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Have some Theobroma. It’s particularly popular this season as Passover flows into Easter which bumps into Mother’s Day.

Theobroma starts with seeds from the cacao tree which is an evergreen. Originating in Mexico and Central America, it’s now cultivated in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. The plant's botanical name is Theobroma. It’s Greek for “food of the gods”, however, we call it chocolate.

Chocolate starts with the seeds. They are fermented slightly, dried, roasted and ground. Those with access to fresh pods often eat the flesh around the seeds. Chocolate has protein, minerals and a lot of cocoa butter. It’s a great energy booster for cross country skiers and hikers. Bitter-sweet chocolate has no cholesterol. Milk-chocolate, which is made with milk and dried milk powder does have some cholesterol. White chocolate has only cocoa butter, flavourings, sugar and milk. Real chocolate lovers don’t take white chocolate seriously.

Good chocolate keeps well at room temperature. If kept in a refrigerator and taken out and then put back, the natural fat will come to the surface in a whitish glaze. This doesn’t affect the flavour but the candy isn’t as smooth or appetizing.

The chocolate we buy likely comes in blocks from a chocolate manufacturer in the USA or Europe. Once here the chocolatier will carefully melt it for hand-dipped candies or make molds such as Easter eggs. Some shops create their own blends of chocolate by using commercial blends from several importers.

In the interests of science, taste the richness of Callebaut chocolate, imported from Belgium and used at La Truffle Belge, 5100 Sherbrooke street West. (514) 482-0607. Then try Bryan and Tina Stutman’s house brand at Finesse 5945 Victoria (514)735-1925. They mix blends from several suppliers including Callebaut. I find their chocolate is a little spicier and more complex.

We usually enjoy chocolate as a drink or desert. However, some Spanish and Italian non-desert dishes also call for its flavour and in Mexico it’s essential to many main course molé sauces. For an unusual Montreal treat, only available this time of year, try chocolate covered matzohs, made at Finesse.

Some flavours come into fashion, some flavours go, but Theobroma lives forever.

© Barry Lazar 2000 Email Flavourguy

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