Chocolate – Food of the Gods

Chocolate shoe
Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them

Chocolate is no ordinary food.
It’s not something you can leave, something you like only moderately.
You don’t ‘like’ chocolate. You don’t even ‘love’ chocolate.
Chocolate is something you have an affair with.   Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart

Where it all began
Chocolate started life in the Amazon rainforest around 4000 years ago. Dull pods hiding their buried load of cocoa beans hung from ancient trees that 17th C naturalist, Linnaeus, aptly named Food of the Gods.

Cocoa bean pods

Cocoa bean pods

The Aztecs and Maya Indians used these beans to make a frothy drink that they used both as a stimulant and restorative. Sometimes they fermented it, and used it for fertility rituals. (What’s changed?)

Finally in 1503, Columbus brought cocoa beans to Europe.  Soon after, Cortez realised they were a great currency to exchange for Aztec gold, so he got plantations going. Money it seems, does grow on trees.

And that wasn’t the only time they were used as money….there was a time you could get a courtesan with 12 cocoa beans, and with 100 beans you could own a slave.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate

How come a bitter powder made from these unremarkable seeds has us under its spell? Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows you can’t live without good chocolate. That sometimes, you even have to rush out late at night to get some.  Could it be our bodies’ innate intelligence knows what’s good for it?

No more guilt
Because, the results are in.  Research shows that chocolate is good for you.  Guilt begone and rejoice!

Happy hot choc

Happy hot choc

There’s no shortage of studies to prove the point and that’s not surprising – can you imagine turning down the chance to run such a study?

And I bet they have volunteers falling over themselves trying to join. Tough job, but someone has to do it I guess.

What’s so good about chocolate?
It makes you feel good…. Fills you with serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’….. Reduces anxiety.
Casanova knew all this,and drank it before bedding his conquests. Who needs science?

Double antioxidants

Double antioxidants

It engages all our senses – taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. And the better the quality, the more this is so. You really do get what you pay for.

What’s the science say?
You can find reputable studies on Pubmed, which show cocoa or chocolate:

  • reduces total cholesterol
  • limproves gut microbe activity
  • is full of antioxidants and flavanoids
  • helps lower blood pressure and enhance blood flow
  • mimics the psychoactive effects of cannabis – lessens pain
  • seems to lower heart disease rates among those who eat it

But make sure you’re getting chocolate that’s at least 75% cacao solids, or the sugar and fats will probably outweigh ANY benefits.

Read the labels
The difference between brands can be huge, in both cocoa and chocolate,  (and most other things for that matter) so don’t assume they’re all the same.  It’s time to stop listening to the advertising, and start reading the labels.

The table below shows a supermarket brand compared to 2 good quality organic brands…..and notice how all of them differ – 300% more sodium and 200% more fat in the No brand, while Organic B has much more protein and minimal sodium. That matters!

100g Cocoa No brand Organic raw A Organic raw B
Protein 18.8g 17.8g 26.8g
Sodium 474mg 160mg 5mg
Total Fat 21.6g 10.7g 11.1g

Chocolate as Art
There’s a whole other side to chocolate that isn’t often on public view.  Professional chocolate makers and high-end chefs battle it out for supremacy at events such as Salon du Chocolat.

Held every 2 years in Paris, the cream of the crop work at making high art  from chocolate. It is totally breath-taking to see them in action, and then to see the finished pieces.Take a look at some of the possibilities below.

  • All sorts of chocolate
    All sorts of chocolate

So however you look at it, chocolate’s pretty enjoyable.  But make sure you appease those chocolate gods – and only eat the best.  Quality wins over quantity every time.

Hot Chocolate anyone?

Hot Chocolate anyone?


Flaubert Museum

If  blood and gore are your bag, you’ll love the Flaubert museum (Musée Flaubert et d’histoire de la Médecine)

Flaubert's herb garden

Flaubert’s herb garden

You’ll find it in Rouen, that lovely small medieval town in France, just over an hour from Paris by train.

Entry is through the Medicinal Herb Garden, which is a delightful calm place to linger a while.  It does nothing to prepare your senses for what’s to come.

A riveting place
Flaubert (who wrote Madame Bovary) wasn’t even a doctor, but his father was chief surgeon at the hospital that now houses the museum, and Flaubert grew up playing in and around it.  Apparently he wandered at will, even watching autopsies.
Wow! So that’s what they mean by ‘liberal education’.

Flaubert was born here

Flaubert was born here

The museum is completely riveting. Not only are there lots of unspeakable surgical and dental instruments from a bygone era, their uses are described in vivid and horrible detail. And you’ll be mighty glad that anaesthetics have improved, too.

Luckily, photos inside were forbidden.

A secret door

A secret door

A hospital ward is set up with one large bed that took 6 patients at a time.  Being in the middle must have been pretty cosy!  Maybe that’s the answer to the bed shortages in today’s hospitals.

Grizzly stuff about childbirth including the models used for teaching, skeletal remains and bottles of formalin with unspeakable things floating in them, are there in all their gory glory.

