Thursday, December 21, 2017

COCOA-LICIAMOUS! (Part Four)

COCOA-LICIAMOUS!
Part Four: Cocoa as Romance-Enhancer
(from January 2016)


The Hot-Blooded Little Love God
            In what other than romantic love do madness, faith, and science culminate so sweetly?  Having explored the latter three in previous posts, let us turn to romance and discuss healthy hearts from a different angle—not physical hearts, but figurative hearts.  Yes, it is time to ruminate on cocoa’s connection to romantic love.
            It comes as no surprise to me that the Maya used a cocoa drink in love rituals such as marriage.  We moderns continue the tradition of connecting cocoa with romance when we give chocolates as gifts to our significant romantic others.
            The first time Cupid hit me with an arrow (now there’s a chubby cherub chock-full of chocolate), he must have dipped the tip in some form of cocoa, because my love affair with cocoa began long before I ever fell prey to the wiles of a woman, and now (as I touched upon briefly in Part One) my cocoa love and my marital love intertwine.
            The very word cocoa evokes within me feelings of romantic love.
            During the most recent Christmas season, I ventured into the perfume section of Dillards in search of a high-class gift for my better half.  This was unfamiliar territory for a nerdy, uncouth, unsophisticated guy like me, but I had done my homework, so I came prepared.  I casually breezed past various brands of perfume, such as Lancome, Estée Lauder, Calvin Klein, and Dior.  I was feeling both Frenchy and snobbishly aristocratic, and I knew exactly what I wanted.  I sauntered up to the attractive, coquettish woman at the counter, told her with cool confidence what I was looking for, and asked her outright if she possessed the right stuff.
            Being perfume savvy and recognizing the familiar glint in my hungry masculine eye, she wasted no time, but led me directly to the display that contained my coveted brand: Chanel.  With dismissive husbandly hauteur I brushed aside any notion of purchasing an inferior toilette.  I insisted on the finest parfum.  I also paid the extra money for the larger bottle.
            Which particular fragrance did I select?
            Do you even need ask?  Only the best for my classy Smooches!—I chose Coco.
            Its very name sends a frisky frisson shivering up my spine.


            How happy I am to have found yet another connection, even if only in wordplay, between my love for cocoa and my love for my wife.  With cocoa pumping through my hot-blooded veins and Coco enhancing my wife’s already considerable beauty, my love life just keeps getting better all the time.
            To any of you men out there who are wondering how to better woo the special women in your life, I suggest introducing cocoa into your romance.  I suppose I could offer the same advice to women regarding their men—though being a man, I sometimes hesitate to make such suggestions to women.  But then again, when it comes to cocoa, I feel confident: whether you are male or female, this is one love triangle that will actually improve your relationship.
            To ye noble husbands in particular I say, picture your lovely wife in your mind and think of this: with your own blood already running hot from cocoa, just imagine what a fresh flood of freely flowing flavanols within her supple veins could do for you!  Maybe she will be the one warming up your feet from now on.
Cocoa Love Poetry:
The Surest, Shortest, Sweetest Way
to a Woman’s Heart
            My wife (whose name is Katya) is no cocoa coquette, but a genuine cocoa queen, at least in my estimation.  Radiating eternal youth and beauty, she once again turned twenty-something this year in January, as she has done every year for the past—on second thought, I’ll stop there.  This year, in a loving rush of poetic inspiration, perhaps induced by the combined influence of my cozy cocoa and Katya’s comforting Coco, I composed the following love sonnet:
My Too Sweet Weakness
For Two Sweet Women
My passions ache for two competing loves:
My cocoa sweet, my wife so soft and fair;
Yet they do not compete, these gentle doves—
My cocoa and my Katya are a pair!
Both bean and woman own me soul and body;
The flavanols within me rouse hot blood.
To cocoa and to her I say, “I love thee,”
And that love swells—an unabated flood!
I ask: With what sweet words can I cement
The rich, sweet love our marriage brews in us?
To pay my wife the greatest compliment,
I say that she is COCOA-LICIAMOUS!
      A taste so unrelenting as is mine
      Cannot resist such sweetness as is thine.
            Reticent and taciturn though my wife often is, reluctant though at times she be to admit that I am her husband, not even she could hide her blushing happiness on her birthday this year after reading this poem on her Facebook page, where I impudently posted it for all her girlfriends to read and comment on.
            By the way, one of them wrote that I deserved the Husband-of-the-Year Award for it, which should bolster my bona fides for this essay.  I ain’t just talkin’ the talk here.  I rest upon my record.
            We simple-minded, awkward men often stumble in our halting efforts to occasionally enhance the happiness of the women we love, but we should take courage and remember that cocoa is potent stuff.  If you want to express to your girlfriend or your wife that you consider her a glorious girl, a wonderful woman, a fabulous female, then write her a cocoa love poem, however simple, even if you feel you have no talent for it.  Merely by evoking an association with cocoa in her tender heart, you will make her smile, and she will then associate that warm and loving feeling with you.  Your effort alone will function as a flavanol within her metaphysical cardiovascular system, whereby you will establish a luscious love triangle of your own that potentially can make your love eternal as you intertwine her love for cocoa with her love for you.
            Trust me, guys.  Cocoa love poetry is where it’s at.  She will adore you for it.  I promise.
Love Thyself
            Such brown and bitter beauty in these little brittle beans, and yet such lovely life they do contain!  And how like life that simple fact is: sometimes sweetness proves but superficial; sometimes bitterness expands and deepens our greatest joys.
            Do not doubt the happiness guru.
            Let us now conclude this cuckoo cocoa extravaganza.
            In many cultures throughout the world, blood symbolizes life.  Cocoa stimulates the healthy flow of blood; blood fuels the mysterious force of life; life lived to its fullest, life with rich abundance, creates and magnifies happiness.  Therefore, cocoa fortifies the foundation of happiness; indeed, cocoa causes happiness.  The logic is impeccable.
            Go ahead.  Indulge yourself.  You know you want to.  And you are so worth it!  Your body is a temple; your spirit thirsts for light and life divine.  You are a good person—you must be if you have read this far.
            So be kind and gentle to yourself, and enhance your happiness with some cozy cocoa, in whatever form you choose.
            You deserve it.



