Afraid of the Dark


I’ve been recently interested in—at least thinking about—the distortion I suspect is endemic now in our daily online lives. And I’m not talking about journalism.

I’m talking about questions that no longer hang out in our minds, bouncing around while we consider possible answers, leading to more questions and so on. Got a question? Get an answer, now. Your phone is already warming up.

And I’m talking about squeaky wheels getting all the grease, inflating issues from puny curiosities into controversies, with a lifespan limited by the next one coming. At this moment in time (and to stick with my thesis, I’ll just add at this moment in the first week of the year 2018, in the morning), “raw water” is generating a lot of headlines.

Raw water sounds like an elaborate satire, an SNL sketch, or something Gwyneth Paltrow wrote in her journal one night last week when her evening colonic gave her strange dreams. In another time, it would have been a fairly typical, light-news sort of post-holiday tidbit, a goofy thing those goofy people sometimes do.

In 2018, it’s a thing, apparently. We need to have an opinion about it, and then we need to express that opinion.

I’ll pass, but chocolate has been on my mind.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been following a “health writer” on social media. I put those quotes in there because I’m hesitant, a little. He writes about health matters, definitely, usually fitness and weight control. He espouses science and what we used to call common sense, he has plenty of sympathy and compassion for people who struggle to improve their health, and he’s relentless when it comes to exposing charlatans and quacks. I found his cut-to-the-chase commentary refreshing and myself in agreement virtually always.

I just hesitate over “writer.” He’s not very good, bludgeons readers with typed aggression that (he would resent this) looks suspiciously like a testosterone issue, and has a 13-year-old boy’s love of profanity and lack of judgment when it comes to its use. So there. I quit following once I got bored.

But he’s one of several people I’ve read in the past few weeks who’ve gone off on a tirade against dark chocolate. Which, apparently, is a thing, or is a thing now.

Not dark chocolate; that’s been a thing for a while. And I’m sure there have always been people who prefer other kinds, milk chocolate and the like. It’s not really a surprise that people have varied tastes.

And I completely understand if some people shy away from the darker kinds, based on bad experiences. Personally, the stereotype of bitter, chalky chocolate has a basis in truth at higher cacao levels. Just my personal taste. I prefer the 60-72% range myself, which I find rich and immensely satisfying, and I can barely tolerate the over-sweet milk chocolate variety anymore (but I can, and I have, definitely). Just a taste thing.

To listen to Mr. Fitness and the others, though, you’d believe that those of us with dark preferences are fooling ourselves and lying to everyone else, pretending to like something that clearly humans were never meant to like. Like kale, I believe the theory goes.

I also like kale. So kill me now, I guess, me and my sheeple instincts.

And I guess this isn’t a big deal, this conflict between chocolates. I just noticed it, and was surprised by the mean commentary on people who simply prefer what is not even questioned by convention as a gourmet version of the overprocessed commercial crap that passes for candy.

Which is still candy, by the way, and therefore a perfectly acceptable food, don’t get me wrong. Given my druthers, I’ll take dark, thanks. You do what you want, of course.

I’m also not trying to spin a gross generalization here about what’s wrong with people these days. I’m just musing aloud about chocolate. There are worse things.

And mostly because I made a lot of cookies, as I think I’ve mentioned. Batches and batches. Probably 400 cookies in total, although really who knows? And my chocolate chip cookies, which started as simply reading one of those kitchen-science-type articles about making the best chocolate chip cookies and trying it. Over the years I’ve adjusted and changed the recipe until I finally (just recently) rewrote the recipe so I’d have it down on paper, because people really seem to like these cookies.

They’re just chocolate chip cookies (dark chocolate, of course). I borrowed techniques and tips over the years until I got sort of a binary procedure: Two different ways with butter, sugars, and flours, split down the middle between softened and browned, granulated and brown, all-purpose and pastry. I use the best ingredients I can get, and each of these cookies has a wholesale value of around 30 cents, not counting labor and overhead. I only mention this to point out that you couldn’t sell one of my cookies for less than a dollar and expect to make a profit. These are not Oreos.

And they’re not reflective of talent or industry. I got lucky with some tricks. The oven does most of the work. My contribution is consistency.

When my son-in-law texted me around Christmas, mentioning that he wouldn’t mind if I packed a few of those cookies up for the trip to Texas, I had to make one final batch and that’s when it got funny. They were fine, although the oven temperature got moved up slightly without my knowledge and the first dozen were a little browner than I like, and I couldn’t do a taste test.

Just couldn’t. Couldn’t eat one more cookie. It was kind of funny. I enlisted my son, who hasn’t got a big sweet tooth but who managed to eat four of them (they were good, he said).

So I surprised myself last night by eating one of them, later on in the evening when I was a little peckish, and then eating two more before I put my foot down. Somehow I was in an objective place, and I just sacrificed to consume these things and pass judgment (rather than just passing them around).

And it’s the chocolate. Hands down. That dark magic is what grabs the tongue and keeps it coming back.

So I guess I could clear up the dark/milk controversy pretty easily, but, again, I’m just having a little fun with it. I don’t read the fitness guy anymore, and his opinions are his business. I stand by mine, though.

And I was kidding about liking kale. It’s OK, though. I hear it’s good for you.


Chuck SigarsComment