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Rules in food run from tasty to absurdity

July 28, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

How cool would it be to hear your doctor tell you to "take two M&Ms and call me in the morning?" It might happen, according to a corporation which, according to the Washington Post, is holding "serious discussions with large pharmaceutical companies about the development of a line of cocoa-based prescription drugs that could help treat diabetes, some forms of dementia and other ailments."

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned in passing that the corporation that is pushing the idea is Mars Inc., makers of many things chocolate, so if you stretched the imagination you might be able to construe a potential conflict of interest.

But since no chocolate company has ever lied to me personally, I tend to take Mars at its word.

So I believe the story, which says, "As about 20 Mars-funded researchers gathered in Lucerne, Switzerland, to discuss their latest findings, the company announced that it foresees a possible line of pharmaceuticals growing out of the work and that it was being pursued by drug companies interested in the medical applications of cocoa."

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Not everyone believes Mars, though, including a nutritionist by the name of - I am not kidding - Marion Nestle, who said, "This is about selling chocolate. Mars is only doing this because it wants people to eat more and more M&Ms."

A source named Nestle commenting on a conference in Switzerland about the value of chocolate. The symmetry is just so - so dark, rich and creamy.

I think Marion does have a point. Only an idiot would blindly accept a confectioner-sponsored study celebrating the benefits of chocolate, just as - to pick a comparison purely at random - only an idiot would blindly accept a quarry study that celebrated the benefits of quarries.

On the other hand, a lot of women I know swear that chocolate does indeed hold some soothing, if not medicinal, qualities.

You learn a lot of things when you get married. There are some other disadvantages, too, but specifically I am talking here about the woman/food paradigm.

For example, last night the Magazine Executive in High Heels was working late, so I put together a perfectly good, tried-and-true supper of ham, cabbage and potatoes.

This is because there was a leftover ham bone in the fridge. And it was a perfectly good ham bone, too, with plenty of meat on it - not one of those Charles Dickens ham bones that the urchins are always sucking on in hopes of dislodging some last fleck of gristle.

And can I help it if this is one of the historically easy meals to prepare? No. I swear, if there'd been a leftover souf in the fridge I'd have made a souffle. I was simply working with the resources on hand.

So I went to the great time and trouble to cover the bone with water, throw in a box of new red potatoes and, with three cuts of a knife, quartered a cabbage and the whole shebang was done and done. Oh, and as an apathetic nod to the culinary arts, I threw in some caraway seeds.

Still, and call it men's intuition, I sensed trouble. So when Andrea asked what I'd prepared, I told her it was "jambon aux pommes de terre." I don't know the French word for cabbage. I was right to be concerned, but the reason pierced me in an unarmored spot, as she howled:

"But that's a WINTER food!"

"A which?"

"A winter food. You eat that in winter. I can't believe it's 95 degrees out and you're making that in the middle of summer."

"Sorry, I didn't realize ham, cabbage and potatoes was migratory."

"It's not at all summer. It's heavy."

"Oh. What if I served it with lime salsa?"

(Sound of bedroom door slamming).

So plainly women in general have a more emotional connection to food than do men, who will glom down anything, anywhere, anytime, regardless of the season or whether they just ate.

This female umbilical cord to foodstuffs might indeed detect some medicinal properties in chocolate, too, so I'm not going to rule it out. But somehow I doubt the big pharmaceuticals are going to buy into it. Not because it doesn't work, but because they will not be able to charge $98 for a prescription that will get you three grams of a Snickers.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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