Saturday 5 November 2016

Like chocolate like water

No, this isn't the film review section, where we might say a few cogent words about Like Water like Chocolate aka Como Agua Para Chocolate, the 1992 magical realist film directed and produced by Alfonso Arau.  We had that a tuthree years ago at the local Films-with-Subtitles Society for our annual watch and eat night.  Rather we're going to set out our food-engineering stall again complaining about very expensive water.  We've seen this food-finagle in sausages, margarine, cake, spice-burgers; water weighs a kilo per litre and it falls from the sky, so is very cheap bulk if you sell food by the weight.  I was in Aldi on the way home after work the other day and I saw a Tarte au Chocolat reduced to €2 for 500g which is rather cheaper than real food like pork chops or cheese. I scooped it up and was mildly annoyed when the check-out price turned out to be €2.99 . . . but not annoyed enough to kick up a rumpus and have it put back in the cooler.

Like any other shopper with eyes bigger than his stomach and an inability to think straight when hungry, I was seduced by such bold statements on the packet as "Specially selected" "Deliciously decadent", the ghastly slogan "A work of CHOco L'Art" and the fact that the confection was 'french'. Part of me rebelled at the note of "made with all butter pastry" - without flour and some water it won't make pastry!  But I bought it, brought it home and therefore had to eat it.

Mmmm good, but 500g is a lot for a boy to eat. I should have paid attention to the "serves 6" label but the front cover of the packet was so busy with assertions, puns and french that I missed that.
Burp! and I didn't need to floss.
Then, too late for holding back, I read the Table of Contents.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING: (48%) water, DARK CHOCOLATE (12%) (Cocoa mass, sugar, emulsifier lecithin (sunflower), natural flavouring, sugar, ground almonds, pasteurised egg, concentrated butter (milk), cocoa mass, modified potato starch, skimmed milk powder, whey (milk), cocoa powder, cream powder (milk), thickener (sodium alginate), stabiliser (diphosphates), colour (carotenes), natural flavoring). BUTTER PASTRY (31%): wheat flour, sugar, CONCENTRATED BUTTER (22%) (milk), pasteurised egg, water, raising agents (diphosphates, sodium carbonates, salt). CHOCOLATE GLAZE (14%): water, DARK CHOCOLATE (36%) (Cocoa mass, sugar, fat reduced cocoa powder, emulsifier lecithin (sunflower), natural flavouring), sugar, palm fat, glucose syrup, skimmed milk powder, fat reduced cocoa powder, lactose (milk), emulsifier (citric acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids), water, sugar, DARK CHOCOLATE STICKS (1%): sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, emulsifier lecithin (soya), CARAMELISED ALMONDS (1%) (almonds, sugar), glucose syrup, gelling agent (pectin), acidity regulator citric acid.

To make sense of this you have to pay close attention to the nested hierarchy of brackets otherwise you'll conclude that the sum is a lot more than the parts: 48% + 12% + 31% + 22% + 14% + 36% + 1% + 1% = 165%.  But even if you reconcile the maths, there are a lot of ingredients: 48 named items, which reduces to 36 when you eliminate duplicates (sugar appears seven (7!) times in various sub-categories). And too many of the sub-contents begin with Water. Some of these ingredients must be to keep this pie in a state of suspended microbiological activity for at least 18 months - the sell-by date is Mar 2018 - and the rest must be necessary to allow transport via England from France where it is manufactured using ingredients from various countries. What is concentrated butter?  Whatever it is I regret eating it.

Finally, hidden in plain sight in the barrage of small print that takes up half of the back side of the packaging it claims: No artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives. That can only be true in a food lawyers mind: modified potato starch is a long processed way from the humble spud; and diphosphates, sodium carbonates and citric acid sound, and indeed are, a lot more chemical than natural. Hmmm, Food Lawyer, now that sound like a 21stC profession for an ambitious young girl. Food Engineers are so last century, dahhhling.

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