In Raymond Lammers' classes over the weekend, he aked the classmembers what their preferred chocolates were: white, milk or dark. Each time, those who loved dark were in the majority. Raymond commented that just ten years ago, the majority would have been for milk chocolate. He theorized that this may be because dark chocolate is suddenly being revered as some sort of wonder drug. Think about it: it has antioxidants, it has endorphins, it has caffeine, and hey! Did I mention it's chocolate?
I am one of those who has migrated from milk chocolate to dark. I started to think about it this afternoon, wondering what it was that made me switch. When I was a wee lad, my parents would often buy bags of those little Hershey's Miniatures. We liked the plain Hershey's ones. My younger sister's favorite was Mr Goodbar, but mine was Krackel. But the one flavor that none of us kids liked was the Hershey's Special Dark. But that was okay, because it was apparently my mom's favorite flavor.
So how did I make the jump? It wasn't coming to me. And just as I was about to tell myself that it just kind of "happened", it hit me. One Christmas when I wasn't so young, Santa left me a bar of chocolate in my stocking from some company called "Godiva". I didn't know who these Godiva people were, but I knew expensive chocolate when I saw it, and I was excited! Well, at least I was until I took my first bite. It was bitter! It was more bitter than I thought chocolate could ever be. I could barely taste the chocolate beyond the bitter. It took me a good couple of days to finish that chocolate bar. I don't even know why I bothered trying, but I do know that by the time I was finished, I was hooked. It had gone from being the most bitter chocolate ever to the best chocolate ever. This stuff was good!
I still ate Hershey's chocolate for the next few years, along with all the other mainstream chocolates. Hershey's Special Dark was now on the list, and eventually replaced the milk chocolate stuff. The times when I could get my hands on Godiva were rare, but treasured. Eventually, mainstream chocolate lost my interest, except as a last resort when the good stuff couldn't be found.
By the time I got out of cooking school, new words had entered my vocabulary. Ghiradelli was among the first, and I prided myself on using such high-end chocolate. Scharffenberger crept in, and my beloved Guittard became the norm. In fact, aside from the occassional Nestle morsels purchased only when nothing else could be found, Ghiradelli had become my new low-end chocolate. I was searching out chocolates with labels such as "couvature" and "single-bean origin". Current favorites: E-Guittard, Callebaut and of course, Amano. I've tried Valrhona, and they don't make the list.
And so, my chocolate roots have been traced. Was my childhood experience with Hershey's largely responsible for my earlier distaste for dark chocolate? I suppose anything's possible. I'm kind of glad I'm so far ahead of the bandwagon. Sure, I was one of the first people to proclaim the virtues and health benefits of dark chocolate. Well, relay is more like it. Actually, I suppose I just used it as an excuse to try and get people to try the dark stuff. You know you love it, people. And I love it too.