Bernie Block: Chocoholic Craziness

I admit it. I’m a chocoholic. A bad one, a very bad one!

I blame it on my mother. I can remember when she gave me my first tasty treat when I was about ten years old. She loved chocolate herself. When she said I was a very good son, behaved myself, hadn’t gotten into too much trouble, she wanted to reward me. When giving it to me, my first piece of chocolate, she said I was going to love it the rest of my life. She was absolutely right!

Many years later, I finally found a chocolate bar that was the best; it came from an area near the Swiss-Italian border. I visited their factory while touring Europe one year and was amazed at the special
equipment and techniques that were required to make their product.

But first, you have to go back to the beginning of chocolate to understand the whole process of why a great candy becomes an “excellent” one.

The tree from which chocolate pods are picked is a cacao. It was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rain forests of the Americas. The pods of this tree contained seeds which were processed into a bitter drink by the locals in the area, the Mayans, somewhere between 250-900 C.E. They took the tree from the rain forest and grew it in their own backyards; the seeds were harvested, fermented, roasted and ground into a paste.

When mixed with water, chili peppers, cornmeal and other ingredients, this paste made a frothy, spicy chocolate drink. By 1400, the Aztec empire dominated a sizeable segment of Mesoamerica and traded with the Mayans and other peoples for cacao, often requiring their citizens and conquered people to pay them tribute with cacao seeds–a form of Aztec money. The drink remained bitter since sugar was an agricultural product unavailable to the ancient Mesoamericans.

In the Mayan society, many people could drink chocolate at least on occasion, although it was
particularly favored by royalty. Priests also presented cacao seeds as offerings to the Gods, and
served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.

During the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, this group of conquistadors learned about
chocolate, liked it, and then exported the seeds back home. The Spaniards doctored up the bitter
brew with cinnamon and other spices and began sweetening it with sugar.

Since the growing of cacao and processing it into a paste remained a very labor-intensive process, as
was sugar, chocolate remained a very expensive import; only those with money could afford to drink it.
In fact, in France, chocolate was a state monopoly that could be consumed only by members of the
royal court.

Later inventions of the steam engine, cacao presses and conching machines made it possible to create smooth creamy drinks and solid chocolate for eating at reasonable prices, even though there is part of the process that is still labor-intensive.

While visiting this European site, I watched how chocolate manufacturers blended cacao beans from all over the world to give chocolate a different flavor, just like wineries do with their products.

The biggest problem facing a chocoholic is that it can be unhealthy and fattening when eaten in large quantities. It seems that the best chocolate for health reasons is “dark chocolate.” It was found in many university reports that this type of sweet is an antioxidant and may negate some of the pitfalls from regular varieties. There was significant drop in blood pressure, and a higher level of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate.

There’s nothing like being saved from doom by a bunch of research specialists throughout the world.
Here’s to chocolate, dark especially!

(NOTE: This is a revised shorter version of a story published in my “The Short, Short-Story Omnibus-1” published three years ago. The book is still available on Amazon).
Here are the suggestions: Are you getting enough? Build a routine; Skip the naps; Avoid caffeine after 10pm; Exercise daily but not too close at bedtime; Wind down and unplug; Check your medications; Clean up your diet.–Source:
One Liner Senior Jokes: I’m usually interested in going home before I get to where I’m going.

Bernie is a real person who resides in one of our Brookdale communities. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brookdale Senior Living.


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