A match made in sweet, salty heaven

Soulmates: peanut butter and chocolate

Many lunch periods have been spent in heated debate, with one friend turning against the other, arguing about food. Whether it be pickle juice, olives, cheese or peanut butter and chocolate, my friends all have strong opinions.

“[Peanut butter and chocolate] just don’t go together. It’s like mixing some really good chicken — good on its own— with grape juice — also really good on its own. But the meeting of the two is just revolting,” a pal of mine argued.

One opinion I simply cannot wrap my head around is the one that chocolate and peanut butter don’t go together, when they so obviously do. Like shampoo and conditioner, like rain and hot chocolate, chocolate and peanut butter are a power dynamo.

My opinion is not unfounded; there is a science as to why chocolate and peanut butter go together. According to Gregory Ziegler, a Pennsylvania State University professor of food science, the combination causes something called “dynamic sensory contrast.” In other words, the fact that chocolate and peanut butter have such different textures and tastes is actually the reason they go so well together — opposites really do attract.

Chocolate and peanut butter also produce a mouth-watering combination because of something called the Maillard reaction. Don’t let these fancy sounding concepts fool you. The Maillard reaction occurs when you do things like grill steak or bake bread. The browning that happens creates a chemical reaction that creates a taste that uniquely draws the eater. The stark contrast between the two strong flavors of roasted peanuts and roasted cocoa beans makes them blend seamlessly.

I’m no expert on love, but it seems to me that sometimes the best matches are the unexpected ones. On Valentine’s Day, it feels like we’re stuck searching for the best gift, the best date or the best day — all of which are based on societal expectations.

Perhaps this is a lesson to embrace the unconventional and bring some of that dynamic sensory contrast into our own lives, whether it be through creative expression of appreciation for a loved one or through an interesting snack.