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Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light Format Kindle


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Longueur : 305 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
Langue : Anglais

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Descriptions du produit

From Publishers Weekly

Did the Aztecs discover chocolate? Do the Swiss make the world's best chocolate? Is Godiva chocolate worth its price? No, no and no, according to Francophilic foodie Rosenblum (Olives). Although he'd always considered himself a "chocolate ignoramus," after attending a fancy Parisian chocolate tasting he immerses himself in the world of professional chocolatiers. He researches texts on the history of chocolate for amusing anecdotes, but his forte is his knack for going out in the field and talking with the masters. Rosenblum lets the artists teach him how great chocolate is made and how to appreciate its qualities. He travels from the cacao growing fields of Ivory Coast to the kitchens of some of Mexico's finest chefs, from the refined workshops of Paris to the factories of Hershey, Pa. As he discovers, chocolates—candy bars, chocolate mints—are basically an industrial product, containing little cacao and unworthy of serious culinary interest. Real chocolate, however, like fine wine, can be absolutely sublime. Artisans who carefully select their cacao beans and process those beans with painstaking attention can craft exquisite chocolate with extremely complex aromas and flavors. Rosenblum's chatty book, which lacks an index or endnotes, may disappoint food researchers. But for that vast world of chocolate-lovers who'd like a book between their bars, this bonbon is sure to please. Line drawings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com

Chocolate, like wine, inspires verbiage. Through the years this unlikely-looking substance has attained connoisseurial status, attracting legions of gourmets who find its rich, dark and unfathomably complex flavors a source of lasting fascination. Today's serious chocolate lover will not be content with merely a box of branded high-end chocolates; she will want to know the exact percentage of cacao beans in the mix, where the beans were sourced (single-estate chocolate is the latest fashion) and -- if the chocolate is handmade -- the name of the artiste who created it. Godiva is out, Valrhona (a French company that until recently supplied only to French chefs) is in.

And like wine, chocolate has inspired an armory of descriptive adjectives, with the earnest taster detecting "notes" of woodsmoke, mushrooms, wild berries, leather and coffee. For the record, there is something in this: In terms of flavor and scent, a piece of chocolate is considerably more complex than a glass of red wine. Yet it is notoriously difficult to identify the component parts of chocolate, let alone relate them to variables of production such as climate, topography and soil content -- the terroir, in wine-speak -- because in almost all cases that information is simply not known. As a result, writing on chocolate frequently descends into a kind of lustful enthusiasm dressed up as gastronomic objectivity.

One of the strengths of this entertaining book is that the author, Mort Rosenblum -- an ex-editor of the International Herald Tribune -- follows journalistic instinct by taking the part of the general reader instead of lording over us as an expert. This is not a history of chocolate -- indeed, straight history is its weakest element -- but a series of vignettes in which we travel the globe meeting a wide variety of characters who are deeply immersed in chocolate (in a manner of speaking). The chapters read like a series of magazine articles or personality profiles, filled with quotes, and range from the riveting to the workaday.

Although there are numerous paeans to the delights of fine (French) chocolate scattered throughout, the best passages of the book deal with pressing political or commercial concerns: One has the distinct impression that the author's natural habitat is the newsroom. The chapter on the issue of child slavery in the snake-infested cacao plantations in Ivory Coast (whence comes 40 percent of the world's cacao) is based on numerous interviews -- or non-interviews, as nervous politicians fled -- and two visits to West Africa itself. The author's conclusion -- that the problem is exaggerated -- may be controversial or even unpalatable, but it is at least based on sound research and first-hand experience.

Of less serious import, but treated with equal rigor, is the unintentionally amusing pretension of chocolate-maker Valrhona, where quality of product is matched only by the pomposity (or hauteur) of its executives. Foreign chocolate-makers line up to protest the company's patronizing, dismissive attitudes toward them (Americans are, predictably, beneath contempt), with the company apparently deigning to supply their wares only if the recipient is deemed worthy of them. It is all the more frustrating that everyone agrees that Valrhona is still the best in its field, with an "almost mythical cachet."

