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Chocolate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


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Archive-name: food/chocolate/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 23 Jan 1998
Version: 3.3

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
    THE OFFICIAL REC.FOOD.CHOCOLATE LIST OF FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


This FAQ is posted on the sixth day of every month. The most recent copy 
of this document can be obtained via anonymous FTP as rtfm.mit.edu:/pub/usenet/news.answers/food/chocolate/faq. If you do not 
have access to anonymous FTP, you can retrieve it by sending email to 
mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu with the command "send 
usenet/news.answers/food/chocolate/faq" in the message.


=== CONTENTS ===            (+ = sections changed since last edition)

 0.  The Not-So-Fine-Print

 1.  General
 1.1 What is chocolate? 
 1.2 What is the history of chocolate?
 1.3 How is chocolate made?
 1.4 What is conching?
 1.5 What kinds of chocolate are there?
 1.6 What is this white, blotchy stuff on my chocolate bar?
 1.7 I just bought a whole bunch of chocolate. What's the best way to 
     store it?
 1.8 What is lecithin and why is it in my chocolate?

 2.  Cooking with chocolate
 2.1 What is tempering?
 2.2 What is couverture?
 2.3 How do I melt chocolate and what's the best kind to use?
 2.4 I was melting some chocolate, and suddenly it changed from a 
     shiny, smooth liquid to a dull, thick paste. What happened?
 2.5 How do I make chocolate covered strawberries?
 2.6 Where can I get some chocolate?

 3.  Chocolate trivia
 3.1 Hey! Did you hear about this lady at Neiman Marcus who wanted to 
     buy a cookie recipe...?
 3.2 Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac?
 3.3 Can I give chocolate to my dog?
 3.4 How much caffeine is in chocolate?
 3.5 Doesn't chocolate cause acne?
 
-=-=-=-=-

 0. The Not-So-Fine Print
	This document is intended to provide answers for some common 
questions posted to rec.food.chocolate. It is by no means comprehensive. 
Discussion on any topic discussed in this FAQ is certainly encouraged. 
Additions or corrections are always welcome.
	This document was compiled by Monee Kidd <faq@choco.com>, to whom 
questions, comments, queries, concerns, additions, corrections and/or 
deletions should be directed. Flames should be directed to dev/null. Most 
answers were gathered from posts to rec.food.chocolate. Many thanks to the 
many people who help make this FAQ a reality. In addition, some background 
information was shamelessly lifted from The World Book Encyclopedia [(c) 
1983. so what, it's an old version, I know]. 
	This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1997 by Monee C. Kidd. This text, in whole 
or in part, may not be published in print, or sold in any medium, 
including, but not limited to, electronic or CD-ROM  without the 
explicit, written consent of Monee Kidd.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


 1.  General

A reader of the old alt.food.chocolate once asked:

	"I would be very much obliged if someone could tell me how a food 
that has been associated with acne, headaches, obesity and many a trip 
to the dentist has managed to attract so much favorable attention."

	In the eighteenth century a Swedish naturalist named Carolus Linneaus 
who created the modern system of naming all the living things on the earth 
called the tree from which chocolate comes 'Cacao theobroma' -  Cacao, 
food of the gods. For centuries, the world has had a sweet love affair 
with this most delectable of foods. Why *does* this sweet confection have 
so many admirers? Perhaps we should start at the beginning...

-=-=-=-=-

 1.1 What is chocolate? Where does it come from?

	Chocolate is a food made from the seeds of a tropical tree called 
the cacao. These trees flourish in warm, moist climates. Most of the 
world's cacao beans come from West Africa, where Ghana, the Ivory Coast 
and Nigeria are the largest producers.  Because of a spelling error, 
probably by English traders long ago, these beans became known as cocoa 
beans.

-=-=-=-=-

 1.2 What is the history of chocolate?

	(Excerpted with permission from the Godiva WWW site)

* In 600 A.D. the Mayans migrated into the northern regions of South 
America, establishing the earliest known cocoa plantations in the Yucatan. 
It has been argued that the Mayans had been familiar with cocoa several 
centuries prior to this date. They considered it a valuable commodity, 
used both as a means of payment and as units of calculation. 

* Mayans and Aztecs took beans from the "cacao" tree and made a drink they 
called "xocolatl." Aztec Indian legend held that cacao seeds had been 
brought from Paradise and that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit 
of the cacao tree.. 

