Even when we genuinely enjoy them, there are some foods we choose to eat because we know they're the slightly more wholesome (or wholesome-feeling) option—like crunchy peanut butter, unsweetened yogurt, kale, dark chocolate. There's something that feels distinctly mature about picking the option you would never have considered when you were a kid.
Take milk chocolate: It's the iceberg lettuce and the macaroni and cheese of its kind. It's not the next great superfood, and it's not making anyone look sophisticated.
But we forget that food does not have to work for you all the time. We don't always have to choose kale. Butter lettuce may not be the same nutrient powerhouse that kale is, but it is so darn enjoyable to eat. Foods like that—foods whose strengths are in their ability to please—work for you in ways that more virtuous (define as you will) foods won't.
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Yesterday, the New York Times published an article called "In Ireland, Milk Chocolate Reigns," the title of which suggests surprise at the preference, suggesting a contrast between the Irish and dark chocolate-loving, or at least dark chocolate-heroizing, Americans.
In Ireland, high-quality ingredients make for milk chocolate that overrides the stigma of milk chocolate in the United States—a stigma almost certainly due, in my mind, to the prevalence of cheap, low-quality chocolate and the fact that milk chocolate doesn't have the merits of dark chocolate's health benefits. The Times writer, fellow milk chocolate-lover Shivani Vora, gets it right:
The news media perpetually extol its [dark chocolate's] health benefits, bars touting high cacao percentages have bombarded specialty and even grocery store shelves, and luxury chocolatiers have dark-dominant collections of delicate-looking pralines and ganaches. Oh, and just try finding a food aficionado, self-proclaimed or real, who doesn’t sniff away the lighter stuff as unworthy.
Milk chocolate is easy. It wears the unfortunate mantle of "kid food": sweet, creamy, mild, and often uncomplicated, but arguably what you want in a chocolate bar (and in most things) when you're a kid. And though I was a kid who actually preferred dark chocolate, and still prefer dark chocolate a lot of the time, there's nothing as comforting as milk chocolate.
"Kid foods" are thought of as such because they soothe and warm, but it doesn't mean that they're not good foods. I'll never advocate for specialized kids' menus, but I love simple pastas and tomato soup and soft bread as much as I love their more adult-table counterparts. The same is true for milk chocolate. I might not eat it all the time, but its bad rap is undeserved. Sometimes you just want chocolate to be sweet.
Top photo by Teresa Floyd; bottom photo by James Ransom
What do you find nourishing in the creamy-milk-chocolate sort of way? Gush about it in the comments.