Monday, November 11, 2019

CHOCOLATE LORE: Guest post by JoAnna Carl

JoAnna Carl:
Chocolate Lore

When I came up with the idea for a mystery series about a chocolate business in a Great Lakes resort town, one of the problems it posed was recipes.

The series’ background threw it into the mystery category of “culinary.” Usually, that meant it contained recipes.

But for the Chocoholic series, I couldn’t see that working. TenHuis Chocolade, the main setting of the books, has the motto “Fine European-Style Chocolates.” Most readers can’t make that sort of chocolate. Neither can I. I can’t even imagine myself making that sort of chocolate. I’m just not that kind of a cook. And I certainly couldn’t describe making that kind of bonbons and truffles book after book.

All I could think of was turning to a true chocolate expert and asking that person to contribute recipes. But the book was my book. I didn’t really want a contributor.

I didn’t know what to do.

That’s when I received a practical demonstration of why good books have good editors. My editor suggested that instead of using recipes for “Fine European-style chocolates” I use “Chocolate Lore.” This she defined as interesting facts about chocolate.

Facts! Hallelujah! I began my writing life as a reporter and spent more than 25 years in the newspaper world. I can handle facts. I started researching immediately. And the facts about chocolate are fascinating. Such as:
  • The Aztecs and the Mayas used chocolate beans for money. In fact, this custom was probably universal through the area where cacao trees were originally grown. Sometimes crooks even made counterfeit chocolate beans. 
  • Chocolate was introduced to France by Cardinal Richelieu. Yes, the same guy who gave the Three Musketeers and Anne of Austria all that trouble in the Dumas novel I adored as a teenager. Richelieu discovered chocolate through his brother and used it as medicine.
  • Cary Grant is given credit for the custom, observed by fancy hotels, of putting chocolates on guests’ pillows each night.
  • What do England’s Quaker chocolatiers of the 18th and 19th Centuries have in common with Milton Hershey, the American inventor of the chocolate kiss? Both Quakers and Hershey established model communities for their workers. Both also produced chocolate using the very latest technology of their times.
Those bits of Lore are all from the category History. Chocolate Lore comes in all categories – science and business are also rife with interesting facts about the cacao tree and its produce. The people who made their marks on chocolate are totally fascinating.

And then there’s cooking. Of all the Lore items I’ve researched and written, the one that inspired the most mail was my grandmother’s fudge recipe. And TenHuis Chocolate does not make or sell fudge!

My grandmother found the recipe during the 1950s, and I never knew it was unusual. It simply became the family standard for fudge. The fudge produced doesn’t require extensive beating, as earlier fudge had. A little Internet research (and my family’s Lore) revealed the fudge depends on a product named “Marshmallow Fluff” invented in the early 20th Century. Kraft was, and is, one of the main producers of this magic goo, and it had a “no-fail” recipe for fudge on the label. I’m sure that’s where Gran found the recipe. Of course, she just happened to be a superb cook to begin with – unafraid to try new products.

My own favorite books for chocolate lore include the following:
  • The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe. The Coes spent many years researching the history of chocolate, and the information in this book is mind-bogglingly complete. It’s the source for nearly all of my information on the history of chocolate.
  • The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Joel Glenn Brenner. A fascinating book that looks at the lives and business success of both Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars – the greatest entrepreneurs of chocolate in the United States. Two interesting guys – but how different they are! 
  • Chocolate Without Guilt, by Terry Graedon and Kit Gruelle. Yes, that’s “Graedon,” as in Joe and Terry Graedon, who write a syndicated column on drugs and prescriptions. (I never miss it.) This book looks at chocolate as a health food – among other things. It also offers dozens of recipes.
  • Chocolate Moulds: A History and Encyclopedia, by Jedene Divone. This catalogs the history of moulds used to form chocolate throughout history. I used it a lot when I wrote The Chocolate Bear Burglary. (The most popular mould is – surprise! – the Teddy Bear. Easter bunnies and Santas are close behind.) And in the chocolate world, “mould” refers to something the cook uses to make a food in a particular shape. To them “mold” is what you scrub off the bathroom tile. 
All in all, I’ve probably enjoyed the Lore of the Chocoholic books more than most of the readers have. Though my favorite bit of Lore in The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans has nothing to do with chocolate. This time I described the urban legend that claims there are sharks in Lake Michigan.

I found it hilarious.

JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym of Eve K. Sandstrom. She spent 25 years as a reporter, feature writer, editor and columnist. JoAnna lives in Oklahoma but summers in Michigan where the Chocoholic Mystery series is set. She has one daughter who is a CPA and another who works for a chocolate company and provides much delicious insider information on the chocolate business. The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans is the 17th Chocoholic book, all of them focusing on TenHuis Chocolade and two amateur detectives, Lee and Joe Woodyard. The book was just published by Berkley Prime Crime.

1 comment:

Clipping Path said...

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