RHYS BOWEN: If you love chocolate as much as I do, then you're going to want to read today's guest post!
Penny Pike has done some interesting things in the name of research--visited graveyards, tried out par courses, but this assignment takes the cake... or rather the chocolate.
Penny Pike bears a remarkable resemblance to my good friend, Agatha-winner Penny Warner, writer of the successful Code Busters Club children's series, as well as two former cozy mystery series. I'm delighted to host her today to tell you more about her fun new food-truck series, so take it away Penny!
Chocolate Research – Someone Has To Do It
By Penny Pike AKA Penny Warner
I’ll do anything for chocolate—even write a book like DEATH OF A CHOCOLATE CHEATER just so I can do the research. I’m highly addicted to the substance, but have found no support groups for my illness (other than a group that meets at Sees Candy, where we get free samples.)
I’ve done a lot of research on my problem and found that chocolate offers many health benefits. It’s a valuable energy source (one chocolate chip gives you enough energy to walk 150 feet, the length of your average Sees store.) Unfortunately, it takes me about seven billion chips just to get out of bed in the morning.
Other health benefits include alleviating depression, lowering your blood pressure, and relieving PMS (it cures crabbiness.) According to my go-to source, Wikipedia, chocolate “contains iron, helps prevent tooth decay, has antioxidants, minimizes aging,” and probably cures morning breath, soccer flop, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Of course, none of this is written on a chocolate bar label. Doesn’t matter. Even if it came with a warning label that said, “This will kill you instantly,” I’d ignore it. Because everything tastes better with chocolate. Bacon? Potato Chips? Pizza? Carrots? All better if they’re dipped in chocolate.
My chocolate counselor said I needed to channel this obsession or I might find myself eating chocolate more than seven times a day (a sign of a serious problem.) So I immediately signed up for the three-hour Chocolate Tour of San Francisco. Again, for research.
First we had to listen to a lecture on where chocolate comes from, which took the mystery out of it for me. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate was discovered by the Aztecs, not Mrs. Mary See.
Back then they took the drug in drink form and believed it gave them super powers (which it sort of does, right?) Then “Hershey” Cortez got hold of it, took it to Spain, and added a bunch of fat and sugar so it would be more addicting. Finally, the Americans added even more fat and sugar, and voila—the Mars Bar was born!
I won’t go into all the “bean to bar” details. That’s way too much information, sort of like knowing where babies come from. We learned words like conching (stirring) and lecithin (chemical), but not anything you’d use in daily conversation or see on a crossword puzzle hint.
Next we learned how to eat chocolate. Apparently I’d been eating it all wrong. You’re supposed to use all the senses. Listen—it should snap when you break it. Look—it should be brown (unless it’s white chocolate which isn’t really chocolate). Smell—it should smell like, well, chocolate. Touch—if it melts in your fingers, you’ve been holding it too long. And finally taste—see if you can identify a “lingering banana with pound cake flavor” or “a rich green forest that’s been fertilized with sugar.” Or just eat it.
Finally we got to the good part—tasting gourmet chocolates by Recchiti Confections, Cocoa Bella, Chocolatier Blue, Neo Cocoa, and dozens more. We ate chocolates “infused” with ganache, cardamom, chili pepper, Nutella, quinoa, flax, and Dom Perignon (Oprah’s favorite!)
By the time I was done, I felt like Lucy Ricardo working on that conveyor belt and stuffing in as many chocolates as her mouth would hold. But all of this research went into my newest food truck mystery, DEATH OF A CHOCOLATE CHEATER. And while writing the book, I found another chocolate bonus—chocolate cures writers block.
Penny Pike AKA Penny Warner is the author of the food truck mystery series, DEATH OF A CRABBY COOK and DEATH OF A CHOCOLATE CHEATER, featuring Darcy Burnett and set in San Francisco. Her next book, DEATH OF A BAD APPLE, comes out in 2016. Contact Penny at www.pennywarner.com
Penny will be stopping by today to answer your comments and to give away a copy of Death of a Chocolate Cheater to one lucky winner.