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Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light Paperback – October 17, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Again, I would love to URGE you for educating yourself more about this oh so healthy food; the dark chocolate that is. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mariette Vedder
The book was entertaining and provides a good overview of the chocolate industry. However, it describes it at a very high level and is lacking some "meat".Published 22 months ago by Kevin Martinez
If you've ever wondered what differentiates French chocolate from Swiss chocolate from Belgian chocolate? Read morePublished on December 28, 2012 by Robbin Warner
Many books about chocolate are filled with passion and love for the subject, that's less the case here as Mort Rosenbaum approaches his subject with a seasoned journalist's... Read morePublished on June 18, 2011 by D. Woollard
I was actually forced to buy this book for a chocolate class I took one summer. Although the class itself was a joke, the book was definitely not. Read morePublished on December 21, 2010 by Ali
I don't generally read books about food: mostly I remember the urge to eat whatever's mentioned rather than the content of the book. Read morePublished on July 21, 2009 by M. Hitchcock
I'm not one that likes journalists as a rule. But, get a good investigative journalist and get him caught up in a subject as fascinating as chocolate, and you're on to a winner. Read morePublished on February 21, 2009 by Adrenalin Streams
"I tasted a mix of star anise and crushed pink peppercorns infused into semisweet dark ganache. To soften the impact, it was enrobed in 41 percent milk chocolate. Read morePublished on August 21, 2008 by Rebecca of Amazon