Saturday, December 16, 2017

COCOA-LICIAMOUS! (Part Three)

COCOA-LICIAMOUS!
Part Three:
The Heart-Warming Heavy Science
of Heart-Healthy Hearty Cocoa


            In Part Two we explored the Christian theology of cocoa with an exemplary exegesis of divine mysteries expounding upon the fall of humanity and cocoa’s bitter way back to the better life of life eternal.  Here in Part Three we move beyond faith into the indisputable, irrefutable, and undeniable realm of impeccable empirical science, which in this case joins together with religion to further bolster any reasonable person’s faith in cocoa as the divine catholicon named theobroma.
The Wisdom of the Kuna
            The Kuna Indians inhabit part of the San Blas Archipelago, a chain of islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Panama.  They live a primitive, tribal, hunter-gatherer type of existence.  They are not the kind of people you would expect the modern world to pay much attention to.
            But Harvard University studies spanning at least two decades have demonstrated that the Kuna, at least on their home islands, live largely free from hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  In other words, they exhibit much lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure than do most people.  Their blood flows more freely through their healthier hearts and more resilient blood vessels.  Incidentally, the Kuna also enjoy a lower risk of cancer and diabetes, though most of the scientific attention seems to concentrate on the cardiovascular issues.
            Some scientists initially suspected that the Kuna might be genetically immune to cardiovascular problems, but later studies revealed that Kuna Indians who left their home islands to move to Panama City started to develop hypertension.  This unexpected result suggested that the Kuna were probably normal human beings like the rest of us and that the true cause of their superior heart health lay elsewhere.
            Such as . . . in their diet.
            Epidemiological studies discovered that the Kuna drink megadoses of hot cocoa, which they brew from cocoa beans that are indigenous to that part of the world.  Chris Kilham, self-styled “Medicine Hunter,” who traveled to the San Blas Islands of Panama to spend time with the Kuna, says they drink at least four or five cups of cocoa per day.  Dr. Catherine Kwik-Uribe, a director of research and development at Mars Botanical, a subdivision of Mars, Inc. (the big candy company), reports that the Kuna drink an average of about twenty-four cups of cocoa per week.
            Information about the Kuna and their cocoa consumption can be found on many web sites.  For this essay, I relied primarily on two sources.  The first comes from two Internet sites, starting with this one, which links in turn to this one.  Here you can watch a four-minute television interview that Chris Kilham gave to Tanya Rivero on Good Morning America.  The second source, much more in-depth and academic, is found here.  This link contains a forty-six minute video showing Dr. Kwik-Uribe giving a presentation entitled “The Health Benefits of Chocolate.”  (I last accessed these three Internet links on December 16, 2017.)
            Bottom line: the Kuna drink a lot of cocoa compared to most other people in the world—yours truly being a humble exception, naturally.
            Oh, but why be modest?  I’m outdrinking the Kuna by far!
            Dr. Kwik-Uribe mentioned that the Kuna sometimes use sugar to sweeten their cocoa, which disappointed me.  If this is true, then I must regrettably refer to this unfortunate fact as the Kuna lacuna.  I prefer to ignore this unpleasant piece of information, because according to Chris Kilham, poverty prevents the Kuna from purchasing sugar, so they use bananas to sweeten their cocoa.  I like this version better, because it buttresses my conviction that sugar is not a necessary ingredient to a satisfying cup of hot cocoa.
            After discovering the Kuna-cocoa correlation, scientists started performing epidemiological studies of various other groups of people around the world who ingest cocoa in one form or another, and a remarkable consistency appeared in the results: people who regularly consume cocoa experience a lower incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease than people who do not.  This result holds true even when the source of cocoa is chocolate candy.       Further inquiry revealed that cocoa, like many other products from plants, is rich in flavanoids, and closer examination identified flavanols as the specific subgroup of flavonoids in which cocoa especially abounds.