Lots of lewd posters around the walls though in French, are not hard to get the gist of.

You’ll get a remarkable look at where Medicine has come from in a relatively short time.

Monument to Flaubert the writer

Monument to Flaubert the writer

Flaubert the writer is there too, stuffed parrot and all.

But the room where he was born (the image at the top of this page) and even his manuscripts will have a hard time vying for your attention after all those instruments……. ……What were they for again?



Musée Flaubert & d’Histoire de la Médecine
51 rue de Le Cat, Rouen,  France
Tel: 02 35 15 59 95
Tues 10am – 6pm
Wed-Sat 10-12, 2-6pm
Price:  3€ reduced to 1.5€ for groups and families.
Audio guides in French and English are available for 3€
The featured image of Flaubert’s room at the top of this page is courtesy of Rouen and Seine Valley District Tourist Office. Photo by Jean Francois Lange Flaubert Bedroom

Seniors are living long

Old and new live in harmony in Paris

Since I’m turning 70 next week, I think I can talk about living long. I’m there!

I’m not good at parties, and it seems to be assumed you’ll party big to celebrate this one.  Well, it’s just not me, so instead I decided to go to Paris.
As you do!

It’ll probably cost a whole lot less, and the memories will be good for a long long time.So on Tuesday morning I’m off for 3 delicious weeks in the City of Light.
Paris is the perfect place to go in order to get or stay fit.  It’s a fantastic city for walking,  since it’s both flat and interesting.

Even if you choose to use the Metro, the distances can be huge, with lots of stairs and almost no lifts. Same applies if you stay in anything but a luxurious hotel – lots of stairs and very few helpers. So pack some comfortable but good looking shoes – you won’t want to look daggy in the city that produces Christian Louboutin shoes.
Click on any of the images to see a bigger version.

Shoes fit to eat

Shoes fit to eat

1P1020962If you can’t afford them, then maybe you can make do with some made of chocolate. Last time I was there, the Salon du Chocolat was on, and there, on display were chocolate shoes.  Yes, made entirely of chocolate, and looking exactly like the real thing.

I have a long-standing love affair with Paris which started way back in the mists of time.
I did a 3 month cooking course there in 1979, and have never been the same since.  Nor I have to say, has my cooking.

Beautiful vista in Paris

Beautiful vista in Paris

Paris is beautiful. No matter what the weather is like(people who live there refer to it as Grey Paree rather than Gay Paree).

Round every corner lurks a surprise – a gorgeous piece of architecture, a perfect park, a vista that just happens to have the Eiffel Tower at the end of it.


Parking angles in Paris

Parking angles in Paris

There is always something to laugh at; just don’t do it AT the people.  The parking is a constant source of amusement, as cars are slotted into spaces never meant for this use, Often, they are on odd corners of pavement, and often begging the question of how they got there in the first place.

I’ve also seen cars stop at the traffic lights, so the driver hops out and goes into the nearby shop to pick up who-knows-what.

They make their point

They make their point

Advert1Advertising is great too.  Nothing is off limits, but in Paris, everything seems tasteful.  Even without language, it’s clear what the message is.

And why not?  It’s an important message, and if you laugh at it, you probably remember it.

You have to learn fast not to take things personally; just because someone corrects your garbled french doesn’t mean you should stop using it.  We don’t all have degrees in French.  And I’m here to tell you that it’s not necessarily that much use.

I’m the proud possessor of such a degree, and it’s just enough to keep me fed and on the right bus.  After that, things get tricky.

Anyway, back to this trip.  I’ve booked a studio that looks to be the size of a cupboard in the 10th. The owner doesn’t speak ANY English, so its been a bit of an ordeal organizing the meeting for key exchange. I cleverly thought to say I’d send a text when I arrived, to do away with that ordeal – talking on the phone.

So I’ll report on both the travel and the city in a few days.
Stay posted.


Seniors Still Mess around in Boats

Wooden Boat Festival

This last weekend, Hobart played host to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival.  It’s held every 2 years,(and I’m never sure that I’ve got the right word for that, so I haven’t used it!) and brings huge numbers of people streaming into an already bulging city.

This year, 600 boats took part, and that’s a lot more than the 180 that showed up for the first one in 1994. The waterfront was alive from end to end, and there was a really noticible feature.  The average age was high.  Many more Seniors than any other age group, or so it seemed.  And they weren’t only spectators; the boats were full of them too. Good on them.



Not sure what that means, except perhaps that it’s a great way to stay fit, or is it only the fit that can manage?  Who knows.  But, whatever, it was a wonderful event to be part of.  People wandered happily amongst the moored boats, cameras at the ready, and mostly working overtime.

Hobart is uniquely placed to host this event, having its own long maritime history.  But the setting is perfect too. Boats are moored in several different areas, all within an easy stroll. There’s a big covered display area at each end, so the whole thing works.

Boats and Stephen Walker sculpture

Boats and Stephen Walker sculpture

Like the rest of the visitors, I captured lots of happy snaps, but specially like the one at the beginning of this post….so apt. Make sure you click on it, so you can read it’s name.