Nevertheless, Rosenblum tells with evident glee the tale of Alessio Tessieri, an Italian chocolate maker who visited the Valrhona factory in 1991 with his mother and sister. Incensed at Valrhona's dismissive attitude toward them -- "They told us they did not think Italians were ready for their products" -- Tessieri immediately went into business as a competitor and recently scored a triumph when he managed to secure stocks of cacao beans from the tiny Venezuelan plantation of Chuao, accessible only by boat. This fabled supply had hitherto been the preserve of Valrhona alone, and Tessieri's coup apparently hit them hard. The tale of a little man triumphing against Gallic haughtiness stands out because the main thrust of this book is very much in favor of all things French, with Parisian chocolate consistently hailed as the finest in the world. It is here that Rosenblum's journalistic objectivity falters.

The author lives on a houseboat on the Seine, and one has the sense that he is happy to play the role of the enthusiastic, over-respectful American in Paris -- one can almost see him hovering obsequiously in the kitchens of uncompromising French chocolatiers, grateful for any morsel, chocolaty or verbal, they deign to throw in his direction. Early in the book there is a wonderful description of a visit to the "guerrilla factory" of chain-smoking rebel chocolatier Jacques Genin, hidden behind a battered white door in "the dingy back end of the 15th arrondissement." But this is followed at intervals through the book by less interesting descriptions of other French chocolatiers, and it gets repetitive. The chapters on Belgian, Swiss and British chocolate seem to be there simply to demonstrate the superiority of the French product, and while Rosenblum pays lip service to the fact that one's chocolate tastes are formed by upbringing -- that a liking for a Hershey Bar is as valid as a craving for handmade Parisian chocolate -- he cannot resist trashing other people's, and whole nations', preferences. (Britain comes in for a particularly intemperate mauling here.) Now it so happens that I agree with him about French chocolate being the best in the world, but his uncritical certainty makes Chocolate read at times like something produced for the French chocolate-marketing association.

Finally, all of this connoisseurial appreciation leaves a crucial question unanswered: Is it possible to like cheap chocolate as well as the fine, handmade article? I think it is, but Parisian chocolatiers and their cheerleaders do not. Rosenblum claims to like Hershey's Kisses, but I am afraid I cannot quite believe him on this point; chocolate is repeatedly described as candle wax, and he spends a whole chapter attacking Godiva chocolate -- "Belgian" but U.S.-made -- which one of his French chocolate gurus described as redolent of "overfilled ashtray." This distaste for mass-produced chocolate makes the ostensibly patriotic chapter on Hershey read somewhat awkwardly. In fact, Rosenblum scrupulously avoids attacking American brands such as Ghirardelli even while he criticizes the quality of comparable European makes. Is this blind patriotism or fear of a critical backlash in the home country? Either way, it smacks of epicurean cowardice.

As one snooty French chocolatier puts it, "Tout ça, c'est ne pas du chocolat. C'est de la confiserie." ("All that isn't chocolate. It's candy.") That may be the opinion in the rarefied circles of Paris, but for me -- and I suspect for many others -- while I can enjoy and appreciate the expensive article when the time is right, for an everyday chocolate fix, "candy" is just fine.

Reviewed by Tim Richardson
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.


Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1268 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 305 pages
  • Editeur : North Point Press; Édition : 1st (17 octobre 2006)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00545H3LU
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Composition améliorée: Activé
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x94ec0378) étoiles sur 5 25 commentaires
41 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x940d29b4) étoiles sur 5 Biography of Great Product. Excellent Read 31 janvier 2005
Par B. Marold - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
`Chocolate - A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light' by culinary journalist, Mort Rosenblum reads as a collection of essays on various aspects of the contemporary world of chocolate and its history, going back to pre-Columbian America.

Anyone who has read Rosenblum's excellent book, `Olives', will recognize the style of this book, which seems to jump from one time, place, and situation to another with little rhyme or reason. The narrative is neither chronological nor in the order in which cacao is grown, harvested, refined, formed into wholesale chocolate, and used as an ingredient in truffles, bonbons, and other confections. There is actually a lot of good sense to this structure (or lack of it) in that you are much less likely to become bored with the tale.