            In my research, I came across confusingly similar words like flavonols and flavanols (did you detect the difference on the first reading?).  These are two of several subcategories of flavonoids, which is a general umbrella rubric that includes the specific subcategories of flavonols, anthocyanidins, isoflavones, flavanols, flavanones, and flavones.  Another subcategory of flavonoids is procyanidins, which are actually complex chains of flavanols.  In this essay, I will use the term flavanols to include both simple flavanols and complex procyanidins.  Note that flavanols and procyanidins appear in high concentrations not only in cocoa, but also in grapes, pears, red wine, green tea, and apples.
            It is these cocoa flavanols that are correlated with heart health.  Additional studies are currently ongoing, and some hard-nosed, intellectually rigorous scientists still hesitate to claim a direct causal link between cocoa flavanols and healthy hearts, but as I said before, I am no scientist.  The correlations are good enough proof for me, and even without the science, I have always known in my heart of hearts that a hearty cup of cocoa does my heart good—both physiologically and figuratively.
            Moreover, even though the processing of cocoa beans can destroy up to eighty percent of the flavanols in cocoa, plenty of flavanols remain to keep my Energizer Bunny heart pitter-pattering for more.  One study of twenty different cocoa powders measured an average of 34.6 milligrams of flavanols per gram of powder.  One tablespoon of cocoa powder equals about 5 grams, which translates into 173 milligrams of flavanols per tablespoon.  I can always capture additional cocoa flavanols by eating raw cocoa beans, cocoa nibs, or cocoa powders processed using more gentle, holistic methods.  All I need is about two hundred milligrams of cocoa flavanols per day to reap significant health benefits.
The Flavanol Fountain of Youth
            With good taste and humility, let us now consider senility and virility.
            Adults who are getting older and would like to keep their minds sharp could benefit from making cocoa a regular part of their diet.  I once heard on the radio of a scientific study that found that elderly people experienced improved blood flow to their brains after drinking a cup of hot cocoa, which made some researchers speculate that cocoa might help prevent senility, perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.
            Virility is a more touchy subject upon which I hesitate to touch.  Suffice it to say that the Maya used cocoa as an aphrodisiac.  Aside from launching lovers into passionate states of addictive euphoria, how can cocoa help them more fully enjoy the whole kit n’ caboodle of kiss n’ canoodle?  Again, the answer lies in freely flowing blood.
            Scientists used to view blood vessels as passive tubes in the body, but today they understand that blood vessels respond actively and quickly to changes in their environments.  If you stand up and start walking, for example, your blood vessels will immediately adapt to this change.  A release of nitric oxide will cause your blood vessels to expand.  The ability of the blood vessels to respond to changes represents a key indicator of health and a predictor of your risk for cardiovascular disease.
            The current hypothesis to explain why cocoa flavanols are correlated with better cardiovascular health posits that cocoa flavanols cause improved blood flow.  As I mentioned above, a noticeable effect can be observed once a person has ingested about two hundred milligrams of cocoa flavanols.  The daily intake of the Kuna Indians is estimated at nine hundred milligrams.
            My cocoa-fueled ego hates to admit that although I am outdrinking the Kuna in terms of volume of liquid, the Kuna are outdrinking me in terms of milligrams of flavanols.  I usually consume four tablespoons of Hershey’s cocoa power per day in my hot cocoa, which gives me only 692 milligrams of flavanols; even my half-gallon days give me only 865.  So Kuna cocoa contains probably double the concentration of flavanols as does my inferior cocoa.  To ingest more flavanols than the Kuna, I have to supplement my drinking habit with eating raw cocoa beans or cocoa nibs.
