Once a self-confessed “chocolate ignoramus,” James Beard Award–winner Rosenblum (A Goose in Toulouse, 2000, etc.) deftly delves into the secrets of the cacao bean.
Chocolate is Michel Chaudun’s passion, his life’s work. A French fondeur with a corner store in Paris, he makes a mean mini-pavé, or a couverture-coated cube of ganache, using only the finest of ingredients and top-secret methodologies. “I think above all it is a drug,” he says of chocolate, “nicely seductive, which marks the sweet hours of our existence.” What’s not to love? Not only is chocolate healthy (despite its bad rap), with loads of antioxidants, but it contains phenylethylamine, the same excitement-inducing molecule released by the body when you’re in love. It’s so irresistible, in fact, that a recent want ad for a chocolate taster at London’s Fortnum & Mason yielded a whopping 3,000 applicants within days. Chaudun, who believes there’s only one right way to make chocolate, chastises industry behemoths like Mars and Nestlé for cutting corners in their quest for profits, resulting in a vastly inferior product. (But “purists be damned,” Rosenblum says. “Millions still revere a Hershey bar.”) At the other end of the equation, as the author shows us in this thoughtful, thorough study, are cacao-plantation workers on Africa’s Ivory Coast, plagued by civil war, corruption, and poverty, the vast majority of them having never even tasted chocolate. Rosenblum also examines the comical phenomenon of Nutella, Italy’s chocolaty goo. When he asked a friend what the attraction was, she gave “one of those ‘duh’ looks. ‘It's chocolate. Spreadable chocolate.’ ” The author makes a compelling case for chocolate’s near-aphrodisiacal qualities in a wonderful, wide-ranging, expertly written book that practically dares readers to jet off to the City of Light for a tour of its sweetshops.
As rich and satisfying as a chocolate cheesecake.