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Chocolate Addiction

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CHOCOLATE BARK
Big Girls, Small Kitchen

With chocolate, it's love at first bite.

To suggest that chocolate is as good as sex -- when we're talking about champagne truffles for example -- is not as outrageous as it seems. But like anything that's almost too good to be true, there's a downside. Chocolate doesn't sustain or satisfy us for very long. A chocolate truffle gives us the same rush as, say, a passionate kiss from a handsome stranger. And then it's over, leaving us longing for just a little bit more.

Can we become addicted to love? Or chocolate? Do they really go hand in hand? Chocolatiers the world over insist they do.

Awake or asleep, I dream in chocolate: bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk, even white chocolate. The details of chocolate intensity are irrelevant. It's that momentary feel-good surge I crave.

Fact is, chocolate does contain phenylethylamine (PEA) a natural antidepressant that acts as a mood elevator, and is reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love. Chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, ingredients that mildly stimulate the cardiac muscle and central nervous system. But chocolate should never be more intellectual than sensory. You can give chocolate to anyone you love and make them happy. And if it happens to be, say, Irish cream chocolate mousse cake that you've made with your own hands, experience tells me there's a good chance they'll love you back.

The world over, while money talks -- chocolate sings. It is beloved by all ages, genders and religions. Chocolate is the world's favorite flavor. Nestle, Hershey, Cadbury, Godiva, Lindt, Laura Secord, names that make us salivate. We love them all. In the UK, about 16,000 Smarties are eaten per minute and MARS produces three million bars a day at its UK plant.

Still, there are national idiosyncrasies, and in a taste test, the flavor values of say, Mexican chocolate will differ from Swiss. And if it seems that over-the-counter chocolate bars don't taste the way they used to, that is entirely correct. Get a magnifying glass, read the ingredients on the wrapper and be surprised, as you may be searching in vain for an ingredient called chocolate.

There is chocolate for every mood of the day. It's common for most hotels to leave a chocolate on your pillow after the evening turndown service. Don't eat it. Save it, and pop it into your mouth on awakening. The effect will astound you. For me, the best chocolate of the day is the one eaten first thing in the morning.

Write eat chocolate at the top of your daily "To Do" list and at least you'll get one thing done. Some people are quick to admit they are addicted to chocolate in the way that others have an alcohol addiction. Well, there's no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous. Nobody wants to quit. Come Valentine's Day, retailers would have you think that giving your sweetie chocolate will enhance your chance for romance. Small wonder that one of the most popular chocolate bars in Britain is called Score.

Confessing a love for chocolate is an endearing trait, a common denominator between people. Surely it is hyperbole, but I've heard some women say that really good chocolate is better than sex. Clearly, it is easier to get.

Sara Waxman is the publisher and editor in chief of DINE Magazine.

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