            Scientists measuring the diameter of the brachial artery after a person ingests more than two hundred milligrams of cocoa flavanols usually find a dilation of from ten to twelve percent.  Smokers and diabetics often suffer from problems with blood flow, and measuring the brachial artery in these two groups shows that cocoa improves blood flow even for them.
            I can attest from personal experience to the reality of intravenous rivers of cocoa-loving lava.  Often when I sit sedentary for several hours, especially during the frigid winter months, my hands and feet grow cold.  After I drink one of my regular overdoses of hot cocoa, which consists of about sixteen ounces, I usually feel a pleasant wave of heat flowing into my extremities as the blood courses more freely within my veins and arteries.  The raw honey and the Ceylon cinnamon that I add to the mix might also contribute to the effect, but surely cocoa plays its part.
            By the way, do you remember the problem-free philosophy of Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion KingHakuna Matata—no worries.  The kuna in Hakuna is screaming at me.  Epidemiological studies make a wonderful beginning, but we obviously need some etymological studies as well.  I propose the following hypothesis: when South America and Africa were still smashed together as a single land mass, some deeply meaningful linguistic link existed that must underlie both Kuna and Hakuna.  After all, both words relate to sanguinity, whether of heart health or of temper.
            Namaste is so blasé.  Enjoy it on your hippy bumper stickers.  If you really want to bow to the divine with me, let’s drink some cocoa together.  The key to physical health, emotional well-being, and perhaps even world peace lies in choco-chilling like the Kuna.
In Defense of Cocoa
            Some web sites are spreading the malicious libel that cocoa causes kidney stones by potentially increasing the amount of oxalate (C2O4) or oxalic acid (H2C2O4) in the body (most kidney stones are composed of calcium oxalate (CaC2O4)).  But my closer, more analytical, more nuanced, and more self-interested reading of these careless claims reveals that they rest upon mere shallow plausibilities, not on any specific empirical research that demonstrates beyond question a direct cause-and-effect relationship between cocoa and kidney stones.
            The oxalate argument can be applied to a variety of foods that most people would consider innocuous or even healthy, such as spinach, rhubarb, beets, wheat bran, strawberries, peanuts, almonds, tea, and others.  Moreover, some studies contradict the claim that foods like these increase levels of oxalate or oxalic acid in the body.  In short, the research remains in dispute, so methinks the cocoa naysayers protest too much.  But do not misunderstand me: I am not saying that people who are vulnerable to kidney stones can drink all the cocoa they want with impunity, and I am not trying to override doctors who counsel patients with kidney stones to avoid tea and coffee.  I am saying only that medical researchers are still wrestling with this question of oxalates in foods and what link, if any, might exist between eating these foods and suffering from kidney stones.
            To assuage my mild anxiety over the issue, I performed just enough additional research until I found an article that states what I want to believe, namely that cocoa is an unlikely culprit for kidney stones.  This cogent and comforting article can be found here.  Another helpful article about oxalates in foods and the inconclusive controversy about them can be found here.  (I last accessed these two Internet links on December 16, 2017.)
            A few unthinking critics of cocoa cite caffeine as their basis for attack, but a tablespoon of Hershey’s cocoa powder contains only about 8.4 mg of caffeine, which is scarcely 8.8% of the 95 mg contained in an 8-oz. cup of coffee.  When you consider that a safe daily dose of caffeine for a healthy adult is up to 400 mg, the caffeine argument against cocoa dissipates like sophomoric chaff in the intellectual winds.
            So don’t you be talkin’ no smack about me cocoa!  The fair and lovely maiden shineth pure and innocent, and I intend to continue outdrinking the Kuna . . . at least for now.
            Speaking of fair maidens, next time we shall cast aside both science and religion and delve deeply into romance as we examine how cocoa can turn almost anyone into a Hershey-happy hunk of pure horripilating love.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

