The world's love affair with chocolate

Ever know anyone who just couldn't start the day without a cup of coffee and then either a chocolate chip cookie or a Hershey bar? I have. There's your basic "junk food junkie" and then there's the true chocolate addict.
Chocolate triggers the sweet tooth in most of us. Unfortunately, it doesn't agree with everybody. For a number of years, chocolate, along with red wine, hard cheese and monosodium glutamate (not that she would eat them all together, of course) were the things that used to set off my partner, the Lady Marjorie's, migraine headaches.
Consequently, I tried to keep my chocolate consumption somewhat concealed and away from the house. Nowadays, I've graduated and I'm somewhat the main cause of her migraines.
A few weeks ago, on my usual prowl through the newsstands, I came across an entire magazine devoted to the satisfaction of the chocolate fetish. This periodical wasn't a cheap thing printed on newsprint and cranked out on a basement mimeograph machine either; but a slick, high-volume, four-color bi-monthly with a rich list of advertising clients.
I'd only turned a few pages when the familiar rumble from my stomach let me know that a trip to the grocery was going to be the next stop on my itinerary. Luckily, there was a market on the next block, and by the time I arrived, I'd managed to focus my cravings to a desire for chocolate milk.
"Quick, where's your chocolate milk?" I questioned the first bag-boy I came to inside the store.
"Well," he answered, "that depends what you're looking for. Do you want cocoa, pre-mixed or powdered?"
"What's the difference?" I asked. "It's all chocolate milk. Haven't you got it all in one place?"
"Things aren't quite that simple," he commented. "Cocoa is cooked with milk, sugar and a dash of salt -- if you're making more than four servings you're supposed to add ¾ of a teaspoon of vanilla too." I would get a kid who watched the Food Channel.
"I haven't got time," I pleaded, "where's the instant?"
"Again, you've got a choice," the kid went on, "the powdered mixes are on Row 3, or you can just add chocolate syrup to milk -- that's above the ice cream freezer -- then there's the pre-mixed milk in the dairy cooler." Row 3 was the closest.
Once there, I had more choices to make. There were two nationally distributed brands, plus a house brand, I didn't see any generic labels. I also had to decide if I wanted malted milk, rich chocolate or milk chocolate in addition to the low calorie and Nutra Sweet choices.
As if that wasn't enough, there were also two types of chocolate Ovaltine -- but neither offered a Captain Midnight decoder ring, which was the only reason I would have bought that brand when I was a kid.
The complexity was more than I could handle. I ran for the dairy cooler. Once there, I was again faced with another selection, although this time it was a simple one. Did I want the familiar brown and silver carton of Hersheys or a house brand of 2 percent low-fat?
Easy. I decided drinking 2 percent chocolate milk had to be like drinking lite beer -- if you're going to make the trip, you might as well go first class. I bought the Hersheys.
After I had finally made my purchase, I ripped open the carton as soon as I got back to the car and drank its contents right on the spot. The entire time I was guzzling, I was filled with visions of being found, passed out in the gutter like some low-life, an empty carton of chocolate milk at my side.
As if that weren't enough chocolate, I recently stopped at a nationally recognized ice cream stand and they had declared it was "Chocolate Month." They were serving 17 different variations of the flavor! I was lucky it was the last day of the month; my waistline couldn't have stood an extended pig out.
Besides your basic chocolate and chocolate ripple, they had chocolate with nuts, chocolate with pralines, chocolate with fudge chunks and chips and even a chocolate sherbet. A veritable plethora of cocoa.
Hardcore mainliners were invited to go straight for the overdose and to plunge into the "chippiest, drippiest, chewiest, gooiest, fudgiest ever sundae." That serving got you two scoops of the chocolate flavor of your choice -- on top of a brownie -- covered with chocolate syrup, nuts and cherries.
Somehow I resisted the temptation and restricted myself to only a single dip cone. Life's not easy when you've got a cocoa bean on your back.[[In-content Ad]]