Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Are People Who Eat Chocolate Smarter?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Albert Einstein use to eat a three ounce bar of dark chocolate everyday. Thomas Jefferson had his chocolate imported from France and Spain. Theodore Roosevelt always had chocolate packed in his steamer trunk for his excursions into the wilderness and it isn’t by coincidence that more chocolate is consumed in California’s Silicon Valley than in any other place in America. If this is all true, then one has to assume that chocolate is “brain food” and the smartest people in the world eat chocolate.

We are right in the middle of what one might say is the most important election of our life times. Then, it’s only logical that if these people—chocolate eaters—are so smart, they should be able to accurately predict who is going to be the next president of the United States. More than that, chocolate lovers should also be able to forecast who will control the Senate and The House of Representatives.

This week Choclatique launched the first-ever chocolate election poll to predict who will take a bite out of the 2012 election. As experts in chocolate, we felt compelled to add our expertise for the debut of the world’s first and only chocolate political poll.

American FlagNow chocolate lovers can cast their vote at and follow the voting progress of their favorite candidate during the Presidential Election, as well as which party will control the House of Representatives, Senate and even the Supreme Court. These poll results are ‘easy to swallow’ and practically foolproof, with a “fudge” factor of + 2%, for people who eat chocolate “never” lie.

Our Presidential Poll is a great indication of both political preferences and the overall mood of the nation since the world’s greatest mood elevator is chocolate. We think you’ll find it fun to play politics in a non-threatening, safe environment that is a ‘tasteful’ way to predict the election.” My partner, Joan Vieweger, is the lead pollster for this campaign, as well as a leading market researcher for several Fortune 100 food companies.

At the same tome Choclatique is also unveiling our new Capitol Collection, a new line of truffles, each piece representing either Democrats (blue donkeys) or Republicans (red elephants). Each individual piece of chocolate is a hand-decorated white chocolate truffle filled with soft, creamy, dark chocolate ganache.

BlueDonkeyThese limited edition, authentically American-made chocolates are available now through the November 2012 Election with 15 percent of the proceeds benefiting Operation Homefront. Supporting returning veterans, Operation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.

This is where Democrats and Republicans can put aside their differences and unite with chocolaty, bipartisan goodness. “We have created the perfect union in our Capitol Collection established upon principles of peace, freedom, equality, justice, liberty and the love of chocolate for all.

RedElephantThis stately collection is available in Donkeys, Elephants or Bipartisan gift boxes, which come in an array of sizes including: 8-pieces ($18.00), 15-pieces ($30.00) and 30-pieces ($55.00). For election viewing party favors, customers can purchase mini gift sets of two pieces (12 sets of two for $50.00). Orders can be placed at Choclatique ships nationwide in elegant, reusable, leather gift boxes with hand-tied ribbon that are sealed for ultimate freshness.

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Not So Sweet Police

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

What do incandescent light bulbs and cupcakes have in common? The state Cupcake Police are about to take away your right to eat a Twinkie. I first heard about this from Rich Lowry who wrote an article for the National Review, Introducing the Cupcake Cops. These are the same food terrorists who want to take away your rights to drink a bottle of pop or eat a doughnut. This time it’s a college professor from University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Robert Lustig. I would call them all morons, but that would give morons a bad name.

It’s the same old story—publicity seeking exaggerators trying to make headlines in the journals of medicine with bogus or incomplete research. You know the story, first they come for your Ramos Fizz, then your soda, and now they want to take away your donuts and cupcakes. If they had their choice they would launch Occupy C&H and camp out at a sugar plantation in Hawaii.

Lowry warns that the day will arrive when you have to undergo a background check and endure a three-day waiting period to enter a Dunkin’ Donuts. You can trace the loss of your unrestricted access to a Boston Kreme or French Cruller to this very moment… namely the publication in the journal Nature of an article calling for complete regulation of sugar as a deadly health hazard.

Lustig stops just short of calling for an all-out prohibition of sugar—that might be taking it a little too far (at first), but he does compare the consumption of sugary beverages and foods to the slave trade. As you can guess like most people of his ilk Lustig is not given to understatement. In a video discussion with his cohorts, he says that thanks to sugar and its contribution to chronic noncommunicable diseases like heart disease and diabetes, “we are in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in the history of the world.”