COCOA-LICIAMOUS! (Part Two)


COCOA-LICIAMOUS!
Part Two: Healthy Cocoa and Christian Theology


A Healthy Turning Point
            A few years ago my gluttonous candy habit caught up to me and ruined my health, so I had to eliminate sugar (by which I mean sucrose) from my diet.  As I contemplated the sobering reality that I might never be able to eat chocolate again if I wanted to stay alive, I felt weepy.
            One maudlin day I picked up a container of Hershey’s cocoa powder and sadly looked it over as if preparing to bid adieu to an old friend.  I knew that the troika of taste also constituted the triumvirate of evil—salt, fat, and sugar—so I checked for these three monsters of death as I examined the list of ingredients on the “Nutrition Facts” label.
            Before I reached the troika, however, my dolorous eyes stumbled across some interesting information.
            As a preliminary matter, I saw the serving size—one tablespoon.  I made a mental note.
            Not far below that, I read the line containing the calorie information:
                        “Calories 10 . . . Calories from Fat 5”
            Really?  Only ten calories per tablespoon?  That was nothing compared to the exorbitant calorie counts for my favorite confections.  Suddenly the firm steel of my curiosity struck a single vigorous blow against the hard flint of my despondency, and a spark of defiant hope leaped out of my gloomy heart to cast an optimistic challenge into the teeth of darkness.
            I read further.
            “Total Fat 0.5 g
                        “Saturated Fat 0 g
                        “Trans Fat 0 g”
            What the—?   Cocoa powder was almost a fat-free food?  Another spark flew.
            But I thought chocolate was fattening.  Confused and disoriented, yet wanting to believe, I read more.
            “Cholesterol 0 mg”
            Interesting.  Not a member of the troika, but cholesterol was bad, right?  So no cholesterol must be good, right?  More sparks.  I feared my rising hopes, yet I could not suppress them as my eyes moved down the list.
            “Sodium 0 mg”
            Unbelievable.  A green light on two out of three demons in the troika.  Surely I would strike out on the third.  I swallowed my trepidation and continued to read.
            “Sugars 0 g”
            Really!  And the word was “sugars,” not just “sugar,” so that label excluded not only sucrose, but also fructose, glucose, lactose, galactose, etc.—the whole criminal gang!  Though in truth, only sucrose was killing me.  I mention the others merely to point out that cocoa powder contained no sugars of any kind.

