Power of Chocolate Festival at NMAI

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Last September, I was watching this segment on the Today Show on how Hershey’s was skimping on its chocolate. They reported that in place of cocoa butter in its Whatchamacallits, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbars and Krackels, Hershey’s is using vegetable oil. And, as a result, the words "milk chocolate" on candy packages had to be replaced with "chocolate candy," "made with chocolate" or "chocolatey" in order to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s chocolate standard. (Despite efforts by industry groups in 2007 to get cheaper substitutes approved, the FDA continues to require chocolate to contain cocoa butter.)

I can just about hear the gasps! I know. It’s shameful. Angry chocoholics can’t even stomach calling it "chocolate candy." It’s mockolate.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, however, is showcasing the honest-to-goodness stuff at its Power of Chocolate festival this weekend. The program, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, promises an interdisciplinary look at the sweet; there will be music, dance, art, science and, wait for it, taste testing! Bolivian cacao growers will be on hand, and the executive chef at the museum’s Mitsitam Cafe will be giving lessons on how to cook lamb with a chocolate cashew mole, a chocolate soup and duck with a chili chocolate raspberry glaze—a Valentine’s Day dinner, perhaps?

Plus, a team of scientists from Panama, Harvard Medical School and Mars, Inc., will give you ammo for your in-defense-of-chocolate argument.

Get this: A study showed that Kuna Indians who live in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama and who drink as much as 25 cups of cacao per week experience a lower blood pressure than suburban Kuna Indians who consume just four cups a week. Maybe we should rethink our caffeine fix and swap our coffee for cacao.

(Ed. Did you order our Valentine chocolates yet?)

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