University Women’s Club hosts chocolate talk

Doreen Pendgracs discusses varieties of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, offers samples

Doreen Pendgracs, founder of Chocolatour, gave a presentation at the University Women’s Club (UWC) last Friday to “educate, entertain and entice chocolate lovers to explore the world through chocolate.”

The event featured a talk by Pendgracs, author of the 2014 book Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, a lunch and chocolate samples.

The UWC was founded in 1909 by a group of women who wished to maintain contact following graduation and work to “advance women’s place in the community.”

Pendgracs noted that some believe chocolate has “the powers of an aphrodisiac,” although scientists dispute this.  

“That’s partly why roses and chocolate and wine are in the spirit of Valentine’s Day and love,” she said.

“Everybody loves chocolate, right? They say nine out of 10 people love chocolate and the tenth person’s lying.”

Pendgracs said she originally wanted to write a book on wine travel, but found that while there were many books on the subject, “nobody had ever done a book on chocolate travel.”

After touring a cacao and coffee plantation in Dominican Republic, Pendgracs took interest in the chocolate making process. She travelled to Europe to begin her research and has since visited over 20 countries to learn about chocolate. 

Sue Bishop and Ellen Peel, the current co-presidents of UWC, have both been members for at least 10 years.

Peel said that when the club started, women who pursued a university education at that time were “very unusual.” Bishop said she felt “fortunate to have been born when and where” she was.

“At the time I was growing up, it was totally normal and pretty much expected that you would go on to some kind of post-secondary education or training,” she said.

In the past 10 to 15 years, Bishop said that the club has broadened to include people who share the interests and values of the club, not just on those who have had previous university education.

Bishop called the club “a community of women who value education who come here to build friendship.” The club offers scholarships and extended education courses. 

Bishop said the club welcomes anyone to visit or take part in their events and continuing education programs, and find out whether the club “would be a place they might like to hang out.” 

Pendgracs said chocolate   festivals and events bring both chocolate makers and chocolate lovers together from around the world.  

She said her Ukrainian background taught her to “savour” food. She said chocolate should not be chewed but melted “slowly in your mouth” to allow the flavours to be released. 

She emphasized the variety of flavours chocolate can exhibit.

“Chocolate can be sweet, but it can be savoury, it can be sensual, it can be inspiring, and it also can promote love,” she said.