At Large

Love for chocolate and trees

Chocolate is something of a “love” cliché, expected to make an appearance (along with roses) on Valentine’s Day or whenever a suitor wishes to tell the object of his affections that there’s more to his ardor than just lust.

Chocolate is romance and indulgence, sweetness and luxury. And no one, at least no one I know, would ever turn down a gift of chocolate.


But it turns out that chocolate is so popular not just because it tastes good or has extraordinary “mouth feel,” but also because it is chock-full of chemicals that make people happy. “There are over 300 naturally occurring chemicals in chocolates,” a backgrounder reveals, “and some of them can affect the human brain via the release of particular neurotransmitters.”

Eating chocolate, we are told, “releases several neurotransmitters that have positive effects on human feelings.” One of these is phenylethylamine, which causes alertness and a degree of excitement, quickens the pulse rate, and makes one happy. Indeed, phenylethylamine has been called the “love drug” because “it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love.” Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter as well, and one chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, which is, of course, found in chocolate.


Call Nick Malgieri then “Doctor Love.” The renowned pastry chef will be in Manila on Aug. 3 to conduct a cooking demo called “A Date with Chocolate” at the World Food Expo 2018 at SMX at the Mall of Asia complex, from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.

A member of the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, Malgieri was voted one of the 10 best pastry chefs in America by “Chocolatier” and “Pastry Art and Design” magazines. His book “Chocolate,” published in 1998, was included in “Food and Wine” magazine’s Best of the Best for 1998, and was voted Best Chocolate Book in the World by the 1998 Salon International du Livre Gourmand, and was the winner of an International Association of Culinary Professionals/Julia Child Cookbook Award for the best baking book that same year.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who apprenticed in Switzerland, Malgieri told an interviewer that he “developed my love of baking from the example of my maternal grandmother who lived with us when I was a child. She loved to bake and was also very good at it. Though I never learned a recipe from her, I credit her with inspiring me.”

“A Date with Chocolate,” featuring Malgieri with noted baker Chef Jill Sandique, is presented by Commodity Quest Inc., Innobake, Cacao Ivory cocoa powder and De Zaan chocolates. Expect it to be one “happy” gathering.

Small farmers and farming communities have turned to tree-growing as a major source of income. But, as the demand for timber increases, there is a growing need for fast-growing trees to reduce the rotation cycle, or the time it takes for a tree to achieve mature growth for timber harvest.

This is why the focus on falcata trees and other fast-growing species has been growing in intensity. Falcata trees normally take 10 years to achieve maturity, but falcata seedlings from the Claveria Tree Nursery Inc. (CTNI) in Misamis Oriental take only six to seven years to mature.

The Caraga region, where CTNI is located, meets most of the ideal conditions for planting falcata: high average rainfall, low elevation areas preferably at or below 600 meters above sea level, and moderately deep soil.


“There is a strong demand and a stable market among many factories in Mindanao that use softwood species, especially falcata, in the manufacture of plywood and paper,” Roberto Togle, general manager of CTNI, said. “Fast-growing falcata trees have a shorter rotation cycle, which means earlier harvest and faster returns on investment.”

CTNI, a Filipino company established in 2006, is the first in the country to engage in the mass production and commercial distribution of clone seedlings from superior trees of fast-growing species. It is a subsidiary of RI Chemical Corp., which sought a way to improve the lot of tree growers and help sustain the supply of better quality wood.

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TAGS: A Date With Chocolate, At Large, chocolate, Jill Sandique, neurotransmitters, Nick Malgieri, phenylethylamine, Rina Jimenez-David, serotonin
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