Rosenblum is not a culinary practitioner such as Elizabeth David, Julia Child or contemporary chocolate writer David Lebovitz (to whom Rosenblum owes a considerable debt, as Lebovitz shared information with Rosenblum, in spite of the fact that Lebovitz was writing his own book on chocolate). He is also not an observer of human gastronomic desires such as M.F.K. Fisher. He is not even a hybrid of these two breeds, the culinary columnist, such as James Villas, Jeffrey Steingarten, or John Thorne, who deal in both appetites and techniques. Rosenblum is a rather rare breed of journalist who specializes in writing about food, but seems to have no overriding passion for the subject. He simply seems to be interested in the subject, and, he is a very, very good observer and reporter of what he sees. The writers with the most similar approach seems to be Eric Schlosser (author of `Fast Food Nation') who, like Rosenblum, is as much interested in the economics of a food business as with taste. These writers are more like one another than they are like other writers I have mentioned, although Rosenblum is much less polemical than Schlosser.

Unlike the subjects of `Olives' and `A Goose in Toulouse', where the author had an intimate connection with his subject before he began writing his book, Rosenblum was not intimately familiar with chocolate up to about two years ago. Thus, virtually all his historical information is from secondary sources, albeit, very, very good secondary sources, some dating back to the writings of the early Spanish Conquistadors. His modern information; however, is all based on interviews with primary sources, with some help from Lebovitz and a contemporary chocolate expert, Chloe Doutre-Roussel. And, just as his `Olives' book contained no recipes for sauteeing with olive oil or constructing salads or tapenades with olives, this book contains not one wit of instruction on how to do things with chocolate. For that, see Lebovitz' excellent `The Great Book of Chocolate'.

This is not to say there is no practical information in this book. One of the biggest revelations should be no surprise to anyone who reads about food on a regular basis. That is, our familiar Hershey's chocolate is about as similar to fine chocolate from Europe and American producers such as Sharfen-Berger as a Big Mac is to an entrée of boeuf au pauvre prepared at Thomas Keller's Bouchon or even at Tony Bourdain's Les Halles restaurant. And, this has nothing to do with European skill versus American ignorance. As a product, cacao has a lot in common with other natural products with characteristic terroir, such as olives, coffee, and grapes, leading to differences in the products made from these materials. A very high volume producer such as Hershey simply cannot deal with these variations, so they do everything needed to smooth out these differences as they use the very cheapest cacao they can get their hands on.

The big picture which develops in the course of this book is that the world of chocolate processing is complex, and things have to be done just right at every stage along the route in order to produce world class chocolate. This world is roughly divided into those who grow cacao in the tropics, gather it, dry it, and ferment it; those who buy dried cacao nibs and process it into bar chocolate, the raw material for fine chocolatiers, the most familiar of whom to Americans is probably Jacques Torres.

I confess that most chocolate history was less interesting to me than the shenanigans of modern chocolate businesses and chocolatiers. Just as I was surprised to have the belief about Hershey confirmed in a big way, I was also surprised to find that the widely touted Valrhona brand of French chocolate may be one of the best brands in the world, but it is by no means the largest maker of fine chocolate. That honor goes to Callebaut, also in France. But, Valrhona did present some of the most interesting stories in the book, as its representatives seem to have turned rudeness and chocolate politics into a rather gross art, in high contrast to the quality of their product.

This, of course, is exactly the same interest of Rosenblum's earlier books, although chocolate is not as heavily embroiled in European Union politics as is olive oil, as I suspect the difference in money involved is somewhere on the order of 100 to 1. And, just as Valrhona is about 1/10 the size of Callebaut, the leading American producer of fine chocolate, Sharfen-Berger, produces but 1/100 of Valrhona.

Near the end of the book, Rosenblum seems to remember that he is talking about a food and offers a chapter on nutritional research done on chocolate in the last hundred years or so. In a nutshell, most stories, whether ancient (as in Aztec) or modern (as in diet doctor) are somewhat mistaken. Most of the bad things attributed to chocolate are actually due to the sugar in chocolate candy. Chocolate itself has lots of things which are either good for you or make you feel good, with little or no undesirable side effects.

