When I was younger, I loved dark chocolate or good quality milk chocolate. Add almonds to either, and, if I wasn’t bodily lifted into heaven, I’d feel that I was about to be. But eight years ago, I gave up chocolate for the same reason that I gave up coffee: the caffeine was too much for me; forty grams, and I’d have a buzz for the next day. It’s been a learning experience, to say the least.
To start with, not eating chocolate is only marginally more acceptable than smoking. Basically, North America is organized for chocolate lovers.
If you don’t believe me, go into a corner store and try to find a snack that doesn’t include chocolate. With luck, you’ll find gum, a few hard candies, and nuts or sunflower seeds so heavily salted that most people should avoid them. The best recourse is usually to find a deli or a bakery, neither of which is especially common.
Go out to dinner, and you have the same problem. If a restaurant has six dessert items, four or five usually have chocolate. Often, the desserts not only have chocolate, but several other sweet, sticky ingredients like raspberry syrup, and could strike you with Type 2 Diabetes if you weren’t careful to gaze at them only in a mirror.
When you eat in somebody’s home, it’s even worse. No matter how often you explain that you don’t eat chocolate or why, friends and family never remember. After the main course, they usher in some masterpiece in chocolate that they’ve slaved over more than the rest of the dinner put together, and you have to tell them that, regrettably, you can’t have any if you plan on sleeping that night.
I’m not sure which is worst: the look of betrayal, or the pitying gaze that follows it, as though to not eat chocolate is to be excommunicate from the communion of desserts. At times, I’m driven to lie and simply say that I’m full, rather than endure that pity or the explanation for my abstention.
There’s no way, either, to tell all those who pity you that you don’t really miss the chocolate. Their tastes are so conditioned that they don’t understand that there are flavors beyond the simple combination of sugar, fats, and caffeine.
Probably, few people would believe you if you tried to persuade them. Honey? Cinnamon? Nutmeg? We are now well into the third or fourth generation of North Americans for whom savories, let alone other forms of sweetness, are not just unknown, but distasteful.
But honestly? Giving up chocolate has helped me to discover so many different flavors that, far from pining for it like an addict, I don’t miss it at all. These days when I’m offered chocolate, my reaction resembles that of Peter Wimsey when offered Turkish delight – I refuse with a delicate shudder, thinking a taste for chocolate childish and unrefined.
And for that heresy I am cast into the social darkness, forced to walk the purgatory of those who avoid the normal social vices and generally unable to snack when away from home.
Like I said, though, I don’t really mind.
The food is really much better where I am. You see, the taste’s not blotted out by chocolate.