Other than Atkinson’s peanut-butter bars and the orange-slice jelly candies I enjoyed as a kid, I’ve been good about keeping candy at arm’s length. But when I was stationed in Italy, I discovered that European chocolatiers take chocolate to a whole new level. Had my unit not rotated to Fort Bragg early, I might now be diabetic.
All milk chocolate is good. Some is better than others. Most European chocolate is great.
If I’m going to eat chocolate, I’m content with Hershey’s Kisses or a Snicker’s bar. If you twist my arm (just a little), I’ll also eat a Butterfinger, Reese’s Pieces or M&Ms.
Chocolate, though, really doesn’t excite me the way barbecue, fried chicken, Georgia shrimp or steak do. That is, unless you offer me the best chocolate in existence, which includes Cadbury (United Kingdom), Lindt (Switzerland), Ritter Sport (Austria) or Wunderbar (Germany).
Though I am a strong advocate of American exceptionalism, I admit there are some things they do better in the old countries. Chocolate is one of them.
Those who say, “chocolate is chocolate,” either have allowed their taste buds to dry-rot or they’ve never tried a creamy, sweet morsel of German or Swiss chocolate. It’s like chocolate on steroids.
I used to buy large bars of Lindt chocolate, both their milk chocolate and their white chocolate. My wife still prefers the white chocolate. It’s so rich, eating two or three chunks of it gave me the heebeegeebees.
No, I don’t know what heebeegeebees are. My daddy told me about them when I was little, and I’ve often found myself hit with a rushing feeling, like something between hyperglycemic shock and brain freeze from eating too much ice cream too fast.
It’s difficult to understand how they get so much flavor packed into a single piece of chocolate.
It’s such a concentration of creamy sweetness, I dare not use a chunk of Ritter Sport to replace the American milk chocolate that’s a part of my chili recipe. Instead of toning down the spiciness, I suspect it would re-flavor the entire pot, turning it into a chocolaty dessert.
I recall that whenever I bought one of these chocolate bars, it lasted several weeks. That was well before we had our youngest daughter, whom I think has never heard of heebeegeebees.
She’s the kind of chocolate lover who requests for her birthday a chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream smothered with chocolate syrup.
Chocolate has a very short shelf life in our house when she’s home from Bible college. She did not get this uncontrolled desire for chocolate from her parents.
This year, my wife and I gave each other boxes of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, but ate little. Our daughter came home for spring break the following month. Before we took her back to school a week later, the chocolate “problem” wasn’t a problem anymore.
She spent this past summer on a mission trip in Siberia. When she returned, she brought with her Russian chocolate. I wasn’t surprised that it’s just as good as European chocolate.
I ate one piece then decided I didn’t need to eat supper that evening.
Murray’s food column appears weekly in the Courier. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.