            I could hardly believe my eyes.  A tablespoon of this cocoa powder included even two grams of dietary fiber.  Nutrition ignoramus though I was, even I knew that fiber was good for you.  By now my sizzling soul was churning out hopeful sparks with feverish intensity.
            Gobsmacked and giddy, I felt like slapping my thigh and crying out a la Jed Clampett in a protracted, high-pitched whine, “W-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ll doggy!”  I might have even heard “Ode to Joy” echoing nostalgically somewhere inside my head.
            At this moment, the scintillating spray of hopeful sparks landed smack dab in the middle of the pressurized oxygen cloud of my repressed cocoa cravings, and the flames of passion raged again as an explosion of divine light flooded my narrow mind and lifted my simple heart from despair to euphoria.
            A true epiphany burst upon me as my brain for the first time made a meaningful distinction between chocolate and cocoa.  I realized afresh what I had probably already known but had not ascribed much significance to, namely that cocoa represented but an ingredient of chocolate, and the cocoa bore no fault for making chocolate unhealthy.  The blame belonged primarily to the sugar, mixed in to sweeten the bitter cocoa.  But the sugar was adventitious to pure cocoa.  It was, in fact, a profane pollution, a sick and twisted sacrilege.
            I grant that raw, unprocessed cocoa is indeed fattening, which could cause health problems for some, but in my case, the major harm from chocolate came not from the fat, but only from the sugar.
            In somber Manichaean reflection about my sugar trouble and my insatiable love for cocoa, I pondered deeply, humbly, and sincerely.  Eventually I drew some irrefutable philosophical conclusions that would have made even Socrates proud and someday will undoubtedly revolutionize Christian theology.
            Sugar is bad.
            Cocoa is good.
            Sugar is evil and comes from the devil.
            Cocoa is sublime and comes from heaven, which is why it is rightly described as the food of the gods.  Even science acknowledges the divinity of cocoa by giving the cocoa tree the taxonomic designation Theobroma cacao, the genus name coming from the Greek words theos, meaning “god,” and broma, meaning “food.”
            Sugar exemplifies the devil appearing as an angel of light: filled with sweetness, sugar presents itself as desirable, but in fact causes pain and harm, bondage and degeneration.
            Cocoa represents a true manifestation of divine grace, for although it is bitter to the taste, it engenders wholesome pleasure and health, freedom and rejuvenation.
            The forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden must have been loaded with sugar, for its specious sweetness caused the fall of humanity—in sharp contrast to the exalting bitter fruit of the paradisiacal cocoa tree of life.
            And that pretty much sums it up: sugar is death; cocoa is life.
            What joy returned to my existence as I learned that cocoa is actually healthy.  It could still be a part of my diet.
            Thus my soul had been dead, but was alive again!
            All I needed was to find an alternative to sugar to sweeten my precious cocoa.  Eventually I settled on raw honey.  Problem solved.


            The cocoa consumption resumed promptly.  I experimented with cocoa in various forms, and ultimately I resorted to a beverage, hot cocoa, as my preferred delivery system when I needed a hit.
            Little did I realize then that I was not the first to hit upon the health benefits of cocoa, which subject I will take up in my next blog post.



Saturday, December 9, 2017

COCOA-LICIAMOUS! (Part One)

COCOA-LICIAMOUS!
Part One: A Chocoholic and His Drinking Problem

The chocolate sweet, with languid rapture
Glides across my lips.
But swallowed, it my soul will capture
And supersize my hips.
            ———
Since cocoa be the food of love, eat on.
* * *
Introductory Note
            In this essay, I usually avoid using the word cacao, a term with Spanish origins that is a synonym of cocoa and appears on many cocoa products.  I generally use the term cocoa to refer to the core substance within the cocoa bean, but this use does not exclude more specific meanings, such as the cocoa bean itself or derivatives of cocoa like cocoa powder and so-called cocoa solids.  Sometimes I use cocoa more loosely to refer to the hot beverage made from cocoa.  I believe my intended meaning is clear from the context in each instance, so I will not get too technical in my cocoa terminology unless I have to for the sake of clarity.
            And now, for you romantic and giddy chocolate-lovers, without further adieu, I invite you to indulge yourselves.
* * *
 A Madcap Love Triangle
            Most days I drink over forty-eight ounces of hot cocoa.  That’s six cups.  Sometimes I drink less.  Sometimes I guzzle half a gallon or more.
            Why?
            Because like many hot-blooded, cardiovascular manly types, I possess the wisdom of the Kuna.  More on this later.
            Also because I cannot feel normal otherwise.  Without this bosom friend, a tension worse than bachelorhood augments within my soul.  The pressure propagates, the nerves grow jittery, the obsession mounts.  Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, a valve must open, a spigot must pour forth that sweet divine elixir, that lofty brown ambrosia filled with placid dreams and restful bliss.
            You know those medical bracelets for diabetics?  I think I need one of those, but with special instructions to any medical personnel who might find me unconscious that I hereby and forthwith command them to immediately set up an IV and start a slow but steady drip of the melted raw insides of pure, unprocessed cocoa beans directly into my thirsty veins.  A thousand cc’s of liquid cocoa, in the raw, stat!
            By now you will probably not be surprised to learn that at least one of my relatives was an alcoholic.
            But cocoa is not alcohol, and I prefer to think that I do not have a problem.  Not anymore, anyway.  Some tastes transcend denial.  Like any gluttonous American patriot reeling from his heart-killing food habits, I cry out in the spirit of Patrick Henry, “If this be addiction, make the most of it!”
            On a more serious note, as I sit here in the quietude of my writerly man cave, pondering with sober gravitas how best to summarize my sentiments, I suddenly hear within my long-disturbed mind a clarion voice of madness calling out encouragement, booming out an enthusiastic cheerleading cry:
                        Who needs lousy counterfeits like crummy LSD?
                        I need only C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E!
            Unlike alcoholism, my drinking problem happens to be good for me.


