The Deep Dark Secrets of Chocolate PT: 4

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American chocolate production and consumption figures are not revealed to the public, for whatever stealthy reason. We know that the U.S. processes 261,000 tons of cocoa beans annually, most of which we consume ourselves. But cocoa beans are included in thousands of products in varying concentrations, so it's hard to extrapolate from these figures exactly how much chocolate Americans eat.

We do know that confection sales by U.S. candy manufacturers top $2 billion yearly, and spokesmen for the confectionery industry report that chocolate products account for 60 per cent of this total. The average American consumes 18.7 pounds of candy per year, and, applying the same 60 per cent of proportion for chocolate, we can readily approximate that 3.4 ounces of chocolate are eaten by each person in the U.S. weekly. This is hunger somewhat below the European average of four ounces a week. The Swiss probably take the chocolate-eating cake, yodelling down over five and a half ounces weekly per capita. Although consumption figures are not available for the U.S.S.R., one new Moscow factory is turning out 32,000 tons of chocolate annually, and many more tons are imported.
A personal survey of candy wholesalers revealed the top-selling chocolate candies in the U.S. to be, in no particular order, O. Henry, Hershey's Milk, Peter Pail Mounds, Chunky, M & M Plain, Three Musketeers, Nestle's Crunch, Kit Kat, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey's Rally Bar. Two former biggies, Clark Bars and Baby Ruths are dying on the east coast. And perhaps due to inflation, boxed candy and miniatures, too, have been falling off in sales.

Dropping in sales, perhaps, but dropping out of fashion? Never. A visit to a chi-chi chocolatier will reveal a cornucopia of tasty miniatures, from a half-pound of chocolate for which bidding opens at a cool $100. If your taste runs to crystal goblets, double that figure, But if the packaging matters not, New York's best boxed chocolate, including Godiva, Kron, Corne de la Toison d'or of Belgium and Le Notre of France, can be had for a scant $9 per pound. If this seems a little steep, the neophyte chocophile can keep it simple and start with the proletarian chocolate bar. The first decision, of course, is which brand. Harry Levene, of London might be of some help-- he's known as the Chocolate Wrapper Collector, and as of the end of December 1974, his collection held 30, 174 wrappers from different chocolate bars made all over the world.

After that, it's a fairly simple matter to choose among milk, dark, Swiss, Dutch, semisweet, bittersweet, or extrabittersweet; of course some may choose to suck on unsweetened or baker's chocolate, but that is entirely optional. All that remains to be done is to select from hazelnut, raspberry cream almonds, mint, walnut, truffle cream, peanut, rice, freeze-dried strawberry, orange peel, chocolate cream and about 40 other possible mates for King Chocolate bar form.

Once we leave the modest bar, the fillings become yet more exotic. Every kind of fruit and nut center is obtainable. The booze hound can revel in the taste of chocolate rum, sherry, cognac, and creme de menthe cordials. The true cirrhosis fancier can purchase martini olives, a martini-flavoured liquid center encased in chocolate and covered with a thick, olive-colored shell. Ants, shredded coconut, hashish,marshmallow, bees-- it's likely that someone has at some time covered dirt with chocolate and found it tasty.

If you prefer form over content, chocolate can be molded into the shapes of chrysanthemums, shrimp, apples, hearts, "kisses," scallops, "lace," bunnies, turtles, and thousands of equally cuddly configurations. Bloomingdale's department store in New York sells a two-foot oval cameo of pure chocolate, complete with candy-drop earring, for $12.50. Droste, the Dutch chocolatier, exports solid chocolate initials, which lowlands lovers traditionally exchange on December 5, St. Nicholas's Day.

There are a number of chocolate specialists who will mold chocolate into any shape for a price. IF that shape involves producing a new mold, the price is well over $1,000. However, a new process has been developed for those seeking the personal touch at a reasonable price. Now, for under $20, you can have any photograph or piece of art reproduced in dark chocolate on a white chocolate disk similar in appearance to a lollipop. (White chocolate, incidentally, has no cocoa butter and is therefore not really chocolate. Vegetable oils are the flavorings used to produce its chocolatelike flavor.)

Most custom molding is done for commercial promotion gimmicks--- chocolate jump jets, pianos, clocks, baseball bats-- but there survive a few true chocolate artists. Richard Mark, food coordinator at a Dallas Luxury hotel, uses no special tools, just sharp kitchen knives, to turn out his masterpieces. They have included eight prancing reindeer for a Christmas party, a five-inch fawn, numerous busts of French notable of the Louis XIV period, a Mack truck and a give-food Easter egg. Current holder of the First Prize for Chocolate Work at the Annual Salon of Culinary Art and Exhibition of New York City is Guy Lucas, whose four-foot chocolate Mickey Mouse beams out the window of an exclusive Manhattan chocolatier.

In 1975, chocolate has been tamed. Its alkaloids no longer convulse nunneries, intoxicate maidens or reinforce limp polygamists. The trickle of chocolated orgy making has become a mighty river of middle-class tooth decay; the chocolate of today melts in our mouths, not in our minds. Chocolate, which once made men mad, has done soft from prudish breeding, industrial conditioning, commercial packaging and easy living. Perhaps, of all the fabled psychedelic alkaloids of the world's remote lotus-eaters, the caffeine, the theine, the theobromine, beside which the distilled juices of the grape and potato once paled-- only cocaine remains, toxic, mesmeric, incandescent, waiting to be brought into the fold and onto the supermarket shelf in the form of coca bars, coca yoghurt, coca liquers, coca bathroom disinfectant and all the rest.... Only time will tell.

Text: High Times The Deep Dark Secrets of Chocolate, Robert Lemmo, 1975