Romanticizer and Geek-in-Residence

by Lauren


There’s no question that chocolate is amazing.  This has been proved, scientifically, metaphysically, and spiritually, over and over again.  But I’m not here to preach to the choir about chocolate.  You know it’s great. I know it’s great.  I’m here to rave about chocolate’s strange little hippie wallflower cousin, carob.
Carob, like chocolate, comes from the pods of trees. Like chocolate, the result from harvesting, drying, and processing these pods, is a brown, flavorful powder. However, unlike the similarities begin to fade after this, as many a disappointed child of hippie parents will tell you. The flavor is not as rich or luxurious as chocolate, it has no caffeine–thus no fun pick-me-up after-effects, and it has a decidedly chalkier texture (most likely thanks to the much higher calcium content in carob).
I was one of those disappointed hippie children back in the day.  I can’t tell you the number of times we’d celebrate a birthday and salivate over the brown-frosted cupcakes, only to realize that the brown frosting was the dreaded CAROB, not chocolate.  Parents would hand out carob-chip cookies, and we’d eat them half-heartedly, imagining how much better they’d taste if the chips were made instead from cocoa powder.

A birthday party at my hippie school when we were probably 7 years old. I guarantee you we were forced to eat a carob cake for this celebration.

So I didn’t touch the stuff for decades, naturally.  As an adult, grown-ass woman, I got to select exactly what kind of chips went into my cookies.  And they were always, always chocolate.  And (as my sister-in-law Mary astutely pointed out), the rest of my generation has most-likely followed suit.  Because suddenly, carob was nowhere to be found.  Sure, there are fair-traded, organic chocolate bars of every stripe and variety…but carob has essentially gone extinct.  All those hippie kids grew up to be adults who ran health-food stores, and they wanted nothing to do with the stuff.
Okay carob didn’t go EXTINCT.  It’s just much harder to find. And recently, my in-laws have managed to have a stash of the stuff at their house…which brings me to the RAVE.  After a 20-year boycott, I am so in love with carob.  I’ve missed it.  No, it’s not chocolate. And that’s okay.  It has it’s own, delicate, subtle appeal.  It’s flavor hovers between cocoa and some kind of nut butter, with an extra hint of milkiness to it.  Basically, it’s delicious. But it should never have tried to be something it’s not. Carob, be carob. Don’t try to be chocolate–you’ll fail. You DID fail.  Now is your time to shine…be you, carob.  And the world will love you for it.
So if you can get your hands on some, give little old weird carob a try. Don’t expect a chocolate taste. Keep your taste buds completely expectation-free…and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.