            Now pause with me, dear reader, for a reverent moment of ardent prayer.
            O mighty goddess rich with life, enfold me in thy loving arms, enshroud me in thy warm embrace, and carry to arcadia my tired, weary spirit.  With every sip, I take into my wounded heart a mystery, yet somehow like a doting mother thou art always there for me.  Fly into my soul, o cherub of chocolate, o seraph of sweetness, o teraph of tasty temptation, with healing in thy powdered wings, and hear my anguished cries: Make me whole!  Make me a man again!
            Is there no balm in Gilead?
            There is, and its name is cocoa.
            How else can I escape this painful world?
            Perhaps within the tender arms of the true goddess of my passions, my faithful, lovely wife, into whose soft blue eyes I peer like some poor sailor seeking sunken treasure deep within the ocean.
            Yet with the exception of my wife, a beautiful woman can be easily ignored.
            But a cup of cocoa?
            Though I am legally wedded only to my voluptuous and sultry wife, as I turn my discursive reflections from my marital love for her toward my compulsive romantic infatuation with cocoa, I feel as though I am married to both, and the bonds of that luscious love triangle fortify me.  My wife without, my drink within, I stand intoxicated and inoculated, fully medicated and ready to do battle against a cold, harsh, indifferent world, hopeful and optimistic that I can bring some measure of peace and comfort to oppressed and suffering wayfarers who cross my quotidian path.  My Venus and my Demeter join forces to make me a happiness guru.
            In magnitude and intensity, my love for my wife outshines my love for cocoa, but the two passions nevertheless compare.  They sometimes reinforce each other, and perhaps at times I teeter on conflating them.  More on that toward the end.
            In this essay I touch but lightly on my marital bliss and focus primarily on the mysterious puissance of cocoa’s irresistibility.
Nirvana
            Before I switched to drinking inordinate amounts of hot cocoa, I sometimes overindulged myself in fine chocolates.  I remember all too well the unfathomable ecstasy.  My favorites were creams.  Not tawdry creams with crystallized insides, though I ate and relished even these when no other viable options presented themselves.  Instead, I coveted and savored the high-class, velvety, expensive stuff, the Lamborghini lozenges that transported me with humming high-toned engines into the regal realm of chocolate aristocracy.  Those royal culinary jewels told me that by eating them, I stood out from the herd—that I was better than other people.  I had risen above lesser mortals, those crass commoners snorting over their Snickers bars and forking out chump change for crinkle-wrapped candy riffraff on sale in bulk at ordinary grocery stores.  I often ate that stuff too, of course, but not on those special occasions when my refined, cosmopolitan palate demanded something more celestial.  Sometimes snobbery ranks a virtue . . . at least for a world-class hedonist.
            I would gently place upon my eager tongue a lemon cream robustly drenched in rich milk chocolate.  Or a strawberry cream, or orange, or mint, or caramel, or fudge, or coconut, or maple, or even raspberry.  What did it matter?  All were bathed, clothed, and sanctified in angelic robes of purest chocolate.  As the sublime savor filled my mouth, the unrelenting pleasure obliterated any guilt I might have felt at the money I had spent on these confectionary gems.  But I rarely purchased expensive candy, so this kind of guilt seldom posed a problem.
            Fine chocolates by a hundred times surpassed the blue-collar candy bars I usually stuffed my face with.  Often I did not even chew the creams that I loved, but let them rest in splendid chocolate decadence behind my hot lips, where they slowly thawed upon my titillated taste buds.  I leisurely slid my tongue around each candy’s underside in a circular motion, massaging the chocolate as it melted into a rich, thick, smooth, silky liquid that emanated pleasure so divine as to strike the mortal mind as otherworldly.  Soon the chocolate would dissolve, and the exquisite fruity aroma of the creamy filling would expand throughout my mouth and into my nasal passages.
            Needless to say, involuntary and profuse salivation continued and intensified.
            If chocolate addicts are not careful, they can find themselves moaning incoherently while reveling in such a choco-sugar-acid trip.  When I was drooling in hypnotic stupors of this kind, I would not have been surprised to hear heavenly choirs of angels erupt with glorious singing into Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
            A physiologist or medical doctor might speculate that what I experienced resulted from a flood of dopamine inundating the caudate portion of the basal ganglia in my overgrown and probably unhealthily mutated nucleus accumbens.
            Oh, these scientists!  Such myopic materialists!  They strain at physical gnats and swallow metaphysical camels.
            By the way, Einstein, hands off my ventral tegmental area—I ride the merry-go-round of this cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical loop all by me onesy.  And whatever you do, please do not impede the flow of cocoa-stimulated dopaminergic input—it’s something I just have to have.
            I am no scientist, but I can tell you in one word what I experienced from chocolate—nirvana.  With languid rapture I floated to another world, a bodily but out-of-body experience.  Like Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I stretched out my hand and extended my finger until it touched the finger of a supernatural being, and a brilliant light flooded my modest universe on contact, like the bright flash of a little ball of plutonium suddenly energized by a prompt-critical excursion.  Except I was not touching the finger of any real deity, but was paying humble homage to my imaginary cocoa gods, and they were showering me with rich rewards.
            Or so it seemed.
            (To be continued . . . )


