There's some things in life that shouldn't be done half-arsed. Bikini waxing, The Sopranos boxset, advanced mathematical theorem. And bog standard chocolate.
So it pains me that there's a group of people – the term chocolate heathens springs to mind but I'll call them healthy-eating aficionados because I'm working on becoming a better person – that seem determined to do away with my beloved chocolate and instead replace it with any brown organic substance, stocked in the aisles of Whole Foods, that they can lay their manicured hands on. Their battle cry: "We don't believe in denying yourself anything, the key is to find a clean alternative." And so comes the frenzy of recipes, lining the shelves of Oliver Bonas and sullying boards all over Pinterest. But the irony is, in creating their poor replicas, denying good people of dirty chocolate is exactly what they're doing.
After 25 years of dedicated chocolate indulgence (I'm 29 but I'm giving my parents the benefit of the doubt that they didn't use Revels to soothe my teething gums) I'm hardened to the trickery. Sweet potato brownies, avocado cacao mousse, carob protein balls – you hold no desire for me.
I've tasted a raw hazelnut brownie, with its creator claiming dates are the key to replicating the traditional fudge-like consistency, and believe me – it was far from legit. It didn't taste the same as my usual choc-laden treat, nor did it have the same texture, appearance or feel-good factor.
Whether milk, dark or even white is your fix (some chocolate dictators would argue that blanc doesn't count as a bona fide choice but I'm all for the power of preference, and sometimes we crave what only the Milky Bar kid can deliver), nothing can come close to the silky texture and heady taste of chocolate.
To save you time, there's no need to concern yourselves about my dubious 'relationship' with chocolate, because I don't have one. It's a foodstuff, and I'm more than satisfied with the support of my friends and family to seek solace in a piece of rocky road. My views of chocolate, from a posh Hotel Chocolat truffle to a bar of Milka, is that it is unashamedly indulgent, its sole function to provide complete, utter satisfaction and joy. You'd be hard pressed to describe anything else in the same way.
That being said, I realise that the connection between chocolate and emotion is a very real thing for some people. Research shows that chocolate is the most widely craved food in the western world and there's much talk of its mood-enhancing ingredients being the reason behind this. However, the clever bods at the University of Bristol rightly argue that these psychoactive compounds are in much shorter supply in your average milk chocolate confectionary than a slab of Green & Blacks, so it doesn't really account for the international guzzling of mainstream Cadburys and Hersheys. Let's be clear, it's the psychological 'naughty but nice' label given to chocolate that makes it so irresistible to some.
As someone who is happy to swap linguine for courgetti and risotto rice for quinoa, the concept of healthy alternatives does appeal to me. Hey, I've even got a Nutribullet. But I'll be celebrating National Chocolate Week with the real deal because some things are truly not to messed with. Your tastebuds and state of mind implore you to do the same.
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