* The word "chocolate" is said to derive from the Mayan "xocolatl"; cacao 
from the Aztec "cacahuatl". The Mexican Indian word "chocolate" comes from 
a combination of the terms choco ("foam") and atl ("water"); early 
chocolate was only consumed in beverage form.

* Christopher Columbus is said to have brought back cacao beans to King 
Ferdinand from his fourth visit to the New World, but they were overlooked 
in favor of the many other treasures he had found. 

* Chocolate was first noted in 1519 when Spanish explorer Hernando 
Cortez visited the court of Emperor Montezuma of Mexico. American 
historian William Hickling's History of the Conquest of Mexico (1838) 
reports that Montezuma "took no other beverage than the chocolatl, a 
potation of chocolate, flavored with vanilla and spices, and so prepared 
as to be reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually 
dissolved in the mouth and was taken cold." The fact that Montezuma 
consumed his "chocolatl" in goblets before entering his harem led to 
the belief that it was an aphrodisiac. 

* The first chocolate house was reputedly opened in London in 1657 by a 
Frenchman. Costing 10 to 15 shillings per pound, chocolate was considered 
a beverage for the elite class. Sixteenth-century Spanish historian Oviedo 
noted: "None but the rich and noble could afford to drink chocolatl as it 
was literally drinking money. Cocoa passed currency as money among all 
nations; thus a rabbit in Nicaragua sold for 10 cocoa nibs, and 100 of 
these seeds could buy a tolerably good slave." 

* Chocolate also appears to have been used as a medicinal remedy by 
leading physicians of the day. Christopher Ludwig Hoffmann's treatise 
Potus Chocolate recommends chocolate for many diseases, citing it as a 
cure for Cardinal Richelieu's ills. 

* With the Industrial Revolution came the mass production of chocolate, 
spreading its popularity among the citizenry. 

* Chocolate was introduced to the United States in 1765 when John Hanan 
brought cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts, 
to refine them with the help of Dr. James Baker. The first chocolate 
factory in the country was established there. 

* Yet, chocolate wasn't really accepted by the American colonists until 
fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, accepted cocoa beans as payment 
for cargo in tropical America. 

* Where chocolate was mostly considered a beverage for centuries, and 
predominantly for men, it became recognized as an appropriate drink for 
children in the seventeenth century. It had many different additions: 
milk, wine, beer, sweeteners, and spices. Drinking chocolate was considered 
a very fashionable social event. 

* Eating chocolate was introduced in 1674 in the form of rolls and cakes, 
served in the various chocolate emporiums. 

* Nestle (The History of Chocolate and Cocoa, p. 3) declares that from 
1800 to the present day, these four factors contributed to chocolate's 
"coming of age" as a worldwide food product: 
1. The introduction of cocoa powder in 1828; 
2. The reduction of excise duties; 
3. Improvements in transportation facilities, from plantation to factory; 
4. The invention of eating chocolate, and improvements in manufacturing 
methods. 

* The New York Cocoa Exchange, located at the World Trade Center, was 
begun October 1, 1925, so that buyers and sellers could get together for 
transactions. 

* In 1980 a story of chocolate espionage hit the world press when an 
apprentice of the Swiss company of Suchard-Tobler unsuccessfully attempted 
to sell secret chocolate recipes to Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and other 
countries. 

* By the 1990s, chocolate had proven its popularity as a product, and its 
success as a big business. Annual world consumption of cocoa beans 
averages approximately 600,000 tons, and per capita chocolate consumption 
is greatly on the rise. Chocolate manufacturing in the United States is a 
multibillion-dollar industry. According to Norman Kolpas (1978, p. 106), 
"We have seen how chocolate progressed from a primitive drink and food of 
ancient Latin American tribes -- a part of their religious, commerce and 
social life -- to a drink favored by the elite of European society and 
gradually improved until it was in comparably drinkable and, later, 
superbly edible. We have also followed its complex transformation from the 
closely packed seeds of the fruit of an exotic tree to a wide variety 
of carefully manufactured cocoa and chocolate products. Beyond the 
historical, agricultural and commercial, and culinary sides to chocolate, 
others: affect on our health and beauty, and inspiration to literature and 
the arts." 

