KUALA LUMPUR, APRIL 17 – Cookbook author Lora Brody advised her readers never to “wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. Chocolate isn’t like premarital sex. It will not make you pregnant. And it always feels good.”
Sometimes it feels too good. It’s easy to gorge oneself on one double chocolate chip cookie too many. While deep in the throes of a particularly challenging project (or a DVD binge – complete seasons of favourite shows), you look up and wonder why the entire packet of chocolate wafer cubes is empty. Not even the chocolate dust is left; you’ve wiped up every crumb with an eager finger, later carefully licked clean.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we do develop a habit of beating ourselves up about it – without giving up the habit of gorging. Chocolate, or some other delicious food, becomes an addiction.
I read about actor Wentworth Miller’s recent reaction to an internet meme focusing on his weight gain. The image was a side-by-side comparison of his svelte figure as the lead of Prison Break against a heavier frame during his semi-retirement from acting in 2010. Not kind.
It turned out that Miller was suffering from suicidal thoughts during that period in 2010 and had turned to food for comfort. He shared in a Facebook post that, though seeing that picture made “it hurt to breathe”, ultimately he was glad it existed as it reminded him of his struggle... and his perseverance.
I am so inspired by his courage and his stark admission of his struggles. Too often it feels as though the “right” thing to do is to deny one’s pain. Miller has taught me that it is okay to have bad days and also to ask for help when we need the strength to get through another tough night.
And in time – and with a little help from our friends – we can love everything about our life: from our bodies, whether light or heavy, to our mistakes and our successes, and know that both are transient and will always pass.
Bitter or sweet? Why not savour both, be it a slice of a dark chocolate cake or life itself? To fully experience either is to do more than merely accept the good and bad, the shock and the saccharine, but to relish these flavours, these feelings.
As Joanna Harris wrote in her novel Chocolat, “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or torturous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
DARK CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH RASPBERRIES & PEANUT BUTTER
The best thing about dark chocolate, aside from its bittersweet flavour, is that it contains less sugar and so fewer calories. Dark chocolate is also a powerful source of antioxidants and may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Still, to eat with mindfulness, a slice or two would suffice; certainly not half a cake at a single seating.
Raspberries aren’t added as a topping to assuage any guilt; this luscious fruit should be enjoyed as another dimension, a tartness that life also brings in time. Be kind to yourself; find pleasure in all these flavours rather than to deny yourself their goodness.
Yet for those who crave a little decadence – not too much! – a thinly spread layer of natural peanut butter wouldn’t hurt either. Just remember, this is a treat, not a meal. Take delight in every bite.
200g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
350g dark chocolate (60% and above cocoa mass), melted
200ml full-cream milk
500g all-purpose flour, sifted
A box of fresh raspberries (about 12-15 fruits)
Natural peanut butter
Preheat oven to 200˚C. Line two 2 pounds loaf tins (approximately 23 x 13 x 7 cm each).
Beat the butter and sugar in the mixer for about five minutes. When the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Once incorporated, add the melted dark chocolate, followed by the milk.
When the mixture is well combined, fold in the flour. Pour the batter into the loaf tins and bake until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cakes, approximately 45-50 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve slices of the cake with fresh raspberries and/or spread with a thin layer of peanut butter.
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