Paleo Pantry: Cacao! Cacao!
"What is chocolate, really?"
"Do bars grow on trees?"
"Is there more to chocolate than meets the palate?"
Facing such existential questions, I decided to embark upon a quest to find the ultimate chocolate experience.
Carried atop the whirling gyres of my tubular steel steed, I wound through city streets filled with strip-malls, fast food restaurants, and belligerent automobile drivers. Sparse weeds grew determinedly through cracked concrete yet my conviction and my parched mouth pined. In midst of this dietary wasteland there seemed to be no hope for salivation, no redemption for my chocolate cravings.
Desperately, my eyes scanned the horizon, searching for a sign. That was when I saw it. Thinking it must be a mirage, I blinked and rubbed my eyes. Expecting the telltale shimmer of heat to reveal that it had all been a lie. I looked again, hoping that my cacao-deprived brain would aim true.
But it was still there and as I drew ever closer the image became clearer. In the hinterlands between me and my destination marched a great menagerie of hipsters, cougars, and vegans. The vast congregation making their way to pay homage at the gates of yon oasis.
A paper bag hopped and skittered towards me and as it cartwheeled past my feet, I could see the telltale "recycle" symbol and the words "Whole Foods" printed upon it.
Of course! Whole Foods! The bourgeois bastion of healthy comestibles was my destiny from the start. Where else would I find the culinary equivalent of dreadlocks and nag champa in the heart of Urbana?
A cool blast of air raised my hackles as hot flesh instantly ran cold. A cursory check of the candy aisle confirmed my suspicions that nothing novel would be found there. Chocolate bars full of goji berries and other "superfoods" was not what I sought. Continuing to circle the perimeter of the store, I came upon the gourmet foods; the stinky cheeses, the wines, and charcuterie. Again, it was the usual suspects. Blocks of Belgian chocolate, drops of fondue-ready morsels, but nothing for my heart's longing.
Yet again I found myself plunged into chocolate-free abyss, curled up under a self-serve cart of olives and rolled grape leaves, I surrendered to the despair. But from the darkness came a light. A dove, or at least what my delirious mind contrived to be a dove, rose up and spoke to me. It told me to continue my journey, that I woulf find the chocolatey grail if I only went to the center.
The center? The center of my soul? My being? The molten core of the earth itself? "No stupid," the ephemeral dove said in a language that surely spoke without words, "The center of the store!"
Crawling past carts, dodging swinging, and reusable, shopping bags, I plunged into the inner sanctum with newfound vigor. Pushing past Ja-Chad, and ignoring his derisory affect, I checked each aisle with a fevered intensity. And then, I was there.
At the epicenter of the baked goods aisle, it stood haloed in an supernatural light. A single word, "Theo", was scrawled into its surface. I recognized it immediately as a reference to the true name of chocolate, theobroma cacao.
I quickly grabbed my bounty, thrust a wad of crumpled bills towards the nearest bespectacled cashier as a sacrifice to the corporatocracy and emerged, like a Fury, onto the crumbling city streets.
The journey home was a blur, in the crazed heat of activity, it was over in moments. Fumbling with my keys I stumbled inside and found myself safely nestled in my kitchen. I next turned to the canister of brown gold.
Prying it open, I was immediately struck by the heady perfume of chocolate. Upending the container into my waiting maw, I took the jagged contents into my mouth and began masticating them with relish. Resistant at first, the nibs quickly yielded with a satisfying crunch.
My eyes closed tightly, entranced by the symphony of flavors. Smoky charcoal quickly gave way to sweet coffee and bitter hops. The experience lingered for a few more seconds and then faded into a satisfied buzz.
I had found it, this was my manna and it was good.
Do you have a craving for cacao? Here are a few recipes that showcase the naturally delicious nibs...
Paleo "Cookie Dough"
Mocha Chip Smoothie