Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Pleasure of Chocolate
by Dakota Banks
***** The winner is JC Jones! *****
JC, please contact me through my website.
** Signed Book Giveaway Ended Jan 5 **
I'll bet your eyes rested on that photo of chocolate candies before you started reading. C'mon now, be honest. I know mine were focused on it while I was typing this post. I'll also bet you were confronted with chocolate in some form during the holiday. Did you give in? If so, you're like the average American who eats 11.6 pounds of chocolate (about 27,000 calories) a year. We're paltry chocolate eaters compared to the Swiss, who eat twice that amount every year. Of course they do. Swiss chocolate is so delicious and it's so close at hand for them.
Where was I? Oh, chocolate's hold on us. It has to do with hedonism - the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good. Chocolate is synonymous with hedonism, as the Aztec ruler Montezuma surely knew. He drank mugs of the chocolate drink xocolatl ("bitter water") before taking on a new sexual conquest. He thought it was an aphrodisiac, hence chocolate + Valentine's Day. This is the same Montezuma as in Montezuma's Revenge, the travelers' disease. I suppose the formula for xocolatl was a trade secret, and travelers got only the bitter water, with no chocolate added.
There are a lot of reasons why chocolate induces pleasure and happiness, other than the aforementioned scenario. The god of Chemistry has been hard at work making chocolate a triple whammy. First, it's naturally caffeinated. Caffeine works on the pleasure receptors in the brain and starts the flow of happy-making chemicals like dopamine. Next (hang on to your seats), chocolate contains a chemical compound in the cannabinoid family, closely related to the active ingredient in marijuana. It produces a relaxing, slightly intoxicated effect. We're not done yet--there's another ingredient in chocolate, phenylethylamine. Notice that "amine" on the end of it, the same as in amphetamine. It's officially a hallucinogen and would produce a high like Ecstasy. That is, if there were enough of it present in chocolate. The amounts of these chemicals are small enough that chocolate isn't a controlled substance. But it does give each of us our own personal little buzz, according to how sensitive we are to the triple whammy.
Do you have any chocolate stories you'd like to share? (Keep it decent.) Something where you think chocolate influenced you one way or another? Are you a chocaholic?
Post a comment and I'll draw a random winner for a signed copy of Sacrifice: Mortal Path Book 2! Giveaway ends January 5th, my birthday.