2013.11.20 Eating chocolate in the sunlight

Chocolate in the sunlight


Lest you think my husband always chooses bad foreign films, I must tell you that the one he picked for this past weekend’s viewing, “Stories We Tell,” was fantastic. It wasn’t too foreign...just Canadian...but it was so excellent. No long dark scenes, no lingering shots...just a great story full of mystery and intrigue, plus humor and a compelling storyline that includes everyone’s perspective. 

You seriously don’t even realize that it’s a documentary because it blows regular documentaries out of the water. It’s sure to be considered for an Academy Award...if you watch it for no other reason, do it for that.

Film critic Brian D. Johnson wrote, “It’s a brilliant film: an enthralling, exquisitely layered masterpiece of memoir that unravels an extraordinary world of family secrets through a maze of interviews, home movies, and faux home movies cast with actors.”

It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to watch it from the start when you get to the end, the kind that makes you bummed that there are no special features.

But this column isn’t about movies. It’s about sneezing.

I’ve noticed lately that I often sneeze when I eat dark chocolate. You’d think, since I eat a lot of chocolate, I would have noticed this phenomenon before. But I sneeze a lot in general, and it doesn’t happen every single time I eat chocolate, so it’s taken a long time to make the connection. 

Or maybe I’ve ignored the connection for years. It’s so easy to ignore what you don’t want to believe—especially when the consequences are so unpalatable: giving up a very-well-liked allergen. A life without chocolate? Could it even be done?

Nobody I know has ever mentioned a cause-and-effect relationship with chocolate and sneezing. I turned to Google to see if I had some wacky gene, like the one that makes you sneeze when you look at the sun or the other one that makes urine smell following the consumption of asparagus or that one that makes people experience the taste of cilantro as soap.

Cilantro makes me swoon it’s so delicious. I feel so sad for the people who taste soap instead of ecstasy. I’m glad to have lucked out with the gene that lets me appreciate it. But, what’s the deal with chocolate? Why would it make me sneeze? Maybe dark chocolate is being made differently these days? Or maybe I am just more observant than I used to be.

For example, I’ve also noticed that chocolate-eating causes earwax buildup. I can’t find much of anything to support that weirdness. I didn’t spend a lot of time searching, but I did encounter an interesting “Yahoo Answers!” post.

“Why does my husband's ear wax smell like chocolate?” asked someone five years ago. The question generated these responses:

“Does it taste like chocolate?!”

“He was sticking chocolate in his ear! Btw: why...were you smelling his earwax?”

“I think it's your own subjective perception. If you weren't related to him, you'd be grossed out by it and it would smell quite differently.”

People are so never would have occurred to me to taste earwax or smell someone’s earwax or think about my “subjective perception” of earwax.

It has occurred to me that I should just test every variable of chocolate eating...dark chocolate candy bar straight up, chocolate syrup on ice cream, mint chocolate chip Handel Pops (a small scoop of ice cream on a stick, dipped in dark Belgian chocolate), chocolate cake, chocolate get the picture. I could try small amounts, large amounts, chocolate in the morning, chocolate at could be a life-long science experiment with me as the prime subject. 

Another “Yahoo Answers!” link showed up when I was poking around the internet on the chocolate-sneeze issue. I wouldn’t rely on that site for trustworthy information, but I loved the diagnosis offered to someone’s question, “Why does dark chocolate make me sneeze?”

“You might have ACHOO or Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helioophthalmic Outburst Syndrome. It's usually for people who sneeze from the sun, but it can also be triggered by strong flavors (i.e. mint or strong chocolate)….”

I verified on Gale’s Health and Wellness Resource Center that ACHOO “is an inherited condition where a person will involuntarily sneeze after seeing a bright light,” but it still seems like a very contrived name. But, the phenomenon exists and “A person with this condition will sneeze multiple times, and in rare cases may sneeze 30-40 times. The syndrome is usually more intense if the person with the condition moves suddenly from darkness into an area with bright lights or sunlight.”

It makes me wonder what it would be like to eat chocolate in the sunlight. I’ll have to experiment with that.