Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Best Chocolate is the most Honest Chocolate

The Toronto Star recently hired a panel of expert chocolate tasters (in fact, a bunch of kids aged 3 to 14!) to rate several different brands of chocolate easter eggs.  Among the chocolate eggs tasted were ones by Laura Secord (a well-known Canadian brand with specialty stores in every shopping mall), Cadbury, Godiva and a "no-name" kind from a chain drug store.

The results of the tasting are here:

http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1157529--the-dish-chocolate-easter-eggs

The winner was not the most gourmet egg (Godiva), nor were they eggs from the biggest manufacturer (Cadbury - which came in second).  Laura Secord's eggs came in dead last (one kid said the chocolate egg looked "scary").  The winner was the "no-name" brand!

Lots of people eat chocolate for reasons that have nothing to do with actually enjoying the experience of eating chocolate.  Some eat chocolate because they want a sugar rush. Some, to temporarily relax.  Some, because they are depressed and want to binge on something mindlessly sweet.  Some, as an aphrodisiac.  Others, because eating prestigious brands with "complex" tastes and aromas will give them instant "caché".

Is it surprising that the cheapest chocolate egg ends up being the kid's favourite?  Perhaps not.  The tasting panel of kids aren't eating chocolate to fulfill inner psychological voids or to look cool.  They want something sweet that tastes like chocolate.  Naturally, they went for the most chocolate-y chocolate egg - the solid chocolate, no frills "no-name" brand fits the bill. In fact, one of the girls explained that she liked to eat chocolate by itself and not with something else - because that "takes the flavour of chocolate away". 

Maybe it's because we are kind of naive like the kids, but we like our chocolate to be chocolate (and our Tango to be Tango) too!

Don't try to pull the wool over our eyes by giving us chocolate that is not chocolate (or Tango that is not Tango).  A short while back, we heard that Hershey's and other chocolate manufacturers in the U.S. are lobbying the FDA to allow non-chocolate ("chocolate" like food that contain additives that replace actual ingredients made from cocoa) be labeled as "chocolate".  And don't get us started on some of the "chocolate" ice cream you can buy at the grocery store by the 5-litre tubful.  No chocolate taste at all - just sugar and strange aftertaste (oh my gosh, like some Tango shows!).  No thanks!*

*Man Yung used to say he loves all things chocolate but NOT chocolate ice cream - that's because he had never had real chocolate ice cream before.  That's until we went to Berthillon in Paris!  We were able to duplicate the taste using real chocolate ingredients in our own ice cream maker (but making ice cream and eating it made us gain 20 pounds!)

We also don't want chocolate that has a nasty surprise inside.  Forest Gump might have liked his box of chocolates with all the different flavours, but we would like to avoid "gooey red fruit imitation substance (perhaps made up of ground up bugs)", "coconut explosion" or "unidentifiable crunchy shrapnel" as much as possible.  Which kind of sums up our recent experience at a Toronto milonga - good ambience, good music, nice dancing - but then they made us sit through a pathetic, cringe-worthy performance by a rank amateur that we would have rather not have sat through.  With no advance warning!  That's five minutes of my life that you have just KILLED.  The bloody buggers!

And a big "No!" to chocolate deception!  One of my biggest childhood traumas - my parents gave me a big chocolate easter egg one year - to be eaten only at Easter.  I was looking forward to that treat for two whole weeks...and when it came time to eat it, I was confronted with the horror of the fact that the egg was only a thin veneer of chocolate and not at all solid - AND I had to share that hollow shell with all my siblings (and my mom and dad wanted some too)!  It's kind of like looking forward for ages to dancing with a Tanguero who looks really sharp on the outside - and then discovering that his dance and embrace were completely devoid of any feeling or musicality, AND he makes you hop along to endless leaping spinning figures like you were auditioning for "Forever Tango".

Once, when Alberto and Paulina were visiting Toronto for the first time, they brought us some small gifts from Buenos Aires.  One of them was a pair of large "Hershey's kisses" from a specialty shop at the Gallerias Pacifico, tied up with a nice red ribbon.

Paulina might have said something when she was giving us and our Toronto milonguera friend the gifts - perhaps my Spanish wasn't good enough to understand 100% what she was saying.  In any case, we put the "chocolate" in the fridge and forgot about it for about six months...

One night we were in the mood for chocolate, and we took the "chocolate" out of the fridge.  Man Yung took a big bite - and started foaming and choking!  "This chocolate tastes rather strange," he said, chewing suspiciously.

I took a smaller bite and realized it had really no chocolate taste...because it was soap!  "Spit it out!  It's soap!" I told Man Yung immediately.

When we were in Buenos Aires the next time, we told Alberto and Paulina all about it and they had a big laugh (even though they were sorry about the confusion!).  Alberto gave us some real chocolate to make up for the misunderstanding - a bar of Lindt's that he got the last time he was at duty-free at the airport.  What a difference there is in taste between soap shaped like a chocolate, and actual chocolate!

It's pretty funny, huh?  Hey, we spat out the soap pretty quickly because we could tell it wasn't chocolate...but there are some dancers out there still chewing faithfully "soap" after dancing Tango for ten years, twenty years...

We are so lucky to be able to see and experience Tango from the masters.  Watching Alberto and Paulina, Martha and Manolo, Osvaldo and Coca and other milongueros dance firsthand, and not filtered or altered or doctored like they do on videos and touring shows to make it more marketable for the masses - "It's like tasting real chocolate for the first time, and letting it melt in your mouth with all the gorgeous delicious sweetness and flavour.  That's how wonderful it is," says Man Yung. 

Just let us have chocolate that is chocolate, and Tango that is Tango.  Is that so much to ask?

Happy Easter everyone!  And Happy Tango!



Juan Esquivel and his lovely partner Thomasina dancing to Osvaldo Pugliese's "Farol".  Look how they interpret the music - so simple and slow but with so much feeling.  That's not toffee, or cotton candy, or fruit gushers - that's REAL chocolate.

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