February 14th. Do you love it or hate it? I kind of love it, I kind of hate it and I kind of forget it exists until a couple days before it arrives.
This isn’t a post to discuss how to celebrate with your special someone, shower yourself in self love or wallow in misery with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or Carte d’Or. No, this is something much more important.
This is my post about chocolate.
Chocolate, in my humble opinion, should be enjoyed every day of the year, not just on holidays. I make sure that I get my fair share year round, especially when I find myself at university and without the motivation (or, let’s be honest, tools) to bake an entire batch of these cookies.
A girl cannot live on coffee and mushrooms alone. Although, I do like to think that I could.
During my travels I’ve noticed that each country has their own attitudes towards chocolate. These attitudes are so vastly different, it’s hard to fathom. Even more so than coffee, chocolate brings out aspects of national character that are hidden until you offer a piece of chocolate to an American, Brit, Italian or French person.
Italians don’t really do chocolate. I know, I know, you want to tell me that the Italian national soccer team eats Nutella and that this is the country with the mocha (or marocchino), stracciatella gelato and chocolate brioche. That’s all well and good, but America is the country with canned cheese, boiled hot dogs and sugary cereals. Personally, I rarely eat any of the above.
The Brits love their chocolate, but they aren’t quality snobs. Come Easter the stores innundate you with offers of chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs. My friends fight over mini eggs, store their dairy milk in the fridge and buy chocolate covered biscuits as a treat. This is the country that invented Cadbury and all their chocolate is in that vein. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s candy.
America has Hershey. Enough said. We aren’t looking at quality at all here. Luckily, America can offer up some brilliant, albeit more gourmet, chocolatiers. We have Mast Brothers, Jacques Torres and Scharffen Berger. There are plenty of small batch chocolatiers. That’s not a bad line up if I do say so myself (Mast Brothers creates truffle chocolate, enough said).
France, however, France is where the chocolate scene is at. From the gourmet chocolate shops that you trip over whenever you walk in a straight line to the impressively stocked grocery store shelves, the French are serious about their chocolate. They have a long tradition of quality and innovation that allows them to create beautifully balanced bars that you can actually afford. One bite of Michel Cluizel and you’ll understand. Their chocolates, truffles and candies, are small and so well-executed that you wouldn’t want more than one. Even their “snack” chocolate is a step up from the normal. There’s dark chocolate lining the grocery store walls with bars as traditional as plain and as fascinating as orange/sesame or raisin/hazelnut/almond. I’m still dreaming about that one.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t wait for someone else to buy you chocolate. Go to the store and choose a new bar. Buy the expensive one, the one you’ve always wanted to try. Buy the strangest flavor or the one that your friend told you was good. Chocolate is good and you deserve it.
Do you have a favorite type of chocolate? What’s your favorite way to eat chocolate?