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Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light Hardcover – December 23, 2004

25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Did the Aztecs discover chocolate? Do the Swiss make the world's best chocolate? Is Godiva chocolate worth its price? No, no and no, according to Francophilic foodie Rosenblum (Olives). Although he'd always considered himself a "chocolate ignoramus," after attending a fancy Parisian chocolate tasting he immerses himself in the world of professional chocolatiers. He researches texts on the history of chocolate for amusing anecdotes, but his forte is his knack for going out in the field and talking with the masters. Rosenblum lets the artists teach him how great chocolate is made and how to appreciate its qualities. He travels from the cacao growing fields of Ivory Coast to the kitchens of some of Mexico's finest chefs, from the refined workshops of Paris to the factories of Hershey, Pa. As he discovers, chocolates—candy bars, chocolate mints—are basically an industrial product, containing little cacao and unworthy of serious culinary interest. Real chocolate, however, like fine wine, can be absolutely sublime. Artisans who carefully select their cacao beans and process those beans with painstaking attention can craft exquisite chocolate with extremely complex aromas and flavors. Rosenblum's chatty book, which lacks an index or endnotes, may disappoint food researchers. But for that vast world of chocolate-lovers who'd like a book between their bars, this bonbon is sure to please. Line drawings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Rosenblum trades the focus of his James Beard award-winning Olives for a newer, sweeter obsession. His experience as a newspaperman (Rosenblum is the former editor for the International Herald Tribune and a former Associated Press reporter) bears fruit in the strong source material he tracks down in far-flung locales. If his prose is weakened by newsroom clichés, it is at least “clean and consistent” enough to tell a satisfying story (Newsday). Like any devotee, Rosenblum has his favorites, and while the critics concede that French chocolate may be the best, many are put off by the author’s blind devotion to it. Like its subject matter, Chocolate is a book that aims to please, and should drive anyone with a sweet tooth into the candy shop.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476356
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,308,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mort Rosenblum is a Paris-based reporter, author, and journalism professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Since 1965, he has covered stories on seven continents, from the Vietnam War to tango dancing by the Seine. He was editor of the International Herald Tribune, special correspondent for The Associated Press, and founding editor of Dispatches quarterly. His 13 books include Coups and Earthquakes and Who Stole the News? He also grows olives in Provence.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
`Chocolate - A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light' by culinary journalist, Mort Rosenblum reads as a collection of essays on various aspects of the contemporary world of chocolate and its history, going back to pre-Columbian America.

Anyone who has read Rosenblum's excellent book, `Olives', will recognize the style of this book, which seems to jump from one time, place, and situation to another with little rhyme or reason. The narrative is neither chronological nor in the order in which cacao is grown, harvested, refined, formed into wholesale chocolate, and used as an ingredient in truffles, bonbons, and other confections. There is actually a lot of good sense to this structure (or lack of it) in that you are much less likely to become bored with the tale.

Rosenblum is not a culinary practitioner such as Elizabeth David, Julia Child or contemporary chocolate writer David Lebovitz (to whom Rosenblum owes a considerable debt, as Lebovitz shared information with Rosenblum, in spite of the fact that Lebovitz was writing his own book on chocolate). He is also not an observer of human gastronomic desires such as M.F.K. Fisher. He is not even a hybrid of these two breeds, the culinary columnist, such as James Villas, Jeffrey Steingarten, or John Thorne, who deal in both appetites and techniques. Rosenblum is a rather rare breed of journalist who specializes in writing about food, but seems to have no overriding passion for the subject. He simply seems to be interested in the subject, and, he is a very, very good observer and reporter of what he sees. The writers with the most similar approach seems to be Eric Schlosser (author of `Fast Food Nation') who, like Rosenblum, is as much interested in the economics of a food business as with taste.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kate on November 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I quite enjoy non-fiction works about food, and so I was delighted to find this in the library before an afternoon session of quiet reading in bed.

Indeed, it is quite an enjoyable look at the worldwide growth of fine chocolate, particularly in relation to French chocolatiers. It is an easy, fast and relatively light read. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Hershey and Valhrona. I did find myself consuming masses of expensive chocolate, just to discover that elusive quality which makes some chocolate truly fantastic.

However, all that is good is overshadowed by all that is lacking in Rosenblum's work. Essentially, its greatest flaw is its complete lack of referencing or sourcing, which really discredits any work of supposed non-fiction. It is difficult to think of non-referenced non-fiction as anything more than fiction with a possible element of truth. I really think Rosenblum should consider the importance of acknowledging his sources in his next work.

Furthermore, the structuring is somewhat haphazard, with varying chapters put sequentially but with little linking them to each other. For example, the aforementioned Hershey chapter is followed by a section on cacao in Africa and the (possible) exploitation of plantation workers. While it may seem innocuous, it makes for very disjointed reading. I think the text would be bettered with a more sequential structure, perhaps with the chapters on raw material coming first, followed by chapters about the processed goods.

Still, a reasonably worthwhile and light read. The sort of book best borrowed from the library.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ParisBreakfast on June 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rosenblum's book is a fun read and you'll learn a ton about the choco biz, but the tasting notes are lost inside all the gossip.

I prefer The Chocolate Connoisseur for more focused detail on just chocolate and learning how to distinguish between various grades. This is more of an industry approach and extensive and interesting as are Rosenblum's other food books.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By icqcq on March 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're truly obsessed with chocolate, or if you have a high tolerance for careless writing and indulgent editing, you'll make it through this book. As a chocolate obsessive, I made it through, but it is a slog. The paragraphs might as well have bullet-points for all the flow and logic of the writing, but there are plenty of names here to follow-up on if you're interested in fine chocolate, and undoubtedly his favorite chocolatiers will find themselves inundated with fans. The book itself is light on fact and solid information about chocolate and the process, and is heavy on suggestion, personal opinion, and gossip. He seems to have taken this opportunity to indulge himself, both in the eating of chocolate and the writing of his adventure. I can't recommend this book....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chris Morgan on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Chocolate is certainly trendy where I live (the San Francisco Bay Area) and probably as a result of our once independent Scharffen-Berger's factory tours. Will the appreciation of good chocolate go the way of the late 90's cigar fad? Or will it endure, like America's ever increasing willingness to search for great wine?

Before this book I read "The True History of Chocolate" (Coe & Coe) and found the Rosenblum book much more entertaining but still edifying. Sure, he's a reporter looking to get up to speed with something in just two years, but unlike the diligent Coes, the writing is brisk and enjoyable. I particularly appreciated his willingness to be critical of some producers for taking advantage of people willing to pay top dollar for good chocolate and not caring what the fantastic packaging contains. Yes, after doing this research he finds himself to be a chocolate snob, but he still knows that you should eat what you like, as long as you know the difference between chocolate and candy. He also shows how the European secretiveness and snobbery that has preserved the art form has probably gotten in the way of the rest of us ever knowing that such great stuff is out there.

With this book, I now how much good stuff is out there. And this afternoon I walked into Oakland's Bittersweet Cafe and paid a ridiculous six bucks for a chocolate bar. It was worth it--and way cheaper than a nice cigar.
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