The weather did us proud,and the Regatta and the Hobart Cup added to the party atmosphere.  The weekend finished off in grand style with fireworks on Monday night as part of the Regatta.  Fabulous!

Can Seniors Keep Travelling?

I can feel a plan hatching in my brain.   I love France and dearly want to go again.  My dream is to spend a year there, but I just can’t see how to make it happen. Money and all that!

But maybe 3 months?  Even that is messing with my head, so I’m thinking 1 month I could probably manage, and if I work on that, perhaps I’ll be able to make it grow a bit as the time gets closer.

Somewhere between August and the end of October would be best, since November is getting pretty cold.  While I don’t have anything against the cold in general, it adds to costs considerably in terms of clothes and heating when traveling.

Going to Paris is a perfect place for one of advancing years because it’s a great place to get fit:

  • you can walk all day every day, because there is so much to see, and its accessible on foot
  • using the Metro involves hiking for miles too – up and down endless stairs
  • many apartments don’t have lifts, so using the stairs is obligatory
  • only the fit can manage all the walking in xthe big museums
  • you can trade off all the exercise for fabulous food

I’ve been hunting for likely places to stay in Paris which is were I want to be. There are lots of possiblilities, and I’m going to try to do  it both in comfort and in budget.  I’ll be looking for an apartment of some sort, because I want to be able to cook for myself: it’s awful not being able to shop for all that gorgeous food at the markets.  And besides, there’s a limit to how many pastry meals you can consume.

So my plan is to travel to Paris for a month minimum, and enjoy it without needing to sell my soul.  I’m going to find all the ways to live well on a budget, while enjoying to the full, the pleasures of the City of Light.
Lots of the cheaper apartments or studios are on the 6th floor without a lift….is it worth it???

Keep watching for the following exciting episodes.


Seniors Travelling Alone

Got the wanderlust?  Looking for an adventure?  Seniors  love to travel, but often, as they age it  gets a bit tricky.

  • Single inexperienced  traveller?
  • Death or divorce left you without a partner?
  • Partner who no longer want to travel?

So there’s just you, and a great big interesting world  to explore.  What to do?
Actually, there’s lots you can do.

  • Ask several local travel agents if they have travel programs for mature singles
  • Google ‘senior travel Casablanca’ (or wherever you want to go)
  • Have a look at sites such as Road   Senior Women’s Travel    Suddenly Senior
    Look for a forum on  these and other sites where you can ask questions or read what others are doing
  • Special interest groups such as craft, bridge, golf or gardening often arrange tours and expeditions
  • Universities and education facilities run education-themed travel
  • Advertise in the local paper classifieds for people interested in your destination

So, don’t despair, there’s plenty of opportunity to find company for your travel.

Have you thought of Solo Travel?
But what about travelling alone? Radical thought I know, but  it’s fantastic.
While you don’t always have a dinner companion, the upside is you can eat whenever, wherever and more importantly, whatever you want.

You don’t suffer a room-mate who washes all her/his clothes on the same day, and hangs them dripping in the shower, leaving not a cm of space for your tiniest undies!

Stay in bed all day reading a great novel if you feel like it, or spend the whole day gazing at Monet’s waterlillies; get lost in Paris or Portugal  (just remember to keep the address in your pocket for the taxi driver) Much cheaper than Adventure Tourism!

If you’re not experienced, it’s probably a good idea to book through a travel agent…you can find the best deals online, and the agent will still book them for you. That way, you have a contact and a phone number to give you peace of mind.

So, start planning now.  Tell everyone you talk to, and you might be surprised to  find your travel companions  right under your nose.

Bon voyage!!!


Travel and Paris

Is it ever too late to travel?   All around me I hear people of my age saying they’re too old for it, and what a great pity that is.

So I’ve got a plan happening in the not so deep recesses of my mind.

I’ve had an ongoing love affair with France and specially Paris since I first went there in 1979.  I stayed 3 months and did a cooking course at the then La Varenne cooking school, with Ann Willan.

Since then I’ve been back a number of times, but still can’t seem to satisfy my hunger for that most beautiful of  cities.  So this plan is to visit again soon.  But, because money’s an issue, it’s going to need some super planning to make it happen.  Keep watching as the tale unfolds.

Meanwhile, Paris!  On my first visit, I was introduced to the food in a big way, since I was attending cooking classes with real French chefs.  Everyday except Sunday, we were immersed in fabulous food all day and often half the night.   We cooked, we watched cooking, and best of all, we got to eat what was cooked.

Nutrition wasn’t a big topic then, so no-one commented on the fact that sometimes (the days when we cooked pastries and cakes) our diet was just a touch unbalanced.  But OMG!  How good it was.  Delicate choux pastry cases overflowing with heavenly pastry cream makes a magnificent evening meal, I can tell you.

Luckily Paris is a city where walking is obligatory, so you don’t put on weight. I came back from 3 months of gorgeing, weighing  much less than when I left.

I’m a bit over cooking schools now, but I still love to walk everywhere because there’s so much to see, and it does make it easier to justify the indulgences that you just have to have.