-=-=-=-=-

 1.3 How is chocolate made?

	Workers cut the fruit of the cacao tree, or pods open and scoop out 
the beans. These beans are allowed to ferment and then dry. Then they are 
cleaned, roasted and hulled. Once the shells have been removed they are 
called nibs. Nibs are blended much like coffee beans, to produce different 
colors and flavors. Then they are ground up and the cocoa butter is 
released. The heat from the grinding process causes this mixture of cocoa 
butter and finely ground nibs to melt and form a free-flowing substance 
known as chocolate liquor. From there, different varieties of chocolate 
are produced.

-=-=-=-=-

 1.4 What is conching?

	Raw unprocessed chocolate is gritty, grainy and really not suitable 
for eating. Swiss chocolate manufacturer Rudolph Lindt <yes *that* Lindt 
for which the brand was named> discovered a process of rolling and kneading 
chocolate that gives it the smoother and richer quality that eating 
chocolate is known for today. The name 'conching' comes from the shell-like 
shape of the rollers used. The longer chocolate <and any ingredients added 
like milk, vanilla, extra cocoa butter> is conched, the more luxurious it 
will feel on your tongue.
 
-=-=-=-=-

 1.5 What kinds of chocolate are there?

	Depending on what is added to (or removed from) the chocolate liquor, 
different flavors and varieties of chocolate are produced. Each has a 
different chemical make-up, the differences are not solely in the taste. 
Be sure, therefore, to use the kind the recipe calls for, as different 
varieties will react differently to heat and moisture.

	* Unsweetened or Baking chocolate is simply cooled, hardened 
chocolate liquor. It is used primarily as an ingredient in recipes, or 
as a garnish.

	*Semi-sweet chocolate is also used primarily in recipes. It has 
extra cocoa butter and sugar added. Sweet cooking chocolate is basically 
the same, with more sugar for taste.

	* Milk chocolate is chocolate liquor with extra cocoa butter, 
sugar, milk and vanilla added. This is the most popular form for chocolate. 
It is primarily an eating chocolate.  

	* Cocoa is chocolate liquor with much of the cocoa butter removed, 
creating a fine powder. It can pick up moisture and odors from other 
products, so you should keep cocoa in a cool, dry place, tightly covered. 
There are several kinds of cocoa:
		~ Low-fat cocoa has the most fat removed. It typically has 
less than ten percent cocoa butter remaining.
		~ Medium-fat cocoa has anywhere from ten to twenty-two percent
cocoa butter in it.
		~ Drinking or Breakfast cocoa has over twenty-two percent 
left in it. This is the cocoa used in chocolate milk powders like Nestle's 
Quik.
		~ Dutch process cocoa is cocoa which has been specially 
processed to neutralize the natural acids in the chocolate. It is slightly 
darker and has a much different taste than regular cocoa.

	* White chocolate is somewhat of a misnomer. In the United States, 
in order to be legally called 'chocolate' a product must contain cocoa 
solids. White chocolate does not contain these solids, which leaves it a 
smooth ivory or beige color. Real white chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, 
sugar, milk and vanilla. There are some products on the market that call 
themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oils instead of 
cocoa butter. Check the label to avoid these cheap imitations. White 
chocolate is the most fragile form of chocolate; pay close attention to 
it while heating or melting it.

	* Decorator's chocolate or confectioner's chocolate isn't really 
chocolate at all, but a sort of chocolate flavored candy used for things 
such as covering strawberries. It was created to melt easily and harden 
quickly, but it isn't chocolate. If you want quick and easy, use 
decorator's chocolate. If you want the real thing, use real chocolate 
and patience.

-=-=-=-=-
 
 1.6 What is this white, blotchy stuff on my chocolate bar?

	A white, filmy residue on chocolate is called a bloom. It occurs 
when some of the cocoa butter in the chocolate separates from the cocoa 
solids, usually when the chocolate is stored in a warm area. If you buy 
a chocolate bar and find it has bloomed, don't let the sales person 
convince you the taste has not been altered.

-=-=-=-=-

 1.7 I just bought a whole bunch of chocolate. How should I store it?

	Chocolate is best kept at around 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, the 
temperature of a nice pantry or dark cabinet. Kept at this temperature, 
chocolate (assuming it isn't covering fruit or other perishables) has a 
shelf life of about a year. Freezing chocolate isn't such a great idea; 
when you freeze it, then thaw it out, it will have a greater tendency to 
bloom. but if you must, let it warm gradually to room temperature before 
you try cooking with it.