Every major food deserves a book like this and one like Lebovitz' work.
20 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x940d2870) étoiles sur 5 Enjoyable but flawed... 13 novembre 2005
Par Kate - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I quite enjoy non-fiction works about food, and so I was delighted to find this in the library before an afternoon session of quiet reading in bed.

Indeed, it is quite an enjoyable look at the worldwide growth of fine chocolate, particularly in relation to French chocolatiers. It is an easy, fast and relatively light read. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Hershey and Valhrona. I did find myself consuming masses of expensive chocolate, just to discover that elusive quality which makes some chocolate truly fantastic.

However, all that is good is overshadowed by all that is lacking in Rosenblum's work. Essentially, its greatest flaw is its complete lack of referencing or sourcing, which really discredits any work of supposed non-fiction. It is difficult to think of non-referenced non-fiction as anything more than fiction with a possible element of truth. I really think Rosenblum should consider the importance of acknowledging his sources in his next work.

Furthermore, the structuring is somewhat haphazard, with varying chapters put sequentially but with little linking them to each other. For example, the aforementioned Hershey chapter is followed by a section on cacao in Africa and the (possible) exploitation of plantation workers. While it may seem innocuous, it makes for very disjointed reading. I think the text would be bettered with a more sequential structure, perhaps with the chapters on raw material coming first, followed by chapters about the processed goods.

Still, a reasonably worthwhile and light read. The sort of book best borrowed from the library.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x94948d14) étoiles sur 5 Interesting view of the Chocolate Biz 27 juin 2006
Par ParisBreakfast - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Rosenblum's book is a fun read and you'll learn a ton about the choco biz, but the tasting notes are lost inside all the gossip.

I prefer The Chocolate Connoisseur for more focused detail on just chocolate and learning how to distinguish between various grades. This is more of an industry approach and extensive and interesting as are Rosenblum's other food books.
13 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x94948c48) étoiles sur 5 This book is candy, not chocolate 10 mars 2005
Par icqcq - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
If you're truly obsessed with chocolate, or if you have a high tolerance for careless writing and indulgent editing, you'll make it through this book. As a chocolate obsessive, I made it through, but it is a slog. The paragraphs might as well have bullet-points for all the flow and logic of the writing, but there are plenty of names here to follow-up on if you're interested in fine chocolate, and undoubtedly his favorite chocolatiers will find themselves inundated with fans. The book itself is light on fact and solid information about chocolate and the process, and is heavy on suggestion, personal opinion, and gossip. He seems to have taken this opportunity to indulge himself, both in the eating of chocolate and the writing of his adventure. I can't recommend this book....
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9414ec18) étoiles sur 5 Timely overview of this trendy topic 7 août 2005
Par Chris Morgan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Chocolate is certainly trendy where I live (the San Francisco Bay Area) and probably as a result of our once independent Scharffen-Berger's factory tours. Will the appreciation of good chocolate go the way of the late 90's cigar fad? Or will it endure, like America's ever increasing willingness to search for great wine?

Before this book I read "The True History of Chocolate" (Coe & Coe) and found the Rosenblum book much more entertaining but still edifying. Sure, he's a reporter looking to get up to speed with something in just two years, but unlike the diligent Coes, the writing is brisk and enjoyable. I particularly appreciated his willingness to be critical of some producers for taking advantage of people willing to pay top dollar for good chocolate and not caring what the fantastic packaging contains. Yes, after doing this research he finds himself to be a chocolate snob, but he still knows that you should eat what you like, as long as you know the difference between chocolate and candy. He also shows how the European secretiveness and snobbery that has preserved the art form has probably gotten in the way of the rest of us ever knowing that such great stuff is out there.

With this book, I now how much good stuff is out there. And this afternoon I walked into Oakland's Bittersweet Cafe and paid a ridiculous six bucks for a chocolate bar. It was worth it--and way cheaper than a nice cigar.
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