Oh, How I Love Thee
What is it about chocolate that makes me salivate? Is it the creamy texture, the sweetness, the endorphins it produces?
Chocolate has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. In elementary school, we enjoyed Hershey bars (plain and almond) and Kisses, Nestle’s crunch bars, Black Cows (chocolate covered caramel lollipops), Almond Joy and Mounds, to name a few.
Barton’s chocolate was the dessert of choice at the family Passover Seder. Remember the dinner mints, little squares of dark chocolate with a minty, creamy filling? I would bite a corner of the square and suck out the mint. And how about the variety box that was passed around the table? Each piece nested in its own space. Barton’s also made Kosher for Passover Almond Kisses, roasted almonds set inside individually wrapped chocolatey caramel pieces. Yum.
It’s a Family Thing
My dad was a chocoholic. The third drawer in the cabinet nearest to the kitchen sink was the chocolate drawer. You could always find something yummy there—dark chocolate bars, almond bark, nonpareils, etc. He never ate a vanilla ice cream cone—always chocolate.
Dad’s biggest chocolate triumph was in 1970, when he and Mom returned from their first trip to Israel. They had a layover in Amsterdam and were allowed to leave the plane. The 12 one-pound bars of Dutch dark chocolate Dad bought at the airport were his most memorable souvenir. I can’t image what the U.S. Customs inspector thought when going through Dad’s bag.
Besides being a chocoholic, Dad was a chocolate snob. The candy drawer almost always had dark chocolate. He had nothing positive to say about milk chocolate, especially Hershey’s. That stuff was for “amateurs” not “chocolate connoisseurs.”
Alas, I have inherited Dad’s chocolate snobbery. Milk chocolate—blech! Too sweet and not satisfying enough. Maybe my taste buds have changed, too, but my preferred chocolate is at 70-75% cocoa. Anything less than that doesn’t satisfy my craving.
Satisfying the Craving
And what a craving it is. Sometimes it starts in the morning. Maybe just one small square of chocolate, or a few chocolate chips will hold me over until lunch. After that, I’m usually good until 3 p.m. That’s when it’s time to dip into my stash.
I try very hard not to overdo it. Studies have shown, though, that dark chocolate is good for you! It has fiber, protein and less sugar than milk chocolate. But, as we all know too much of a good thing is never great, especially for the waistline. So, depending on the bar, I have three squares of dark chocolate. Of course, some chocolate bars have larger squares than others, but who’s counting/measuring?
I’m constantly on the lookout for the “perfect” dark chocolate. When shopping in an unfamiliar grocery store, I always peruse the candy aisle. You never know what you’re going to find. Over the years I’ve found amazingly delicious and kosher dark chocolate, especially out of town. Much to my chagrin, many of these brands are not available locally.
What makes a good dark chocolate? It must melt smoothly in your mouth, creamy and satisfying, with a lingering taste that isn’t bitter or too sweet. I’ve narrowed my favorite brands down to about three. For pareve chocolate (no milk products), Schmerling’s 72% cocoa is pretty good. It gets a seven out of ten on my chocolate rating scale. However…in my opinion, Trader Joe’s 72% cacoa pareve dark chocolate chips might surpass Schmerling’s (eight out of ten).
My all-time favorite, however, is Chocolove’s 70% cocoa bar. (The label says “dairy-free,” but the kosher agency that certifies it says it’s dairy.) The small squares melt in your mouth so smoothly, and the taste lasts for many minutes, delightfully satisfying my craving. This chocolate rates ten out of ten!
Imagine my dismay, then, when reading the February 2023 issue of Consumer Reports (CR), with an article entitled “The Surprising Problem with Dark Chocolate.” Uh-oh.
In a nutshell, CR scientists measured the amounts of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate. Some dark chocolates have high levels of these two heavy metals, which are linked to health problems in children and adults. The CR study broke down various brands of dark chocolate as follow: high in lead, high in cadmium and “safer” choices.
Wouldn’t you know it? Per the article, Chocolove’s 70% cocoa dark chocolate is high in lead. What’s a gal to do? Call the company.
A very nice lady answered the phone on the first ring, which is a plus for any customer. I won’t pretend to understand everything she said. She defended their products, saying that one would have to eat multiple chocolate bars a day to worry about harmful affects from lead. In addition, the company uses a blend of beans from different growing regions, which lowers the lead and cadmium contents.
She also referenced a lawsuit brought by As You Sow. This non-profit “is the nation’s non-profit leader in shareholder advocacy. Founded in 1992, we harness shareholder power to create lasting change by protecting human rights, reducing toxic waste, and aligning investments with values.” Evidently, the suit brought against chocolate manufacturers was settled in 2016. The report is on their website, but much of the data is not updated.
It should be noted that the Chocolove label says its products are non-GMO, fair trade certified and part of the Rainforest Alliance. It’s got to be OK to eat, doesn’t it?
So…who to believe? At almost 69 years of age, hopefully eating some dark chocolate daily won’t kill me. Then, maybe it will or hasten my demise. But at least I’ll have enjoyed myself.
Ghiradelli’s intense dark chocolate 72% cocoa got a decent rating in the CR article, with acceptable lead and cadmium levels. Safeway had the bars on sale the other day, two for five dollars. I bought four. It’s good but not as satisfying as the Chocolove.
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Read more by Eileen Creeger.