-=-=-=-=-

 1.8 What is lecithin and why is it in my chocolate?

	Lecithin is an emulsifier used to reduce the viscosity, or thickness 
of chocolate. Thinning out the chocolate slightly reduces the amount of 
cocoa butter required to produce the correct texture in the manufacturing 
process.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

2. Cooking with chocolate

	Chocolate is a very tricky food to cook with. Temperatures that are 
too high can scorch it, temperatures too low can cause it to harden 
unevenly. It must be watched very carefully. But if you can master the 
art, you can create some breathtaking desserts. Below are some things to 
know about cooking with chocolate.

-=-=-=-=-

 2.1 What is tempering? How can I temper chocolate at home?
       

	In order for chocolate to cool into a hard candy and not a mushy goo, 
it must be tempered. This is a process where the chocolate is slowly 
heated, then slowly cooled, allowing the cocoa butter molecules to solidify 
in an orderly fashion.  The following is a pretty thorough method for 
tempering at home: (credit to Pete Lockhart, pete@teleport.com)

Frankly, I've had decent luck with microwave ovens for melting the 
chocolate.  It's an iterative process of nuking, stirring, nuking, 
stirring, etc.  But I like the idea that the chocolate is not getting 
steamed as it is with a double boiler.  You might try 15 seconds increments 
on high for a pound of chocolate.  Keep an eye on the time as the chocolate 
gets into its melt; you may want to ramp it down some what.

However, for either nuking or using a double boiler, it's not a bad idea 
to break up the chocolate into little pieces.  For a double boiler be 
careful not to have the water boiling or touching the bottom of the upper 
vessel.  It sounds from your description like you might have the heat 
cranked up too much, even given convection from the bottom vessel to the 
top.  Be patient.  Dark chocolate can be taken up to about 115 degrees F 
and milk chocolate can be taken up to 110 degrees F.
                                                               
Once you've gotten a complete melt, letting the chocolate cool slowly while 
stirring it or working it will encourage the cocoa butter to arrange itself 
in a way that is particularly useful for making candy. This is 'tempering' 
the chocolate.

Turns out that cocoa butter molecules can arrange themselves in a variety 
of ways [six that I know of] and it is these different arrangements that 
determine the melting temperature of the chocolate.  The respective 
melting temperatures range from about 60 degrees F to about 97 degrees F. 
The one you're looking to get is the most stable form, and has a melting 
temperature of 93 - 95 degrees F.  Which is good, because it means that 
your chocolate will tend to be that way, as long as you're patient.  It 
also means that the chocolate is going to feel delightfully cooling in 
your mouth.

So, you've taken your chocolate up to 110 -115 degrees, and that has had 
the effect of breaking up [melting] all of the cocoa butter molecules. 
Now you want them to arrange themselves in a stable arrangement; but you 
also want to manipulate the chocolate now that it is a liquid.

There are a couple of strategies for encouraging the cocoa butter into 
its stable arrangement.  As mentioned above, stirring it or working it 
with a spatula will tend to bring about the proper 'crystallization' of 
the cocoa butter molecules.  Another technique is to 'seed' the molten 
chocolate by putting in little pieces of solid chocolate.  The molten 
cocoa butter then will do a kind of follow-the-leader and arrange itself 
after the fashion of the solids.  Which is what you want.  The hazard 
with seeding your chocolate is that you might get little air pockets 
associated with the solid pieces.  I tend to just stir the chocolate.  

Traditionally, small batch chocolate is tempered on marble slabs.  Just 
pour it on and work it with a spatula until it becomes kind of 
slushy-mushy.  I don't use a marble slab, I use a bowl that I can pop 
back into the microwave if I need to.

The next tricky step is to maintain enough heat to keep the chocolate 
molten, but not heat it up so much that it forgets how to arrange itself. 
This is where the 85 - 90 degrees F comes in. [I think the heating pad 
idea sounds cool].  The marble slab will retain some of the heat.  Be 
careful about using the same vessel in which you heated the chocolate.  
I know it's convenient, and that's what I do, you just gotta be more 
careful about over heating the chocolate.   

Overheating the chocolate will make the cocoa butter separate from the 
cocoa solids, and that's a bad thing. Indication that you're overheating 
the chocolate is either chocolate bloom in the hardened chocolate or out 
and out separation of cocoa butter in the chocolate soup.