My goodness, could this be bigger than the bubonic plague that killed nearly half the population of Europe in the 14th century? Is it bigger than the 1918 flu pandemic that killed as many as 50 million people? Is a can of Coke so toxic that it nearly instantaneously wipes out a large proportion of the world’s population and influences the course of human civilization? If so, maybe we should consider sending a case or two of A&W Root Beer to Iran and forget all of the bombs and missiles that our government is thinking of unleashing.

The debate is still on among researchers about the harmful effects sugar has on our “ignorant” population. As you might imagine Dr. Lustig has already made his mind up and it is a dire view that could fuel his push for “gentle ‘supply side’ control strategies” to limit the intake of sugar, including “taxation, distribution controls, age limits.” He and his cronies dream of tighter “licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars.” They must muse of “zoning ordinances to control the number of fast-food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools.”

Under this regime, we will go from gun-free school zones to chocolate-free school zones and where it might be sold he wants to double the price of a soda by taxation. They seriously propose starting to card young people who try to buy a bottle of pop, with an age cutoff of 17. We used to think if you were old enough to vote at 18 you were also old enough to have a cocktail. In Lustig’s warped view of the world you would have to have parental consent to both join the military and consume a glass of chocolate milk.

I’ve always known that too much of anything isn’t good for you. That’s what mom always taught us, not from any research or data, just common sense. Moms around the world are like that. Mom settled the issues rather directly without the need for new taxes taxes, new zoning ordinances or the need to carry national ID cards. Heck, you don’t even have to show a card to vote!

I’d like to see government leave it up to one’s parents. As it turns out, research shows the power of engaged parenting found that if children ate dinner with their families, got about 10 hours of sleep per night, and watched two hours or less of TV on weeknights, they had a lower risk of obesity. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if they also engaged in a little physical activity… you know, PLAY.

But Dr. Lustig apparently wouldn’t trust parents or individuals to make sound choices on their own. It’s not about public health, it’s about personal responsibility. What you choose to eat and drink is your business and should not be considered the province of government to mandate eating behavior?

Lowry sees it this way, “If this all seems good for laughs, just wait ten years. Before it’s over, the offending food and beverage companies—the “sugar merchants” [the purveyors of death], as a journalist sympathetic to Lustig’s case puts it—could well be as beaten-down as the tobacco companies. One of Lustig’s co-authors refers to sugar as “the substance.” The article cites “the dependence-producing properties of sugar in humans.” The predicate is there for making Little Debbie, despite her wholesome red curls and cheery slogan (“Unwrap a Smile”), into the moral equivalent of a drug pusher.”

At the end of last year I bought a whole case of old fashioned incandescent light bulbs so I could still use the dimmers on my lights at home. Okay laugh, but I’m already making plans to stockpile chocolate, cookie dough and a case of Pepsi, just in case.

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Now They’re Gunning for Tony the Tiger

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Tony the TigerIn my April 28th blog, Colorless Food—It’s Enough To Make You Blanch, I discussed the meddling members of the government (Republican and Democrat) who can’t resist sticking their big fat noses into areas they know nothing about. It’s insanity how they just can’t resist tinkering with our foods when they should be coming up with a balanced budget. These Dopes de Cuisine now have their sights set on none other than Tony the Tiger, the M&M Boys, the Girl Scouts of America, and the corner lot baseball team.

The government’s Food Gestapo is now staging an all out war on marketing to kids. Tony the Tiger, some NASCAR drivers and cookie-selling Girl Scouts may soon be out of jobs unless food manufacturers begin to reinvent their products to satisfy this administration’s food police. The word is out say several federal regulatory agencies; either retool your recipes to contain lower levels of sugar, sodium and fats, or no more advertising and marketing to children or teenagers.

It’s not just the usual suspected foods that are being targeted, such as Thin Mint cookies sold by scouts or M&Ms and Snickers, which sponsor cars in the Sprint Cup, but pretty much everything on the menu.

Although the intent of the guidelines is to combat childhood obesity—a laudable goal—foods that are low in calories and fat and that some consider healthy foods are also targets, including hot breakfast cereals such as oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, yogurt, wheat bread, bagels, diet drinks, fruit juice, tea, bottled water and even milk.

