So what is it with chocolate then?

Could it be something so pedestrian as it simply tastes good? Sure, it’s tempting to want to find some deeper pull to a food that elicits such passions in people, one that many feel they’re helpless in the face of (sort of a “Devil-made-me-do-it” dynamic). But what if it turned out it was just, well…yummy?

Clinical research backs up this idea. Chocolate “cravings”, it’s been found, can be satisfied with synthetics. More than that, synthetics satisfy cravings in a way that pure cocoa powder pills (that subjects can’t taste) don’t. Bad news for the chemical conspiracy buffs.

Or at least food columnists, most of whom pen long, specious articles on the subject at least once a year (usually around Valentine’s day). Look closely at one sometime and you’ll likely find extended quotes from such research luminaries as the Executive Director of the “American Confectionary Institute” (or some such thing) usually parsed with plenty of “studies suggest” and “some researchers believe”-type phrases. They make for entertaining reading (though not always in the way the author intends).

There’s really no harm in it, I guess, other than it gives people an excuse to avoid the ugly truth about themselves: that beneath their controlled, professional exteriors they are hopeless chocolate hounds. Me, I faced up to this long ago, which has the effect of making me feel less guilty on mornings where I scraf down a handful of semisweet chips instead of a bowl of Nutri-Grain or breakfast. Like today.

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