Editorial February 2005: Chocolate Between the Covers By Hilary Williamson
'Forget love ... I'd rather fall in chocolate!' (Anonymous)
Bookstores and booksites lately have featured rows of exercise and diet books, including Cherie Calbom's Coconut Diet. Coconut's fine, but wouldn't it be easier to stick to chocolate? I don't understand why no-one has published a Chocolate Diet yet, despite all we hear about the health benefits of our favorite bean. Speaking of which, with Valentine's and Easter just around the corner, isn't it time to start anticipating the 'sensual magic' of the delectable treats in store for us?
In last year's February editorial, Martina asked one of the big questions of life, How Many Ways Can You Say Chocolate? Her answer incorporated a booklist that went from the sublime, my all-time favorite Chocolat by Joanne Harris, to the absurd - Joanna Carl's delightful Chocolate Cat Caper, which injects choco-trivia into a cozy mystery. Those books all have chocolate in their titles. For a change this year, I've scoured our shelves to find books that have chocolate between the covers.
Let's start with the obvious. Most cookbooks mention chocolate (a universal ingredient) in at least one recipe. But here's a cookbook devoted to it. The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough covers the history of our favorite food along with recipes (I heartily recommend their 'Chocolate Snickerdoodles', despite eating way too many over the holidays).
Kate White's If Looks Could Kill even has a box of chocolates (poisoned, what a waste!) on the cover, and its heroine is threatened with 'a chocolate Kiss'. In Nancy Thayer's The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, a foursome coasts through life on friendship, wine, and lots of chocolate desserts. And in Laura V. Hilton's romance, Hot Chocolate, a woman aptly named Cocoa opens a coffee shop (which I presume also offers hot chocolate).
While these authors place chocolate solidly in their plots or on their protagonists' plates, others simply concoct images in our minds with the 'C' word. The fact that Touré's Soul City lead works for 'Chocolate City Magazine' carries all kinds of positive connotations to the reader. And when we learn, in Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, that chocolate is an 'Abomination' in Borogravia, it clues us in that the country has serious issues - no wonder its deprived citizens are constantly at war.
Choco-themes are present in books aimed at the younger crowd too. An unusually smart princess propitiates a dragon with 'cherries jubilee and chocolate mousse' in Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons. 'Hot Chocolate Dance Number' digital storyboards warm the spirit in The Art of the Polar Express by Mark Cotta Vaz, Steve Starkey & Robert Zemeckis. And both children and their elders can relate to the very small, very angry boy whose parents forgot to buy his 'chocolate frosted honey-glazed pre-sweetened marshmallow nodules' in Tom Lichtenheld's What Are You So Grumpy About?
So, while we wait for those heart-shaped boxes of goodies and chocolate bunnies (and even cats) to appear, we may as well feed our annual addiction with chocolate between the covers. Though reading about it cannot compare with nibbling on it, Chocolate has to be at least as good as Chicken Soup ... for the Soul (add that to The Chocolate Diet as another book someone really should write!)
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