Both Consumers and food industries’ executives are in an uproar over the joint proposal written by the Federal Trade Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The most disturbing aspect of this interagency working group is that after it imposes multibillions of dollars in restrictions and “suggested” changes on our foods, there is no evidence there will be any positive impact on the scourge of childhood obesity. The more you tell children they can’t have something, the more they want it. It’s kind of like this… what happens when I tell you not to think of the color red. What is the first color you think of?

The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulation Efforts says it is voluntary, but industry officials say the intent is clear: Do it, or else.

Unemployment isn’t high enough? It’s not just the food industry that will be impacted. Television shows that depend on the advertising revenue will be affected, critics of the proposal say—at a cost of $5.8 trillion in marketing expenditures that support up to 20 million American jobs.

Here again the “rule” of unintended consequences is rearing its ugly head. This is the culinary corollary to “Are we spending too much or taxing too little?” — “Are we eating too much or exercising too little?” Mom was right, “Everything in moderation.”

If the food is not reformulated, no more ads or promotions on TV or radio, in print, on websites, or other digital advertising such as e-mail and text messaging, packaging, and point-of-purchase displays and other in-store marketing tools; product placement in movies, videos, video games, contests, sweepstakes, character licensing and toy branding; sponsorship of events including sport teams and individual athletes; and, philanthropic activity tied to branding opportunities will be affected. That also includes softball teams that are sponsored by food companies and school reading programs sponsored by restaurants.

The sad part is many of the foods targeted in the proposal are the same foods approved by the federal government for the WIC nutrition program for women, infants and children.

Chocolate is an indulgent treat. It has a certain amount of fat and sugar which gives chocolate its distinctive flavor and texture. While at Choclatique we use natural ingredients, if we were to remove the pure cane sugar grown in Hawaii and the cocoa butter processed in California, you might as well suck on a bitter chocolate stone.

These are decisions that parents should be making for their own kids. These should not be government decisions. Now I ask you, does this make any sense at all?

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Colorless Food—It’s Enough To Make You Blanch…Boring!

Thursday, April 28th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

I don’t know what’s in the water in Washington D.C. or what drugs the members of Congress take to make them want to stick their noses into areas they know nothing about. It makes no difference—Republican or Democrat—they can’t resist tinkering with our foods. I call these meddling politicians Chefs de Ignorance or Dopes de Cuisine. They have investigated saccharin, Alar, tropical oils, salt, flavors, butter and margarines and now, colors… again. If they all had their way we would be living in a drab, colorless world of foods. Yes, now they want us to eat black and white, colorless foods.

What would the United States look like in a world without food coloring? Cheetos would look like the shriveled larvae of a large insect. Not surprisingly, in taste tests people derived little pleasure from eating them. Their fingers did not turn orange. And their brains did not register much cheese flavor, even though the Cheetos tasted just as they did when bright Cheddar orange. What you should know is even natural Cheddar cheese is tinted orange. Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and director of the university’s Food and Brand Lab, says, “People ranked the taste as bland and unsatisfying and said that they weren’t much fun to eat.”

Naked Cheetos would not seem to have much commercial future. Nor might some brands of pickles. The pickling process turns them an unappetizing gray. A tint is responsible for their robust green. Gummi worms without artificial coloring would look, like, well, muddily translucent worms. Jell-O would emerge out of the refrigerator a jiggly, watery beige.

No doubt the United States would be a considerably colorless place without artificial food coloring. But might it also be a safer place? The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a radical advocacy group, asked the government last month to ban artificial coloring because the colors that are used in some foods “might” worsen hyperactivity in some children. Old news. This is the same bogus research that is being rehashed once again to try to scare people.

“These dyes have no purpose whatsoever other than to sell junk food,” Marion Nestle (she can’t be a part of that famous family, can she?), a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

A government advisory panel concluded that there was no proof that dyes caused problems in most children, and that whatever problems they might cause in some children did not warrant a ban or a warning label beyond what is already required—a disclosure on the product label that artificial colors are present.

