Discover more from Very Serious
A Rant: Chocolate Is Overrated
One of two unpopular opinions I hold
Here’s the thing: I like chocolate. I think chocolate is good, and I often enjoy foods that contain chocolate. The difference between me and so much of the public is that I do not fucking love chocolate.
Have you noticed the embarrassing and desperate way in which we, as a society, talk about chocolate? Restaurant menus offer “chocolate decadence” and declare that you will suffer “death by chocolate.” People proudly call themselves “chocoholics.” Chocolate is naughty in the fun, sexual way: chocolate desserts are “sinful,” or even “better than sex,” and dark chocolate cake is “Devil’s Food,” as though God cared what you eat for dessert.
Nobody has ever talked about a fruit tart in this ridiculous, undignified manner.
This language doesn’t just matter because it’s tacky. The substantive problem is that chocolate coasts on its naughty, quasi-sexual reputation. While a fruit-based dessert needs to prove itself — if people are going to buy it, it has to be good — the preponderance of chocoholics out there among the public means we are awash in bad chocolate dessert. You know, all those one-note cakes that taste only of sugar, fat and chocolate — usually without enough salt to round out the sweetness and richness.
You know what’s underrated? Vanilla. While people talk about chocolate as though it were a substitute for orgasm, “vanilla" gets to be a metaphor for “boring.” Well, you’ll have to excuse vanilla for not making itself the center of attention all the time. Unlike chocolate, vanilla is a flavor that can be the star or a team player. A high-quality vanilla ice cream is delicate and complex by itself. In a more involved dessert, vanilla complements a wide variety of other flavors, enhancing without overpowering them.
You wouldn't put a scoop of chocolate ice cream on a slice of apple pie, right? That would be weird. Vanilla’s obviousness as the choice for “a la mode” reflects why it achieved the very market-leading position that has allowed people to deride it as the boring standard: it’s delicious, like chocolate, but also really versatile, unlike chocolate.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and I imagine that many of you are heading out for a nice dinner tonight with someone you love. So when the dessert menu comes, I encourage you to remember that no dessert is better than sex. (There’s a reason people don’t ruin their marriages over chocolate.) That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have dessert, but maybe take a moment to ponder the creme brûlée, or the tarte tatin, or even a choice like profiteroles, where chocolate has been pushed into a supporting role alongside vanilla. Those desserts won’t come with any pretensions about sex or death or religion, so they’ll have to justify themselves on their own merits — and they’ll probably be better.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the Mayonnaise Clinic.
Subscribe to Very Serious — if you agree with me, and especially if you disagree.
Yes, yes, I know gluttony is a sin. But when people talk about “sinful” chocolate desserts, they’re not talking about eating an entire box of Ho-Hos. They’re talking about desserts with high concentrations of cream, cocoa and sugar, very often served in reasonable portion sizes. It’s the pleasure and richness that’s somehow supposed to be a “sin,” rather than overindulgence.
There is also the problem of chocolate-chunk ice cream. I understand and appreciate the desire to marry chocolate with other flavors — I like a chocolate-topped profiterole or a chocolate croissant as much as the next guy. The problem is that chocolate is nearly flavorless when it’s frozen — when you order mint chip, you’re basically eating ice cream full of caloric wax. This reflects the lack of discernment associated with so many chocolate desserts: people are so blinded by their chocoholism that they fail to consider whether they’re even really getting the chocolate flavor.