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Devil’s Food or Taste of Heaven: Museum opens chocolate lecture series

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh presents “Devil’s Food or Taste of Heaven” on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 p.m. Join Terry Graedon, medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy, and Kit Gruelle, renowned pastry chef and certified chocoholic, as they discuss the history of chocolate, how the treatment of chocolate affects its flavor, and what recent research tells us about the health effects of chocolate. Low-fat and low-sugar chocolate samples will be available for tasting.

Terry Graedon, along with her husband Joe, published the best-selling “The People’s Pharmacy” in 1976, one of the first books providing drug and health information to consumers. Since then, the Graedons have written many more books in The People’s Pharmacy series, as well as The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper column, which is widely distributed in the United States and abroad. They also co-host an award-winning health talk show that airs weekly on more than 500 stations through public radio, in which they discuss issues relating to drugs, herbs, home remedies, vitamins and related health topics.

Pastry chef Kit Gruelle approached Graedon years ago, curious about the real nutritional value of chocolate. Gruelle’s clientele at the time consisted of participants in a local weight-loss program at Duke University who were eager to find low-fat, low-calorie desserts to curb their “urge to splurge.” Instantly inspired by their first meeting, the two women began collaborating and in 2003 produced “Chocolate Without Guilt,” a cookbook that offers “palate-pleasing solutions to the sweet, decadent and sometimes dark world of chocolate.”

Tickets are $10 ($8 for Friends) per lecture or $25 ($20 for Friends) for the entire series (3 lectures). You may purchase tickets online at tickets.naturalsciences.org or by calling 919.733.7450 x212. For additional information, contact Elizabeth Iaquinta at 919.733.7450 x352.

This is the first of three lectures complementing the Museum’s current special exhibit, “Chocolate,” which runs through September 7, 2009. This exhibit explores the plant, the products and the culture of chocolate through the lenses of science and history. You’ll begin in the rainforest with the unique cacao tree whose seeds started it all. Visit the ancient Maya civilization of Central America and discover what chocolate meant nearly 1,500 years ago. Then travel forward in time and witness chocolate’s introduction to the upper classes of European society and its transformation into a mass-produced world commodity. “Chocolate” will engage your senses and reveal facets of this sumptuous sweet that you’ve never thought about before. Exhibit tickets are $7 for Adults, $5 for Seniors (age 65+) and Students (with ID), $4 for Children (age 5-11).

Additional “Chocolate” lectures:

Chocolate Making: From Bean to Bar
Wednesday, July 15, 7 p.m.

Discover the secret of making great chocolate with Hallot Parson, co-owner and chocolate maker at Escazu Artisan Chocolates. Taste chocolate made from several varieties of bean sourced from Costa Rica and Venezuela.

Of Chocolate and Kings: The Origins and History of Chocolate in Ancient Mexico
Tuesday, September 1, 7 p.m.

Join Dorie Reents-Budet, Curator of the Art of the Ancient Americas collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for a discussion of the origins of chocolate, its social and economic roles, and its myriad recipes among the Olmecs, the Maya and the Aztecs.