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The Chocolate Solution

The Chocolate Solution

Students test their palate and find a moment of cocoa calm in the midst of finals week

By Pamela J. Johnson
Dec. 2005

Those admitted didn’t need a golden ticket.

But USC’s von KleinSmid Memorial Residents Hall did resemble Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory — for a few hours during finals week.

And the nearly 100 students taking breaks from their hectic test-taking schedules to attend the chocolate-tasting event learned at least one thing:

The Candyman can.

Chocolate really can relieve stress, even if just slightly, USC nutritionist Patrice Barber told the crowd. Barber hoped the chocolate-tasting event would provide “a little something fun and relaxing” during the frenzied fall semester’s end.

In all, about 6,000 undergraduate students completed fall semester courses, including 2,750 freshmen. USC College freshmen numbered about 1,150.

Many students satisfied their sweet tooth and learned interesting facts about chocolate during the Dec. 8 event, sponsored by Tommy’s Kitchen culinary club.

“Chocolate helps us feel calm and happy because when we eat it, the brain releases serotonin and endorphins,” Barber told students, most of whom were still undergoing the stress of final exams.

Inside the hall’s cafeteria, the students and a few staff members sat around tables stacked with what some joked were Wonka’s Scrumdidilyumptious bars — large bars of nearly every chocolate variety. 

There was milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, even bitter chocolate. After Barber’s lesson, participants tore open the wrappers, sampled the chocolates and rated the tastes.

Barber asked the students to examine the chocolate for an even gloss and deep warm color. She directed them to smell the chocolate before placing a small piece on their tongues to savor for a few seconds.

“What you sense right away are called ‘primary flavors and aromas,’ ” she told participants. “You don’t want to miss these by just chomping down. Enjoy the lingering taste.”

A good chocolate should not be oily, waxy or chalky, she warned, adding that smoothness and creaminess were sure signs of quality.

Some students followed the instructions carefully, pausing to sniff the chocolate before placing a tiny piece on their tongues. Others preferred the old-fashioned way.

College work-study student Sona Movsesian, a communications senior graduating this semester, took a large bite from a milk chocolate bar.

“Wow, I never realized how much technology goes into chocolate-tasting,” Movsesian, 23, said. “Can’t we just taste it and see if we like it or not?”

Winter break begins Dec. 15 with most university offices closed Dec. 24 – Jan. 2. Move-in day for spring housing residents is Jan. 5. Spring semester classes begin Jan. 9.