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Friday, June 17, 2016

Books & Chocolate: Part 3

This is Part 3 (click here to read Part 2) of a piece that I wrote for my Food Writing class in college. I brought together two of my interests, books and chocolate of course, in pairings that explained the different types of things I enjoy out of each--distinct from statements of "better" or "worse." I've decided to post it in portions; here are the fifth and sixth pairings. 

Uniting the two [pleasure and criticism] is ideal. Something that can exist in both a casual atmosphere and a critical one, depending on the approach you use at the moment, is always satisfying. One of my favorite bars to share is Theo's Creamy Milk Chocolate, which is a 45% cacao. This percentage, at the upper end for a milk chocolate, adds depth to the chocolate, yet does not detract from the creaminess the title promises. Therefore, the chocolate lingers in the mouth like a dark chocolate tends to do, but still evokes the same sweet approachability of milk chocolates. If intimidation keeps some people away from the gourmet kinds of chocolate bars, Theo advantageously does not contain this evocation. Unlike a brand like Michel Cluizel, Theo is easy to find at your local Whole Foods--perhaps because it is one of the small group of U.S. bean to bar companies. These companies are involved with chocolate making straight from cacao beans themselves to the final product, as opposed to other companies who begin their work with someone else's chocolate and mold it, blend it, etc. With a classic, light blue packaging, Theo's Creamy Milk Chocolate, instead of daunting you, invites you to partake. This particular bar has a firmer texture and is more full-bodied than most milk chocolates, and its creamy sweetness is somehow also rich; it tastes like honey and cream seen through a semi-dark lens. Because of its middle-of-the-range traits, I have presented it to milk and dark chocolate lovers alike, and each time, their enthusiasm allows me to experience the joy of my first time eating it, too.

Although arguably still too new to be categorized as a classic, like Theo is still a relatively new company, there are some of us who undoubtedly place J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in that category. I did, after all, take a college class in which this epic and Beowulf were our main texts. Before that, though, I spent many hours pouring over the thousand pages of adventure. The ability to translate into both a critical circle and a group setting means that I can analyze, as I did for the college class, the Anglo-Saxon influence on Tolkien's story, but I can also chat with a group of friends about why Galadriel and Faramir are two of my favorite Tolkien characters. It all comes under the scope of what I love about Tolkien's piece.

There are some aspects of my journeys that I do not forsake. Because books and chocolate are both atmospheric, they can transport you backwards in time. Arizona is not the location for chocolate shops, which is why I generally name World Market and Whole Foods as my favorite places to find chocolate. Godiva and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory are the main shops to find in this area, although both of them focus most on confections. Yet Rocky Mountain is fun. Just walking inside the shop, the confectionery chocolate aroma breathes on you with accents of vanilla and nostalgia. Even though Rocky Mountain is a chain, there is a small establishment feel to the company that sets me at ease. Even though I am often too busy trying new chocolates to keep buying new ones I have tasted before, I have an inexplicable affection for Rocky Mountain's milk chocolate. Unwrapping a bar of it brings out the same sweet scent of the shops. Its taste is light on chocolate and high on caramel; melting slower than many milk chocolates, it is not as greasy as, say, a Hershey's bar. Its creaminess has a depth that almost reminds me of the Theo bar. Although I generally eat small amounts of chocolate, I have a hard time making this milk chocolate last too long.

It's out of affection that I eat it. I find it tasteful because I have been eating it for years. It's comfortable, like the stories in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Before I read this book, my family rented the movie to watch, then rented it again, and then again. Sometimes I'm not even sure why we liked the movie so much, or why I ended up rereading the book a few times, too. I suppose part of it was the sense of family and home. The four March sisters go through their times of poverty and frustration with each other, but then return to warmth and love. Although I now firmly consider the book part of the vague "children's classics" category, at the time, I responded to the hints of something more. It was very likely the longest book I had read, and its main character was also a reader and writer--an intellectual person. Occasionally, I will take this book up again to slowly ponder its gentleness and sweetness. 

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