Last night, at about 2:00 a.m I woke up and couldn’t go back to
sleep. Normally I give myself an hour of trying to go back to sleep
before I give up and go downstairs to watch TV. Last night I knew it
just wasn’t gonna happen.
It was warm in the living room and our two Portugese water dogs, Stachmo and Gabby followed me, hopped up on the couch, and snuggled close. After five minutes of channel surfing, I landed on a documentary with the intriguing title: The Chocolate Wars. It was about the rivalry between the altruistic Milton Hershey and the odious Forrest Mars, son of Frank Mars, the founder of Mars Candy Company.
Trick or treating in Maine in the 60's was lovely...Simple costumes that we worked diligently on for at least a week. planning, using scraps of material from the tailor's discard bin at our parent's dry cleaning business. Stapling and glueing, borrowing our mother make-up when she wasn't looking because she didn't appreciate her red lipstick being used to cover such a large area of our face that it suddenly was only 1 inch tall when she opened it to use the day after Halloween.
We never had warnings to not wear dark clothes or have to check our bag of candy for dangerous anything. All we had to worry about was which house would have the best candy and goodies. We carefully planned it out by the street, starting our canvasing just as it was getting dark with large decorated grocery bag in hand and always a costume that was overly long and easy to trip over. We crossed street after street or passed piles of burning leaves that everyone always had burning eerily in front of their house.
I go to Pasadena often because my younger daughter’s cheer team practices there. Yes, I spawned a cheerleader because my parents don’t have enough to laugh about in heaven. It’s given me a chance to explore Old Pasadena and I’ve been loving it. But the fact that “Of all the Gin Joints” so to speak, I mean that Little Flower Candy Company just happened to open a bakery in Pasadena was just dumb luck for me. The building is an art deco cubby that reveals itself as you’re zooming along what looks like a residential area. Pasadena is funny that way.
I love chocolate. I have always loved chocolate. I have lived my life by the principle, So much chocolate, so little time. The expansiveness of my love of chocolate is such that it would be impossible for me to name a favorite – it would be like asking me to pick a favorite among my children. (Or maybe not exactly like that; after all, I only have one child).
On the other hand, if you asked me to name three of my favorite chocolate moments: Life begins with Hershey's kisses and chocolate bars, in my case, Nestle's Crunch, Three Musketeers, Milky Way, Cup-O-Gold (a chocolate shell with embedded cocoanut, filled with a gooey white cream that was supposedly marshmallow but tasted like the residue of some lab experiment gone terribly wrong) and, most significantly, the Mounds Bar.
Candy has been a bond between me and my pal Joy since we first became best friends in sixth grade at Beverly Vista Elementary School in Beverly Hills, California. Sure, there’s been humor, loyalty, shared heart-throbs, and tears…but from the get-go, there were shared Nestle Crunch candy bars filled with crinkly chocolate that we bought every day as we walked home from school together. It became a ritual, peeling off the blue and white wrapper, then the foil, and eating the crunchy bar while hysterically laughing over some inside joke that was funny only to ourselves. But it was better that way.
My husband Mike points out that the room goes silent as I watch a quivering gooey strand of icing bridge a hunk of pastry being pried apart by delicate hands in an Entenman's commercial. And when a pool of thick, rich Dove chocolate swirls around and folds itself magically over a brick of vanilla ice cream, my eyes glaze over. Then, when the caramel and chocolate of a Milky Way is fully exposed in delectable close up, my jaw goes slack. He tells me to face it: these commercials are, for me, like watching porn. Yes, I embarrassedly admit that I have fallen prey to the sexualized enticements of sugary things.
I am addicted to chocolate. I don't mean that I just like to eat chocolate, I have to eat chocolate. There is no twelve step program, there are no support groups but I know it is genetic. My mother is also addicted to chocolate as are two of my six little nieces. Sometimes the four of us sit around the kitchen table in silence eating chocolate. I am the enabler. I buy chocolate every time I pass through a duty free store in an airport. I stop in every bakery I see to buy anything chocolate they have. I know exactly where all the nice chocolate shops are in New York City. You get my point?
It happens every year. About a month before Christmas, I buy at least a couple of boxes of little candy canes. I have plans to hang them over the edge of cups of hot cocoa. I place a large bowl of them on the kitchen island, ready to be snatched up and chewed. There are all kinds of ways I use them during the holidays. But, it never fails. I always buy way too many. And, every year at this time, I pull out the leftover candy canes and begin to stir them into cookie dough. This year is no different. But this year, the cookies are Italian-style twice-baked cookies – biscotti.
Wednesday was a special day in my house when I was a child. My father was (and still is) a pharmacist. To help make ends meet, he worked a second job on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons at a local drug store instead of his usual 9-5 gig at the area hospital. Thirty years ago being a pharmacist didn’t bring in the big bucks it does today and with four kids, he had his hands full. He was never home until long after dinner on Wednesdays and we were always excited for his return, partly because he brought with him our weekly chocolate treat – plain M&Ms.
Here are three little words that might give the staunchest snacker pause: Chocolate-covered bacon.
It sounds so wrong. But it tastes just right, says Joseph Marini III, a fourth-generation candy maker who is selling the bacon bonbons at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk seaside amusement park.
"It's not just for breakfast anymore," he says with a grin. And this isn't just a wacky West Coast thing.
This year, Famous Dave's at the Minnesota State Fair is rolling out Pig Lickers - dark chocolate-covered bacon pieces sprinkled with sea salt.
by David Latt
London - British Isles
by Nancy Ellison