By Paule Cuvelier
See it, smell it, touch it, taste it…chocolate offers an experience that embraces nearly all the senses. Following this philosophy is Paule Cuvelier, president of famous French chocolatier Debauve & Gallais, with her simply-named Chocolate (which picks up a fifth and final sense when you imagine it read aloud). Chocolate, like its namesake, is a full-blown sensual affair: it’s rare that a book actually has to be unlaced, but this one does. Untie the book’s silky (and naturally, chocolate brown) ribbons, and the single volume unfolds, becoming two. The first, “The History of Chocolate,” examines the impact of the little cocoa bean on human history and culture, from the Mayans to Mars Bars. The second, “The Taste of Chocolate,” offers advice for the enjoyment of chocolate, including a few choice recipes. Both halves of the whole include lavish, lickable photographs by Natacha Nikouline, for a final product that’s, well, good enough to eat.
The only way that Chocolate might lead you astray (well, unless you’re someone who has pledged your life to dieting) is if you’re looking for a straight-up, simple dessert cookbook. While the “Taste” section does include a few recipes of the more basic sort (Dark Chocolate Mousse with Goat Cheese, Moist Chocolate Spice Cake), the focus is more on selecting the finest cocoa varieties, learning to taste them with the expertise of a master sommelier perusing bottles of wine, and then using them to create complex confections with fabulous names: The Maquis, The Marco Polo, The Saints-Pères and The Fleur de Lys. The possibilities appear endless. One could all-too-easily devote one’s life to chocolate. And, as Cuvelier illustrates, what a pleasurable marriage it would be.