-=-=-=-=-

 2.2 What is couverture?

	Couverture is a special kind of chocolate that has more cocoa 
butter than regular chocolate, anywhere from 33% to 38% for a really good 
brand. This type of chocolate is used as a coating for things like truffles 
("couverture" is French for "covering") There are two ways of coating 
candies, either by hand dipping into melted chocolate or enrobing, gently 
pouring chocolate over the treat.

-=-=-=-=-

 2.3 How do I melt chocolate and what's the best kind to use?

	There are two ways to melt chocolate, in a double boiler or in a 
microwave:

	1. Double boiler method: A double boiler is basically two pots 
designed to fit together for melting wand warming fragile foods. The 
bottom pot holds a bit of water - never enough to touch the bottom of the 
second pot, the top holds the food, in this case chocolate. You should 
never place chocolate directly on a heat source, you run the risk of 
scorching it.
	   Cut the chocolate up into small pieces, this will reduce the 
melting time. Adjust the heat so that the water in the bottom pot gets 
hot but doesn't begin to boil. Place the chocolate in the top pot and stir
every so often. Dark and bittersweet chocolate are the most 'hardy' forms 
of chocolate, they will require less stirring than milk and white 
chocolates, which will burn very easily if you do not pay close attention.

	2. Microwave method: Place chopped pieces of chocolate into a 
microwave proof bowl and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove 
the bowl, stir what you can then return it to the microwave for another 30 
seconds. Continue this until the chocolate is just about melted. You might 
be tempted to increase the time intervals, but remember that warmed 
chocolate will keep its shape, even if it is melted, unless it is stirred. 
Don't judge time on looks alone. When the chocolate is almost completely 
melted, remove it from the microwave and stir, letting the warmth of the 
bowl and surrounding chocolate complete the melting. 

Here are some suggestions for brands to use (from a post by from Pete again)

_Cook's Illustrated_  Nov/Dec ['94] issue contains an article by Bishop and
Meldrich that ranks the following chocolates in the following order.  The
evaluation was by a dozen or so refined Californian palates, so it should
work for you.

*Highly Recommended*
Van Leer Bittersweet Chocolate #1121-115 (approx $4.00/lb)
   -- Chocolate Gallery @ 212-675-2253
Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet (approx $6.40/lb)
   -- Ghirradelli @ 800-877-9338
Callebaut Bittersweet (approx $9.00/lb)
   -- Williams-Sonoma @ 800-541-2233
Merckens Yucatan Classic Dark (approx $4.20/lb)
   -- A Cook's Wares @ 412-846-9490

*Recommended*
Guittard Gourmet Bittersweet
Hawaiian Vintage Bittersweet
Nestle's Semi-Sweet
        
*Not Recommended*
Vairhona Le Noir Gastronomie Bittersweet
Lindt Surfin
Baker's Semisweet Baking
Hershey's Semi-Sweet Baking
 
-=-=-=-=-

 2.4 I was melting some chocolate, and suddenly it changed from a shiny, 
smooth liquid to a dull, thick paste. What happened?

	As discussed before, chocolate is very sensitive. Any slight variance 
from the instructions can cause disastrous results. What you have described 
here is called seizing. Seizing can happen for several reasons:

	1. The chocolate is burned. Even temperatures that aren't too hot 
for your finger can be too hot for chocolate. When melting chocolate, keep 
the heat low and keep stirring, especially for milk and white chocolates.

	2. A *small* amount of moisture has been added. Chocolate is very 
finicky about liquids. Even the moisture from a damp spoon can contaminate 
a batch of melting chocolate. This is what happens after a while to 
chocolate fondue - moisture from strawberries or cheese can ruin the 
texture. Be careful if you are melting pure chocolate by itself to keep 
everything very dry.

	3. Cool liquids have been added. Another oddity about chocolate: 
small amounts of liquid can spoil melted chocolate, but large amounts are 
o.k., so long as the liquid is warmed to match the temperature of the 
melted chocolate. If you add cold cream or milk, for example, the chocolate 
will begin to solidify and you'll end up with a mess.

Regardless of how your chocolate gets seized, you'll have to throw it out 
and start again. There is no way to "un-seize" and remelt chocolate once 
it has been contaminated in this way.