We believe that color is such a crucial part of the eating experience that banning it would take much of the pleasure out of eating. The question is would we really want to ban everything when only a very small percentage of us are sensitive? I don’t think so. Indeed, color often defines flavor in taste tests. When tasteless yellow coloring is added to vanilla pudding, consumers say it tastes like banana or lemon pudding. And when mango or lemon flavoring is added to white pudding, most consumers say that it tastes like vanilla pudding. Color creates a psychological expectation for certain flavors that is often impossible to dislodge. In fact, color can actually override the other parts of an eating experience.

Even so, some food companies have expanded their product offerings to include foods without colorings. You can now buy Kool-Aid Invisible, for instance, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Organic White Cheddar—both by General Foods. Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, refuse to sell foods with artificial coloring.

As yet, natural colorings have not proven to be a good alternative. They are generally not as bright or stable as artificial colorings, which can remain vibrant for longer periods of time. Natural colorings can fade within days.

Todd Miller, the executive pastry chef for Hello, Cupcake! in Washington, said he was dedicated to simple, natural ingredients. His cakes are made with flour and butter, and his red icing gets its color strictly from natural strawberry purée.

But the sprinkles that top many of his creations have colorings derived artificially. And he has no intention of changing that because the natural stuff just isn’t as, well, colorful. “I could live without sprinkles, but why would I want to?” he asked. “They’re cupcakes. They’re supposed to be fun.”

Gubble BumCounty Fair LimeadeSo are the rest of the foods we like to eat, including some of Choclatique’s most colorful truffles. Our Spring Collection, perfect for Mother’s Day, bursts with the colors and flavors of the season, in addition to being dusted with edible 24-karat gold. Our fanciful Carnival Collection wouldn’t be nearly as whimsical or thrilling without the bright blue of Cotton Candy, the verdant green of County Fair Limeade or the pink and blue swirls of Gubble Bum. Pomegranate Creme Caramel GarnetWithout color, our striking chocolate Gemstones, with the deep crimson of our Pomegranate Crème Caramel Garnet, the royal purple of California Plum Cream Amethyst or the glittery gold of Gold Toffee Crunch would not be nearly as mesmerizing nor beautiful. Color is an essential component of the foods we eat, which adds a necessary element of fun to our lives.

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Congress Is Out for the Summer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Not A Moment To Soon

After months of debates over the Wall Street bailouts, the stimulus bill, the government take-over of the automobile industry, cash for clunkers and health care reform, Congress finally adjourned for their summer recess. Just in the nick of time. I’m not sure if they needed a vacation from all the long hours at work or we needed a vacation from them.

While I like to think I’m well informed (compared to the people I see on Jaywalking on the old Leno “Tonight Show”), I am not a particularly political person. I have never had the urge to run for any elected office. After all, in today’s world who would ever want to put themselves or their families through that tortuous process? I was once appointed as a County Commissioner overseeing the botanical gardens, parks and arboretums in Los Angeles; not a particularly challenging position. I have been in the media spotlight with my “10 minutes of fame” on ABC both in the news and entertainment divisions, the latter with a series of food shows—not exactly controversial. I am not anywhere near as glib as Bill O’Reilly, as good looking as Keith Olbermann, or as wise as the late Walter Cronkite.

I am fairly well-educated; I keep up on current affairs; I work my butt off in both of my small businesses where we still believe in the strength of the American work ethic. I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats if I thought they made sense and shared my views on America. I have written a letter to every incoming president (since I could vote) Republican and Democrat—wishing them the best of luck and offering them my prayers for success. After all, whether or not I voted for them they are my president. If I don’t seem to be anyone special, you’re right; I’m not. I’m a lot like you—a middle of the road, moderate American.

I am quite disturbed over many of the events going on in Washington and in other like-minded Western European capitals today with proposed legislation leading us down the path of a “Nanny State” where the government is all-knowing, all-ruling and where we citizens take virtually no responsibility for our own actions.

I saw an article from London this week where Parliament is trying to regulate the size of soda cans and candy bars. I don’t see any reason to reduce the size of a chocolate bar from 58 grams to 50 grams all in the name of obesity and weight control. If one is so inclined to eat chocolate (which I hope most of you are), what’s to keep you from eating a second, third or fourth bar or drink a second can of pop? Government has a place in our lives, but it should be limited—not in our business, doctor’s office, bedrooms or our kitchens.