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Русский Scrabble в День Благодарения


День Благодарения.  Жена против мужа.  Первые три хода она использует все свои буквы, получая при этом бонус в 50 очков каждый раз.  Неслыхано!  Счет после четвертого хода: 307 против 100.  Но я знал с первого хода, что у меня нет шансов на победу.  Я ждал горького конца, и после шестнадцатого хода, он пришел как палач после приговора.

Жена504.  Я—277.

Раньше она обычно побеждала только по-русски, а я по-английски.  Но недавно она стала настоящим русским террором для всех своих американских родственников, беспощадно громя нас и на нашем родном языке, даже в Super Scrabble.  Нет никакого уважения к местным жителям.  Пожалуй надо конфисковать ее грин-карту.

Как я могу показаться в общественности?  И что делать с такой женой?

Любить.  Хвалить.  Восхищаться.  Любоваться.  И смиренно проглотить свое жалкое мужское эго.

Моей лучшей половине я говорю: молодец!  Ты лучше всех!

Только не зазнайся.  Я намерен консультироваться с Ожеговым.  Берегись нашей следующей встречи!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Super Scrabble and the Marital Discord It Threatens


            Final scores: AJ 433; mom 278; brother 273; wife 271; aunt 248.  I post the one I won, and let us not remember how mom slaughtered her oldest son and only sister last week, or how the lovely wife demolished Hubbaliciamous and some of his closest relations a week or two before that, etc.  Perhaps I should retire right now on this lexical high note before I meet a vengeful uxorodespotism in the near future.  How Super Scrabble sweetens family life when the muse of verbal virtuosity exclusively enchants your mind to vex with verbal virulence your otherwise lucid loved ones!
            But gloat I shan'tI shall beware of any boorish boasting, for the Scrabble-babble bell shall toll for me soon enough.  My pulchritudinous and brainy better half will see to that!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cocoa Comfort


O Cozy Cocoa, Comfort Me!
(An Ode to My Drinking Problem)

A numinous and noble nectar pours
Into my mighty merry cocoa mug,
A sweet and happy mead of sorts that scores
Perfection as intoxicating drug.
The cherubim, chockfull of chocolate,
Such chubby children, cheerful and divine,
Make heaven’s happiness to percolate
Throughout my heart with ecstasy sublime.
The frothy foam  adorns my luscious lips
As I with bliss imbibe into my soul
That potion which for anyone who sips
Its silky sweetness makes the spirit whole.
I pray, sweet cozy cocoa, comfort me!
Imbue my soul with sweet serenity.

2017.10.07 © Aaron Jordan