-=-=-=-=-

 2.5 How do I make chocolate covered strawberries?

	Covering strawberries is not an easy task, but if you exercise a 
little patience, you can come up with an excellent dessert treat. The main 
thing to remember: Make sure the strawberries are _DRY_. Remember, even 
the slightest moisture can ruin an entire batch of chocolate. If it's a 
real humid day, wait until tomorrow, you'll have better success.
	Prepare a cookie sheet or other flat surface with wax paper, small 
enough to fit into your refrigerator. Lay your *dry* strawberries out on 
a plate. Melt some chocolate, following the steps outlined above.  Holding 
each strawberry by the stem, dip it into the chocolate and place it on the 
wax paper. If the chocolate gets too thick, return it to the heat, carefully.
Place the finished strawberries in the refrigerator and allow them to cool. 
This is probably the best place to keep them; unless you are sure you've 
tempered your chocolate well, the chocolate will melt at room temperature. 
Some people choose to add a bit of baker's wax or paraffin to the chocolate. 
This is an edible substance that also helps to keep the chocolate solid at 
room temperature. Purely a subjective move, not necessary.

-=-=-=-=-

 2.6 Where can I get some chocolate?

There is a complete document entitled CHOCOLATE RESOURCES, posted as part 
two of this FAQ. It contains an extensive list of chocolate retailers on 
the internet, as well as cookbooks, recipe archives and other offline resources. 

 
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 3.  Chocolate trivia

	Chocolate has been the subject of many stories and myths throughout 
history. Some are based on fact, others are apocryphal. Some common ones 
are unraveled here.

-=-=-=-=-

 3.1 Hey! Did you hear about this lady at Neiman Marcus who wanted to buy 
a chocolate chip cookie recipe...?

	Stop right there. The story to which you are referring is completely 
false. Unfortunately it's been floating around since the 1980's and simply 
will not die. Here's is the official story on this tale:

Title: HEARD THE ONE ABOUT THE $250 COOKIE RECIPE?
Categories: Desserts
Yield: 1 servings

No Ingredients

by Daniel P. Puzo, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Fresh from a downtown Los Angeles bar, a sometime consumer gadfly 
arrived at The Times with a hot tip about yet another case of
corporate callousness and greed.

Brandishing a photocopied letter, she claimed a famous department
store, in a sneaky and underhanded manner, had charged an
unsuspecting patron an outrageous sum for a recipe- the company's
popular chocolate chip cookie.

The actual victim was apparently an unnamed, but credible, Beverly
Hills matron.

The single-page letter was full of indignation as it vividly
described the incident and even contained exact dialogue of the
transgression.   

It began: "My daughter and I finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe
in Dallas and decided to have a small dessert. Because our family
members are such 'cookie monsters' we decided to try the Neiman-
Marcus Cookie. It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me
the recipe, and they said with a small frown, 'I'm afraid not.' Well,
I said, 'Would you let me buy the recipe?' With a cute smile she 
said, 'Yes.' I asked how much and she responded 'two fifty.' I said
with approval, 'Just add it to my tab,' which I had already signed."
The letter continued: "Thirty days later I received my Visa      
statement from Neiman-Marcus and it was $285. I looked again, and I
remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20 for a
scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said, 'Cookie
Recipe- $250.00' Boy, was I upset!"

The letter goes on to state that, in the spirit of revenge, the
unnamed victim was providing all interested parties the $250 recipe
at no charge. Knowing a good story from the start, The Times made
several unsuccessful attempts to discover the identity of the
aggrieved Beverly Hills party. The story was eventually forgotten, as
is normally the case when nothing checks out.                    

But then a respected Boston-based newspaper, the Christian Science
Monitor, distributed an article throughout the United States that    
retold the tale of the egregious recipe overcharge, with incredibly  
similar detail, adding a condemning "fie upon Neiman Marcus."    
The cookie recipe caper thus got a new life.                       
                                                                    
Now, after a lengthy investigation, the facts are unearthed:     
+ Neiman Marcus does not sell recipes from its restaurants. The    
department store gives them away for free to anyone who asks.       
+ There is no "Neiman Marcus Cafe" at any of the chains three       
Dallas-area stores. Instead, the restaurants are named Zodiac,    
Zodiac at North Park and The Woods.                            
+ Neiman Marcus does not sell or serve cookies at any of its       
restaurants.                                                     
+ There is no such thing as a "Neiman-Marcus Cookie." (And
Neiman Marcus no longer has a hyphen in its title.)
+ Neiman Marcus does not take Visa.
+ The fashion cognoscenti would know immediately that you
cannot buy a scarf at Neiman Marcus for $20 as the letter            
writer stated. Scarf prices start at $40 and quickly run as 
high as $215.                                                              

How did this rumor get started?                                  

