Saturday, May 20, 2017

“GOOD FOR THE STOMACH?”

This past week, I celebrated my 82nd birthday and received a gracious plenty of gifts, calls, well wishes, and cards, among which was a box of forbidden food — a box of chocolate caramel candy — forbidden because it’s on a long list of foods to which I am allergic. I ate four of the pieces and promptly became ill. When my youngest daughter Elizabeth called from California, I told her the truth about her gift.

“However,” I added, “the box said, ‘made with sea salt,’ and that sounded healthy enough to me.”

“You got it past the chocolate police?” she asked. She was referring to my friend Vickie who knows about my reactions to this “food of the gods” and tries to monitor my consumption of it. “But I know how you can talk yourself into something being healthy,” Elizabeth said. “I can just walk into Trader Joe’s and see all the fresh food and feel like I’m healthy.”

When I visited my chiropractor the day after I suffered the chocolate reaction, Amy shared with me that she would buy a sack of Heath bars to distribute at Halloween and by the time “trick or treaters” showed up, the sack would be empty. A highly disciplined and healthy person, she surprised me with her chocoholic confession.

Chocolate has some positive qualities for people who aren’t allergic to it, but naysayers downplay reports that cocoa can help reduce the risk of heart disease and provide calcium, magnesium and antioxidant phenols for those who consume this food. I remember that chocolate bars were widely distributed to soldiers during WWII, but back home in the U.S., it was a rationed item, and we were lucky to get a bag of Hershey “kisses” once a year. At that time, when I got sick from eating a few “kisses,” I was accused of overeating. I was fifty years old before I learned that humans could be allergic to this sweet.  

The ancient Aztecs believed that cacao seeds had aphrodisiac qualities and were a gift of the god Quetzalcoatl; they also believed that other gods had condemned this god for sharing chocolate with humans. The only chocolate for which I have no appetite is one served in Mexico called “mole.” During a three-week visit to Oaxaca City, Mexico one summer, I sampled mole (chocolate served in chili-based sauces) at the south end of Oaxaca’s Mercado 20 de November. Ugh! No danger of my agreeing with Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Mexico in the 16th century and wrote that mole was “good for the stomach.” 


Of course, Ogden Nash wrote that “Candy is dandy/but liquor is quicker,” but that verse needs a bit of modifying because no alcoholic beverage can equal the warm rush that comes when you take a bite of something like an expensive milk chocolate truffle. I might add that the cacao beans actually were fermented and regarded as an alcoholic beverage in 1400 BC, so I guess Nash wasn’t that far off course after all…


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