Chocolate, and sweets, in general, were an important part of life in our house.
On cold mornings we could often count on Mom’s rich sweet hot chocolate for breakfast, with home-made toast and real butter from our Guernsey heifer, Diamond.
I’m not sure if it was from a sense of scarcity, Mom did come up during The Great Depression, after all, or if she just liked things sweet. No matter … we could always count on a sweet treat pretty much every day of the week: cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and later, candy.
My love of baking and sweets comes directly from Mom, who took great joy and pride in her kitchen prowess. Known in those days as a ‘good plain cook’, Mom was a master of roasts, meatloaf, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes made with cream, again from Diamond.
Pies and birthday cakes were Mom’s specialties. To this day, there is no pie better, although there have been some close seconds. Her pies stood out as the high points of any family get-together. Apple, cherry, and wild blackberry, pumpkin, and the cream pies: lemon meringue, banana cream, and, of course, chocolate cream.
My 10th birthday cake: chocolate with a meringue icing, with each candle cradled in a dollop of pastel meringue: aqua, pink, lavender, sky-blue … a masterpiece! We even have Mom’s super-8 footage of this cousin- and frosting-enshrouded event.
My very first memory of chocolate — around the age of three — centers on a discovery in the upper reaches of our kitchen cupboard. This was obviously not my first chocolate experience, because I definitely knew, or thought I knew, what that sweet, dark brown substance was.
I recall the surreptitious pleasure of finding this sweet treat. Not sure where Mom was in that moment, but I savored its chocolaty flavor and was puzzled by the look of horror that passed over her face when I confessed my indulgence.
Turns out, it was Mom’s private stash of Ex-Lax. That particular ‘sweet experience’ did not dent my love for chocolate. (I must have been too young to make the connection from one orifice to the other.) Far from it. I have continued on with my love for the sweet dark substance all of my life.
Chocolate is best on the dark side and is bliss-producing with coffee. It enhances the flavor of almost every fruit and I’ve even been known to add a smidgen to gravy to deepen its color and flavor.
Chocolate is a perfect solo pleasure, at the same time that it enhances friendships, stimulates passion, cements alliances, and invigorates economies.
In an informal survey of one, women out-buy men in chocolate purchases three to one. No big surprise. Chocolate molecules seem to have a special affinity for female brain receptors. After all, it was up to us to know a good thing when we found it. The survival of the species depended upon it.