Bookcase Location: OFF-THE-SHELF: Book-Burners’ Fuel for the Bonfire

Great title – where’d that come from? The authors are first-rate cut ‘n paste artists (with the ‘interwebs’, who isn’t?). Unlike Ivy League students, who now consider it a minor technicality, even vogue, to plagiarize, the pair does cite multiple original sources & quite extensively. As Wilson Mizner wrote “If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you steal from two, it’s research”. Since Wolfe’s the self-proclaimed “Pope of Chocolate”, he probably figures those various authors must’ve channeled their info thru him anyway.

Touting the eternal glories of “raw“, unroasted, usually unconched, & often untempered cocoa beans, which, for the most part, leave cacáo’s complex of powerhouse flavors so locked up inside they taste flatter than asphalt; all else censored, restricted, & banned (the most hardcore raw-acolytes eat this & only this type), making for an Ayatollah of Cocoa on a cacáo-maca-agave-goji bender filled with happy-talk, turning frowns upside down, such as African peoples have a natural affinity for working Theobroma cacáo trees. (Meanwhile, let’s frolic gleefully around South America under hemp fatigues climbing bong-bong trees.) The association is called the Middle Passage. Besides demeaning & dehumanizing, it’s hard backbreaking work. And a real challenge on the way to having the best day ever.

Just as secularists drove God from the public square only to find a new apocalypse in global-warming, this raw tribe lives on the flip-side of rational scientific inquiry, re-enchanted (to borrow Walter Benjamin’s recycling of Max Weber) with magic, mysticism, & myth in the pursuit of a pristine eco-Eden where w’all can be primitive consumers, free of savage capitalism & the gnawing melancholy over the fact that humans must kill in order to eat. Lest vegetarians believe we’ve escaped this viscous jungle, even the inanimate have feelings that reach the level of song, if one embraces the Gaia Hypothesis, as in Stevie Wonder’s Secret Life of Plants.

For the process that turns a living cacáo seed, capable of germinating, into a cocoa bean that cannot, is problematic for adherents of ‘live’ food, & in all likelihood for ‘live’ enzymes too – the raison d’être of raw foodistas. On the one hand, fermentation facilitates accessibility to enzymes; on the other, that very access hastens their inactivation as polyphenols, acetic acid, & ethanol increase during the ferment. Dr. J. William Hurst, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the chemical analysis of cacáo compounds, & chocolate in its various forms, states that any sparse enzymes surviving thru the cycle – be they “raw” or roasted – “are minimal at best”. Whatever becomes of enzymes in their final state, the changes taking place switch off a seed’s ability to germinate, rendering it dead.

Moreover, fermentation piles can exceed 50ºC / 122ºF, well in excess of the magic temperature raw foodists deem sacrosanct for maintaining live enzymes. Then open-air sun-drying of beans in the tropics, often laid out on cement or black-top surfaces, means that they can cook up to 130ºF & hotter.

And here’s a microbiological bonus: “raw chocolate” probably possesses higher levels of pathogens / bacteria which may aid in boosting immunity by building resistance, no? Unless, of course, it’s subjected to food irradiation, a common practice for trading goods shipped internationally, which undermines the whole notion of raw. At the risk of sounding alarmist & overstating the health hazard, Ed Seguine – about as well-rounded a chocolate researcher as there is, whose insights include a keen understanding of its manifold chemical reactions – characterizes human consumption of truly raw-cocoa as “extremely dangerous”… a petri-dish, potentially, for salmonella & e coli contamination.

Claims of “raw chocolate” containing higher polyphenols & anti-oxidants may bear more truth. Standard dark chocolate can lose up to 80% of its polyphenol content throughout processing. Mary Wagner, a chief technology officer for Mars Botanical, says gentle processing is the key to preserving them. “Flavonols are very sensitive to oxygen, light, & heat. The moment the pod is opened, the clock starts ticking.”

Moving to higher ground, Wolfe & Shazzie belong more positively to a health movement whose multiplying numbers reach out in widening circles across the world to embrace green solutions to global problems; a personal ecology that supports sustainable economics, less waste, cleaner environment & diet, better social dynamics & open politics. They advocate & work, for instance, with reforestation projects to re-plant the planet. In this respect they practice as they preach the naked truth about much of what ails us Earthlings… everywhere. Good deeds should not go unrewarded. Support it.

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