Over our 233 year history, government hasn’t run the most successful of enterprises. Most have failed to be cost effective or have neglected to deliver the programs as promised—are all fraught with fraud and abuse hurting the very citizens they were created to help.

After listening to the congressional debates this week, I read a “New York Times” article about Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez and his continuing interference in the commerce of his nation’s cacao industry (cacao from which chocolate is made). A great example why governments should stick to those powers granted to them by their constitutions.

The article, In Venezuela, Plantations of Cacao Stir Bitterness by Simon Romero, talks about Kai Rosenberg who owns a cacao plantation in Venezuela. In the years since President Chávez has come to office, he has for all intents and purposes, nationalized the cacao growers. In that time, squatters have tried to control Rosenberg’s plantation, a fungus nearly wiped out his entire crop, government inspectors and export officials have solicited bribes and officials have created a mountain of red tape and the requirement for endless permits.

Cacao from Venezuela is so desirable that European chocolate makers sometimes engage in cut-throat competition to gain access to it. Chocolatiers talk of the unique factors on the Caribbean’s edge in a way that resembles the goût de terroir, or taste of the earth, so crucial to fine wines. My friend and quality California chocolate maker, Gary Guittard, says, “Venezuela is in a league of its own [when it comes to chocolate]. It takes years to develop the uniqueness of the best cacao, maybe 20 or 30 years, maybe 100.” It is a Venezuelan natural treasure and shouldn’t be wasted.

President Chávez, usually obsessed with selling his country’s oil reserves and making derogatory comments about the United States, recently challenged the reasons why chocolate made from Venezuelan cacao should fetch such high sums in United State and Europe. He singled out cacao grower William Harcourt-Cooze, a plantation owner for particularly harsh comments.

President Chávez said after listening to residents’ complaints about Mr. Harcourt-Cooze’s farm. “…that he is getting rich while the workers are living in poverty.” Following these comments government inspectors began an investigation into Harcourt-Cooze’s alleged labor and land violations. While later vindicated, it was a distraction from the commerce of Venezuelan cacao.

Other growers have not been so fortunate. After partnering with Chávez and the government in a cacao venture in Barinas, the El Rey Chocolate Company, one of the leading companies in Venezuela’s gourmet chocolate industry, is still unable to stop squatters who invaded the farm earlier this decade and who inhibit the successful growing of cacao. “[Venezuela] could be a world leader with cacao, what beef is for Argentina or rice for Thailand,” said Jorge Redmond, Chocolates El Rey’s chief executive, reflecting on the industry’s upheaval. “Instead we’re faced with 52 different permits to export a single container of our chocolate, compared with four steps to export before Mr. Chávez came to power.”

This is exactly what happens when uninformed and/or greedy politicians interfere in areas that they know little about. The government bureaucrats have created a monopoly over the industry which has eroded incentives to produce high-quality cacao. Yields have continued drop. Today, Venezuela only produces about the same amount of cacao as it did three centuries ago: 15,000 tons a year, less than 1 percent of global cacao output.

Venezuela, once a thriving democracy, rich in oil, cacao and people resources has become one of the most difficult places to do business due to government interference in commerce. Cacao yields have languished; even though cooperatives employ triple the number of workers it would if owned by a private company.

But Venezuela still produces what most chocolate makers consider the world’s best cacao. When the Venezuelan oil reserves are depleted and the current oppressive government is replaced with a more democratic bureaucracy, they’ll be doing what they have done for centuries; relying on cacao for their survival.

Choclatique's Venezualan Single Origin TabletIf you want to taste this special Venezualan Cacao before it disappears from the marketplace entirely, go to Choclatique is having a special sale on our single-origin, Growers-Reserve Venezuelan Chocolate 100 g bar. Choclatique’s Venezuelan single-origin is rich in chocolate aroma with complex chocolate notes accented by subtle hints of red berry fruit. The cacao beans are sourced and harvested from trees of Criollo and Trinitario heritage in Venezuela’s Sur del Lago region. Here in these lush tropical forests in the shade of the giant trees, pink cocoa pods ripen ready for the next harvest in early November.

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