Life is like a box of chocolates…

Gareth Peters explores the allure of chocolate In Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of my favourite children’s novels, most readers shriek with concern and shielded glee when rotund brat Augustus Gloop almost drowns in a river of chocolate; I however merely lick my lips with envy whenever I think of the young German’s fate. Indeed, I can’t imagine a better way to go. Yes, I am a chocoholic, but I’m not alone. There are few things that most people agree on, but a fondness for chocolate is surely one of those uniting opinions. If we all just sat in the streets eating chocolate the world would be a better place. A peaceful, harmonious – if morbidly obese – utopia. It is because of such properties that we should all be selling our own arms (who really needs them?) in order to get hold of a ticket for tomorrow’s chocolate extravaganza at the Union. There’s no point of boring you with the details, but it’s going to be good; one of the best things to come to the Union in ages. Natalie Portman is a close second though. So why should you be flocking in your droves to stuff your willing faces? If you’re like me, you really don’t need to be told why; you’ll just understand the urgency of your attendance. You were probably behind me in the queue at Sainsbury’s on the first day Cadbury’s brought Wispas back. If not though, you may be wondering why a bar of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate causes others so much excitement. Clearly, there’s something a little bit wrong with you.A recent archaeological dig discovered a site in Honduras used to cultivate cacoa beans which dated from between 1100 to 1400 BC, showing just how universally popular this foodstuff is. In such early days chocolate was consumed exclusively in its liquid form until its value as a solid was discovered. Now, there’s nothing better when sitting in front of the television than a bar of Dairy Milk or, in my case, a family size tin of Celebrations. Is there anything more instantly exciting than that split second when you peel back the foil to reveal a tablet of the most appetising colour of brown in existence? There are a multitude of companies selling their own signature taste, and many produce hundreds of varieties, so it’s never been easier to develop an unhealthy yet oh so satisfying addiction to the stuff. One must always remember that moderation is your friend; even if you’re reading this while gorging your fifth Ben’s Cookie you should remember such classic mantras as ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’. However, you can comfort yourself by remembering the many health benefits of chocolate, for there are enough to justify a ‘five bar a day’ diet if you choose to believe them. Cocoa is full of anti-oxidants, and dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. If you choose to incorporate chocolate into your fitness regime though (I certainly do) it’s definitely best to cross over to the dark side; having a small portion of dark chocolate daily can lower blood pressure and, according to some studies, cholesterol too. It has even been suggested that chocolate decreases the risk of cancer, but until further tests have been carried out it is impossible to know whether or not a Milky Way keeps the tumours at bay. Chocolate is also famous for its aphrodisical benefits, reasons for which are relatively mysterious. There are theories which suggest its serotonin content acts as a sexual stimulant, but no one understands for sure why a chocolate-covered strawberry is so alluring to so many. Whatever the reasons, a study concludes that a person’s brain activity and heart rate increase when one eats it, more so than when one is kissing another person and with a longer lasting after-efffect. While we bite into our favourite bars though, it’s probably important to remember that we’re ruining our teeth, eating ourselves into an early grave and clogging our insides with lead (chocolate has a rather high concentration of this). Morally speaking as well as physically though, the world in which our favourite snack dwells is far from sweet. Nestle are famously corrupt, and it seems unnecessary to explain why as almost everyone I come across chastises me every time I offer them a Munchie or bite into an Aero. For those who are unaware of such corporate greed though, just type ‘Nestle kills babies’ into your favourite search engine, although the instruction kind of eliminates the point. And anyway, I find it impossible to resist chocolate despite such points against certain companies. So, if you’re not a fan, then you just haven’t found the right bar for you. And if you are, you’ll see me tomorrow at the Union, swimming in the chocolate fountain.