC on the way back from the pool yesterday, when I remembered I didn’t have any proper chocolate in the house to make chocolate sorbet.
So yesterday, I made chocolate sorbet for friends who were visiting for lunch. We also had pasta with pesto, and my favorite grapefruit/avocado salad, but the sorbet was the star. Carol gave me her Cuisinart ice cream maker, which she and her husband received for their wedding, and they had never used. Or rarely. And in my kitchen, it’s going to be whirring its little spinning dance often. As I’ve said before, most commercial ice creams contain gluten, so no more for me. And of course, as always, homemade tastes better.
Dorothy, who is on her way over here now for a slow shopping expedition to the farmers’ market with me, gave me the recipe for my birthday. And what a present it is. As Dawn said yesterday, after taking a bite (and closing her eyes with the rich, dark taste), “Okay, I’m going to need the recipe for this one.”
Here it is. Enjoy.
DOROTHY’S CHOCOLATE SORBET (from Cooking Light, in Dorothy’s words)
2 1/2 cups of water
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 oz of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tsp of vanilla extract (celiacs: make sure it’s GF vanilla)
°Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in sugar and cooca. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring frequently.
°Remove from heat. Add chocolate and vanilla, stirring until chocolate completely melts. Cover and chill completely.
°Pour the chilled chocolate mixture into the freezer can of the ice-cream maker. Freeze until thick, about 40 minutes.
°Spoon the sorbet into a freezer-safe container (pre-chilled if ceramic). Cover and freeze for at least one hour.
°Enjoy it because it’s YUMMY!
And it is.
p.s. Since writing this, I have learned that many Lindt chocolate bars contain gluten. Since January, when the Food Labelling Act went into effect, some of the foods I had been told were gluten-free now have wheat or gluten on their labels. This is, of course, a constantly developing story. Beware Lindt. Try Dagoba instead.