Monday, March 31, 2014

My Love of Chocolate is Genetic

Chocolate lovers love to remind everyone of the health benefits of eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day. Oh, yes! The experts remind us of the antioxidants, which contain flavonoids, and the potential for stress relief, insulin control...yada, yada, yada. I have two issues with those touting the health benefits of chocolate. 

One: I am a connoisseur of MILK chocolate. Two: I don't limit my consumption to a small amount of anything I like. Houston, we have a problem.

I blame my mother. Her love affair of chocolate began when she was a very young girl. When I hear of the bleak food supply they had back then, I can understand her fascination with chocolate. There are tales of lettuce sandwiches and her joy at receiving an orange and a rubber ball ONLY at Christmas. Chocolate must have been a highlight for anyone in the forties, but especially my sweet mom, representing high-living, decadence, and indulgence. 

Her father owned a succession of five and dime stores throughout her childhood and beyond. Grandpa was a frugal man, and taught his girls early the value of a good work ethic. Child labor laws have been around since the 1800s, but there must have been exceptions for parents who had their children working in the family business.

Mom tells us stories of her training for working the candy counter. Grandpa had told his daughters and the other employees that on their first day, they could eat all of the candy they wanted, knowing that they would most likely get sick, and be cured forever of wanting to eat candy. I'm not sure how familiar Grandpa was with Mom's love for chocolate at that point. Mom made him keep his promise. She ate chocolate all day long. It didn't make her sick; it made her happy. She couldn't wait to come back to work. She would work happily, forever, under those conditions. 
More sustaining than meat? Why don't the experts point this little fact out any more?

On the second day behind the candy counter, Mom shocked her father when she inquired about the free-for-all candy eating. He set her straight immediately, explaining that he could not afford to let employees consume all of the profits by feeding them candy all day. A monster was born; not a mean monster; just a chocoholic who loves chocolate in all of its forms: bars, syrups, drinks, powders, flavorings; if it's chocolate, she loves it.

When I was little, we ate well at Mama's supper table; no lettuce sandwiches for us! We had casseroles, homemade bread, soups, and entrées. We also had dessert every single night. Chocolate cake, chocolate pie, chocolate cookies, chocolate ice cream...we loved chocolate, Mama and I. Occasionally, I can remember turning my nose up at her lemon meringue pie, but that was my little brother Danny's favorite dessert; Mama's chocolate gene skipped him somehow.

To me, chocolate was the only candy in the world. Fireballs, cellophane-wrapped butterscotch candy, wax lips, root beer barrels, Nik-L-Nips, Necco discs, and Bazooka bubble gum could all be found in the penny candy section of the Campbell's store at the north end of Main Street going out of town, but the only thing I was interested in was chocolate. I don't recall any penny candy that was creamy milk chocolate, but I remember being satisfied with the candies that were chocolate-flavored: Sixlets (the poor man's M&Ms), BB Bats, Kit Kats, and Tootsie Rolls.  

Easter, Halloween, and Christmas were jackpot times to me because of the candy available. I always went right for the big chocolate rabbit that sat prominently in my Easter basket, reaching through the colored cellophane so that I could bring him to my mouth, and bite his ears off first. Chocolate before breakfast was the best taste in the world. I always sorted my candy; I got rid of all of the jelly beans in my Easter basket, the non-chocolates in my trick-or-treat bag, and the peppermints and hard candy in my stocking. I bartered with my little brother for his chocolates, convincing him he was getting a great deal: ALL of these other candies for just a few chocolates. Danny didn't care; he just didn't like chocolate anything very much. I never understood his aversion to chocolate, but I was most grateful for it.

We didn't have quite the array of chocolate options available to us in our small town of Amherst, Virginia. I can remember going to Grandpa's store, The Amherst Department Store on Main Street, and gazing lovingly at the candy display. When I was allowed to choose a treat for myself, I would never consider anything other than chocolate. I really only remember Hershey bars, and M&Ms, and I loved them both. 

Photo Credit:
4 cents off? What a bargain! I'd buy 2!
As a little girl, I savored chocolate as much as a child could. I can still remember standing outside of the department store on the hot sidewalk, and carefully ripping the top of the dark brown wrapper off of the bag of M&Ms while waiting for my Mom. I would remind myself of the commercial's jingle I'd heard on TV, "They melt in your mouth, not in your hands." 

Sometimes I would wrap my hot little hands around the candies to test it, but I didn't want to waste too much time before putting the little disks of chocolate in my mouth. I must've eaten them one at a time at first because to this day, the only way I can get that nostalgic flavor is when I eat the first M&M. After that, to pop a handful of plain M&Ms into my mouth disappoints me; the memory fades, and that nostalgic taste disappears.

Chocolate has gotten me through cross-country road trips, college exams, hard days, and broken hearts. "It's good for what ails ya." 

Occasionally, I'll buy a fancy bar of imported dark chocolate, just to sample the exotic flavors that sound so enticing: salted caramel, orange silk, ginger, and coconut. They're not bad, but my preference will always be milk chocolate, regardless of what the experts say. 

For more samples of Hershey chocolate (stories), see Our History with Hershey Bars.


  1. I tried, tried, TRIED to love dark chocolate when loving dark chocolate became trendy (and healthier)...but it was a failure. This made me smile--glad I'm not the only one! I do, however, like a LOT of other sweet things and always have! But chocolate is first. Especially with caramel. And peanuts.

    Okay, enough, I'm on day four! And I just realized tonight is someone will choose treats and I will have to resist them.

    1. Chocolate was our writing prompt today. I have just completed my first full week without chocolate, and I questioned my sanity at tackling this prompt today. So far, so good. We can do this, Janna! When I go to town, I am going to get some more dried tart cherries to eat with some almonds. That seems to be the BEST sweet craving queller for me.

  2. You're one tough cookie to write this while fasting from sugar. Seriously. Kudos to you. It's been so long since I've thought about waxed lips (or those waxed bottle thingys). So many memories in this piece.

    I'm a chocolate lover, too. I try to stay away from it but it follows me and if it has peanut butter with it...I'm in trouble.

    1. Now that the first week is behind me, it's a LITTLE easier, but only a little. I really, really want some mini Cadbury eggs. Oooh, baby, that would be so good!


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