Pat Zajac, Neiman Marcus spokesperson in Dallas, said that the tall 
tale has been circulating since she came to work for the chain in   
1986. The first newspaper story she saw on the bogus cookie recipe
appeared in 1988.                                              

Zajac said that in the past few weeks, her office has been swamped 
with calls from the media trying to verify the story. She speculates
that the letter recently has been circulating on electronic services
like some "computer virus."                        

Needless to say, Neiman Marcus is not pleased with the rumor's
persistence or tone.                                     

"We are concerned," said Zajac. "We like to think we are
accommodating to customers and provide value at a fair price and
quality at the same time. We want to create good will. . . . No one
has ever showed us a bill where they were wrongly charged [for a   
chocolate chip recipe]. If they ever appear then we would be happy to
look at the [disputed] charge."                                  

Zajac explained that Neiman Marcus, as one of the nation's leading 
department stores, is proud of its customer service record and would
quickly satisfy someone who had been incorrectly billed.            

"The interesting thing in this phenomena is that no one ever knows
the exact source of this letter. The information is anywhere between
third- and 17th-hand information. There has never been a Neiman    
Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that we sold for $250. Never."  
When it comes to signature dishes, Neiman Marcus is most famous for 
its Orange Souffle Ring and its Caramel Souffle Ring. (Anyone
interested in getting a copy of these recipes- free of charge- can
write to: Neiman Marcus Food Service Division, 1618 Main St., Dallas,
TX 75201.)                                              

The Neiman Marcus Cookie caper is remarkably similar to another 
rumor that circulated several years ago about the recipe for Mrs.
Fields' Chocolate Chip Cookies. And veterans of the food world say
the story formula goes back to the 1930s, when a similar tale was    
told about the Waldorf Astoria's Red Velvet Cake.                

A student of rumors, or urban myths, said that the Neiman Marcus   
incident meets many of the requirements for sustaining a bogus story.
Chaytor Mason, USC professor of human factors-psychology said that  
the subject of a rumor is usually famous or attractive.  And while
circulating a fiction via an anonymous letter is somewhat unusual, it
makes sense because "generally we place more value and validity on 
anything we read."                                                  

-=-=-=-=-

 3.2 Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac?

	Chocolate is the traditional gift of love, ranking right up there 
with roses as the most romantic gift one can give. But is it really an 
aphrodisiac? There is some evidence that the answer might be yes. Chocolate 
contains three substances, caffeine, theobromine and phenyethylamine that 
might be related to this myth. Caffeine acts as a stimulant. Theobromine 
stimulates the heart muscle and the nervous system. And phenyethylamine is 
reputed <no conclusive proof exists yet> to be a mood elevator and an 
anti-depressant. 
	The combination of these three substances, giving you extra energy, 
making your heart beat faster, making you a bit jumpy and slightly 
giddy....well, you can see how chocolate could be linked to love. In fact, 
Montezuma used to drink a frothy chocolate beverage before going to visit 
one of his wives.  But before you go out to buy several cases of chocolate 
to ply your lover with tonight, remember that these substances show up only 
in small quantities in chocolate. 

-=-=-=-=-

 3.3 Can I give chocolate to my dog (cat, bird, other pet)?

	Unequivocally, no. The theobromine in chocolate that stimulates the 
cardiac and nervous systems is too much for dogs, especially smaller pups. 
A chocolate bar is poisonous to dogs and can even be lethal. The same holds 
true for cats, and other household pets.

-=-=-=-=-

 3.4 How much caffeine is in chocolate?

	Although there is less caffeine in chocolate that there is in a cup 
of coffee, people who are avoiding caffeine should unfortunately stay away 
from chocolate as well. There are about 30 milligrams of caffeine in your 
average chocolate bar, while a cup of coffee contains around 100 to 150 
milligrams. For more information on the specifics of caffeine in chocolate,
consult the Caffeine FAQ, available on the WWW at 
http://daisy.uwaterloo.ca/~alopez-o/caffaq.html 

-=-=-=-=-

 3.5 Doesn't chocolate cause acne?

	This is another myth about chocolate. While some people might be 
allergic to chocolate, or some of its ingredients, the belief that chocolate 
causes acne universally has been disproven by doctors for some time.


           -=-=-=-=-=-=-=- End of FAQ -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

(C) 1996-1998 by Monee Kidd


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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM