Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Good Book, Bad Chocolate (No Spoilers)

Good Book I'd been hearing the buzz about Diane Setterfield's novel, "The Thirteenth Tale" for a while and I just finished reading it earlier this week. Wow! It's a mystery in the Gothic tradition and has been compared to stories like "Rebecca" and "Jane Eyre." Vida Winter is a wildly successful, but mysterious and reclusive, best-selling author. She's given several interviews over the years and in every interview she's told a different version of her past, all of them blatantly fictional. One day Miss Winter writes to a young woman named Margaret Lea, who works in her father's bookshop and who has a modest reputation for writing scholarly biographical essays. Miss Winter tells Miss Lea that if Margaret will come to her house and listen to her story, that she (Miss Winter) will finally, after all these years, tell the true story of her shadowed past. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. The beginning seemed to move rather slowly and Margaret seemed so cool and disconnected that I wasn't sure I was going to care very much about what happened to her. But just like Miss Winter's story grabbed Margaret, this book gradually, insidiously grabbed my attention until it was getting harder and harder to put it down and do other things. By this past Monday night - well, early Tuesday morning, really - I sat up to finish it because I simply couldn't stand to go to bed without knowing how it would all end. This is one I already plan to re-read sometime in the next few months because I want to see how the story feels to me now that I know how it all turns out. Highly recommended! I give it an A-. Bad Chocolate Y'know, I'm pretty easy to please. Really! I love chocolate and even so-so chocolate is usually better than oh, say...Brussels sprouts or liver. So when I saw this: ...the other day, I was, well...maybe not excited exactly, but interested and prepared to be pleased. I like dark chocolate, citrus, and spice, so a Dove Organic Citrus Spice Dark Chocolate bar should be perfect for me, right? Riiiiiggggghhht. IF, that is, "right" means "ugh, NO, are you kidding me?" I opened it the other day when I was craving just a bite of chocolate. I broke off a square and prepared to saver a nice smooth spicy citrus bite. Then BAM! my tastebuds were on instant overload from what tasted like a freakin' mouthful of raw ginger. It's not like ginger can't be combined with chocolate effectively. Target's Choxie line includes a lovely dark chocolate bar studded with bits of candied ginger and it's yummy. But this? Ack! Once I burned past the overwhelming taste of ginger and could taste the chocolate, it started to improve, except that then it finished with what I assume was supposed to be the citrus taste, except that instead of tasting like the juice of fresh oranges, or even halfway decent orange candy, it tasted like that icky white membrane stuff that you aren't supposed to eat on oranges because it's so bitter. I found myself wondering WFT they put IN this thing??? So I turned over the package to look at the ingredient list. It included chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, orange extract, and flavors. Did you catch that last one? FLAVORS, y'all! Want to know how Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster define the word "flavor?" Take a look: "the blend of taste and smell sensations evoked by a substance in the mouth." Yeah, let's think about that a minute. If you can put it in your mouth and it evokes a taste and smell sensation then it's a "flavor." Do we really want to think about exactly how many "substances" are covered by that definition? Excuse me, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. (And hey - vomit has a flavor!) Don't get me wrong. I'm sure the flavors they put in there are perfectly acceptable food-type stuff, but that doesn't mean they should've all been combined into one poor, innocent chocolate bar. I mean come on - I probably could create a recipe to make a Honey Dill Ribeye Chocolate Bar, but that doesn't mean I SHOULD! Lesson learned. Next time I look at the ingredient list BEFORE I buy a new food item, and if I don't see something a little more specific than Flavors, I'll have to pass. Today's DAT, which has nothing whatsoever to do with lovely books OR disillusioning chocolate experiences: "Oak and Maple" (clickable if you want to see it larger in a new window)

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