Do you know what carob is? You probably have heard that it's some kind of nasty imitation chocolate. Actually, carob is a Mediterranean tree that grows an edible seed pod. The pod is slightly sweet and the taste somewhat resembles chocolate. Tradition holds that the carob pods are the "locusts" that John the Baptist ate while living in the dessert.
As I mentioned, the taste is somewhat similar to chocolate, and thus it is often used as a chocolate substitute. You might have tasted some before and thought there was something wrong with it because it didn't quite taste like chocolate. Remember the scene in Notting Hill when Spike is eating some white stuff with a spoon, and says, "there's something wrong with this yogurt." And Hugh Grant says, "that's not yogurt, it's mayonnaise." And Spike says, "Oh," and smiles as he takes another bite. It's the same idea with carob. If you are expecting it to taste exactly like chocolate, then you might be disappointed. But if you are expecting carob, it tastes quite nice.
So why should you eat carob instead of chocolate? Is one healthier than the other? I thought I'd share this debate I overheard in my kitchen between the chocolate and the carob:
Chocolate: I am definitely better than you, carob, because I have my own natural fat, cocoa butter. You have to use borrowed fats (usually hydrogenated oil) to give you that creamy taste.
Carob: What? Who says you have to eat carob with hydrogenated oils? Read the ingredients on the label before you buy me, it can be any fat. Usually companies that make carob candies are responsible enough to use healthy fats. And that's only if you get me in candy or chip form. In powder form, I am fat free anyway (like you when you are cocoa powder). Speaking of extra additives, I am naturally sweet (just the right amount) and usually don't have any added sugar. You, on the other hand, are so incredibly bitter that people have to add loads of refined sugars to make you taste good.
Chocolate: Oh yeah? That's not what the Native Americans and Samoans thought. They loved drinking that bitter chocolate drink, no sugar added. Some people still even like it.
Carob: Not in this country. Only a few weird people drink that nasty stuff. Most have to sugar you up quite a bit to choke you down.
Chocolate: Hmmmph. You just have to face it that you will never be me. You can never taste exactly like chocolate, only I can.
Carob: Well, Joy's kids can't tell the difference between carob and chocolate brownies, it's all the same to them.
Chocolate: Her husband can tell, he likes chocolate better.
Carob: He likes me too, and he's learning to like me even more. Lots of people like how I taste. And I don't have to resort to mood-altering addictive drugs to get people to want more and more of me. What about that, huh?
Chocolate: Right, the caffeine. You've hit me below the belt. . . . I have no response to that.
Well, there you have it. The carob emerges as the victor (in my kitchen, anyway)!