For Bloomingdale resident Nancy Slade, chocolate isn't an occasional treat relegated to Christmas stockings and Easter baskets.
"Chocolate is my passion," she said. "I am a true chocoholic. Just the word, 'chocolate,' brings a smile to my face."
However, Slade isn't content to simply sample her favorite food anywhere and anytime she has a chance.
Instead, she's written a book about her passion now available for purchase.
Slade chose to premier her A Guidebook to Chocoholics with a book signing at her favorite local chocolate shop Sept. 21, 1048 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico.
A crowd of fellow chocolate lovers were on hand to purchase copies of the book and sample chocolates.
Slade said her son, Robert, came up with the idea of writing a book about her passion for chocolate after she retired as the director of religious education at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico.
"My son suggested I combine my love for chocolate with the extra time I now have, so it seemed logical to visit places that specialize in the rich, sweet, melt-in-my-mouth goodness I can’t live without," said Slade.
"I gathered information and decided to write a book about the experience so other chocoholics could have a readily available guide to many of the chocolate offerings that are out there waiting for us," she said. "I had to do a lot of research for A Guidebook for Chocoholics, and it was all very tasty!
There are 20 chapters in the book that cover topics such as the origins of chocolate (dating back to 1100 B.C.); types of cocoa beans and how they are processed; bean-to-bar chocolate makers and chocolatiers; chocolate baked goods, ice cream and desserts; chocolate beverages; nonedible chocolate items; chocolate museums, tours and vacations; chocolate in literature, film, music and art; chocolate organizations; and the health benefits of chocolate.
"I supplement it all with lively anecdotes about my own love of the treat," she said.
She also included a few recipes from family, friends and other chocoholics who’ve "kept me in chocolate” all these years.
Among those included in the book is Bloomingdale High School graduate Sarah Beth Shirina who started her own cake-making business.
"I found out three months ago I'd be featured in the book, and I was really surprised," said Shirina, who was on hand for the book signing. "I think the book is great. In fact, to thank Mrs. Slade, I brought her a chocolate butter cream cake this afternoon."
A few of the more unusual recipes are Chocolate Soup, Chocolate Ice Cubes and Chocolate Molding Clay.
"My dear friend Sue Haines shared with me her recipe for White Chocolate Treats and my cousin Sharon parted with her Kahlua®Chocolate Trifle, a particular favorite of mine. There is even a recipe for a beverage called Death by Chocolate," said Slade.
Readers also will find snippets of chocolate humor, trivia and quotes about the "food of the gods."
"For example, in 2010, the world’s largest (dark) chocolate bar weighed almost 10,000 pounds and was 10 inches thick and 18 feet long," said Slade. "From the 16th to 19th centuries, hot chocolate was valued as a medicine as well as a drink."
Slade used the excuse of writing the book to visit and correspond with chocolate makers and chocolatiers around the world.
"It was fascinating to learn about the history of their company and to hear their own story of how they became a part of the chocolate world," she said. "I devoted a chapter to chocolate shops in the Tampa Bay area, and I encourage chocolate lovers to support small business owners."
Among the local businesses featured are The Original Leena's Chocolates, Sweetie's Delights, Crumb de la Crumb Couture Bakery, Moreno Bakery in Brandon and Campbell's Dairyland in Brandon.