It starts as a gentle subliminal nudge. “chocolate…” Within minutes, it grows into an insistent full body urge. “Chocolate. Chocolate. CHOCOLATE!” You can’t (and in my opinion, shouldn’t) ignore it. You have a full blown chocolate craving.
What powers the craving?
It is said that people crave chocolate more than any other food. In the U.S., the typical person eats 11.5 pounds of chocolate a year. Why is chocolate craved more than any other food? Sure – it tastes good, has a silky smooth texture and melts in your mouth…but is there more to it? The question is, are chocolate cravings in the body (physiological) or in the heart (psychological)? There are a wide variety of arguments as to why people have chocolate cravings.
Is the body to blame?
Some think certain compounds in chocolate may be physiologically addictive, activating mood-lifting chemicals in the brain (serotonin, dopamine). However, tests have shown that most mood-altering agents in chocolate are broken down before they reach the bloodstream. Others insist that deficiencies in minerals (such as magnesium, iron) cause people to desire chocolate. But it that’s the case, why aren’t we craving snackable magnesium-filled pumpkin seeds or iron-rich savory thyme with equal vigor?
Or is it comfort we crave?
A 1994 study passed out milk chocolate, white chocolate (which contains zero cocoa), cocoa capsules (utterly lacking the sensory components of chocolate) and placebo polls to a group of subjects. The study found that only milk chocolate fully satisfied the chocolate cravings of the subjects. In addition, their cravings were better satiated by the white chocolate than the concentrated cocoa capsules. This suggests that chocolate cravings can be (SHOCKER!) attributed to its taste, aroma, texture and sweetness.
But really, who cares?
Long story short, when it comes to pinning down the reasons for chocolate cravings, research is pretty inconclusive. But do we really need to know the why? Shouldn’t we be focusing our mental energies on how to best satisfy those chocolate urges? I’m off to check on my secret chocolate stashes. I suggest you do the same.
What do you think causes chocolate cravings? What types of chocolate best satisfy your strongest cravings? Comment below; we crave the feedback!
Working at a chocolate company is SUCH HARD WORK! Each week, we are assigned “sensory duty” – meaning we have to drag ourselves away from our desks to sample endless bites of freshly made premium chocolate for the sake of quality control. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or twelve about chocolate tasting.
First and foremost – chocolate…really good chocolate…deserves to be thoroughly savored and appreciated. Get the most our of your next chocolate experience by involving all of your senses. Pick your favorite fine chocolate (here’s mine) and let the sensory suggestions below guide you.
A glossy shine to the chocolate’s surface shows a good temper – cocoa mass and cocoa butter bonded to perfection. The overall color should be consistent, a feast for the eyes.
A crisp, bright snap indicates quality. When chocolate molecules are aligned (a proper temper) they are harder to break apart, hence the snap!
A sensual step that should never be skipped! Release chocolate’s aroma by rubbing your fingers along the chocolate’s surface. Inhale deeply and focus. What olfactory memories pop into your mind? While smelling the chocolate, prepare your taste buds…
Take a bite and notice the texture of the chocolate. Fine chocolate should feel smooth to your tongue.
Now, close your eyes and cut off all sensory information except the chocolate and your taste buds. Allow the chocolate to overwhelm you. Fine chocolate should have a lasting impact – a slow and lingering flavor experience. BWF2JQHM8AEN
Share what you love about chocolate by commenting below.
Seeking solace from the pine pollen that was kicking my allergies into overdrive, I spent much of my Saturday morning indoors at my favorite coffee shop. In true Monica-style, I set up camp – covering the table with my sketch pad, colored pencils, soy chai and a dangerously dark Endangered Species Chocolate bar. Just as I was about to don a pair of headphones and start drawing, the fellow at the next table pointed at my chocolate bar and asked why it had a picture of a panther on the wrapper. Once I finished waxing poetic about the virtues of all-natural, ethically traded chocolate that supports species conservation, he looked at me with an impish grin and said, “I’m allergic to chocolate.”
Suddenly my itchy eyes, stuffy nose and headache from the pollen seemed like small potatoes. Imagine that for a moment. An allergy to chocolate. No chocolate bars, chocolate cakes, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate truffles! “How do you cope?” was the only question I could muster. He laughed and said that he never really developed a taste for chocolate so he didn’t feel like he was missing out on much (unlike this poor soul).
After doing some research, I found out that allergies to cocoa (the bean that is the main ingredient in chocolate) are exceedingly rare. It’s more likely that the fellow I met over coffee had an allergy to one of the ingredients in chocolate. Milk, peanuts and tree nuts, wheat and gluten, and soy are often the ingredients found in some chocolate bars that can trigger allergies. Symptoms of a chocolate allergy can include headaches, heartburn, hives or difficulty breathing. In severe cases, a person can go into anaphylactic shock. It’s pretty serious and there’s no over-the-counter pill that can cure this allergy – the only way to avoid issues is to pass on the chocolate.
Do you know someone that is allergic to chocolate? Comments welcome below!
Luckily, I never took to heart the idea that pairing wine with chocolate is impossible. Some claim that chocolate will dominate your taste buds and ruin the way you taste the wine. Not so! When paired correctly the combination is flirty – with the chocolate complementing the wine and the wine enhancing the chocolate. Ready to give it a go? Here are some tried and true tips to keep in mind as you begin your pairing quest:
1. Think sweet. Choose a wine that is sweet or sweeter than the chocolate.
2. Match hue. Lighter chocolates pair better with lighter bodied wines; chocolates with a high cocoa content blend better with full bodied wines.
3. Practice makes perfect. Keep your favorite chocolate bar on hand (mine’s 72% Supreme Dark) to nibble on whenever you pour a new wine. When you find a bottle that blends well with the chocolate, savor…then share the combination with friends.
Want some examples? Here are some suggestions from the Wine Specialist at our local Whole Foods Market. And does your green-self ever wonder what to do with all those wine corks? Check out these ideas from EcoSnobberySucks.
What’s been your experience pairing wine and chocolate? How about beer and chocolate? Share your findings so we can all reap the benefits!
THE TWEET FEED
- RT @whos_that_kmj: @ESC_Chocolate I do! You sent me some. It was gorgeous and yummy @yourebeauteous
- RT @halfkorean: @ESC_Chocolate I can't remember the magazine, but as soon as I saw your ad about 5 years ago, I placed an order online!
- Do you remember how you first discovered our chocolate? @yourebeauteous tells her @ESC_Chocolate tale http://t.co/rLYNLzmQVv
- RT @HartzPets: Are you at #BlogPaws? Stop by the Hartz booth for some Bug Bites! http://t.co/7UOXVbbhol Look for the orange table cloth! @E…
- Take a look at endangered species through the eyes of children via @savespecies Youth Art Contest finalists http://t.co/QxJx4PZloA #ESday