Women have always been the weaker sex when it comes to chocolate. We were hooked from the start: drinking it in secret, hiring special maids to make it and, in Mexico, demanding that it be brought to us during church services. As indulgent as it seemed at the time, women were responding to a real need for magnesium, and cocoa is bursting with it.
Now calorie-free chocolate is on the horizon. Well, almost. If you are happy to limit yourself to a purely nasal and visual experience, then the latest leap forward in the chocolate evolution is chocolate cosmetics. But will the smell alone do the trick?
Nicola Porten, from the Chocolate Society, suggests it might: "Many people regard chocolate as a treat because their first experience of chocolate was as a reward. We are so attuned to the smell of it that this alone can evoke that memory and the associated feelings."
Whatever it evoked, No 4, a perfume by Octee, pounds 35 at Harvey Nichols, certainly got a positive response from the chocolate fiends. Some thought the muskiness very sexy, and all agreed it was convincingly chocolatey. As it warms up on the skin, it is like having a Kit-Kat up your jumper without the agony of trying not to eat it.
Cosmetics to Go probably started the chocolate trend some years ago with its Saucery Bubble Bath (pounds 4.20). Rich, sweet-smelling and looking exactly like molten chocolate, this has been so popular that the company developed a whole range of additional products: Choclait (pounds 4.20), a milk-chocolate bubble bath; L'Orange (pounds 4.20), the shower-time equivalent of a Terry's Chocolate Orange; a Rich & Creamy shampoo bar (pounds 2.60); Double Choc lip balm (pounds 4.20) and, most sensuous, Knights in White Chocolate massage bar (pounds 3.10).
Caroline Sarll, founder and Chief Truffle of Chocoholics Unanimous, a chocolate appreciation society, regularly uses chocolate cosmetics. "New members are sent a bottle of Saucery," she says, "and I love the chocolate massage bar, though it's rather ironic really - massaging myself with chocolate to get rid of the bulky bits, which are there because I eat too much of it in the first place."
Would she give up eating chocolate and rely on her nose to satisfy her addiction? "The smell is only the foreplay. Like anything really, you can't beat actually doing it. You need the full sensual pleasure." OK, Caroline, this one's for you: more sex aid than cosmetic, Tom & Sally's Chocolate Body Paint (pounds 8.95) from Jerry's Home Store, comes complete with paintbrush and the suggestion that you "let your imagination run free". It also has the advantage of being both edible and an excuse for a work- out of sorts.
Staff at Jerry's say mostly women buy it (that magnesium again), and they slip it on to the counter as if by accident. Had they themselves ever tried it? Blushes all round. "I bought some for a friend," volunteered one. A likely story.
Chocoholics Unanimous: 01843 852244. The Chocolate Society: 01423 322230. Jerry's Home Store, 163-167 Fulham Road, London SW3 (0171-225 2246). Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge, London SW1 (0171-235 5000). Cosmetics to Go: 01202 621 966 (mail order).Reuse content