Just as I can’t remember a time before reading, I can’t remember a time before chocolate.
It may have started with chocolate milk, or chocolate ice cream. Possibly an actual piece of chocolate candy — if so, knowing my mom, it was probably See’s. I definitely remember being a big fan of hot cocoa, although at the time, that might have been at least as much because of the marshmallows as the cocoa itself. Ooooh, it might have been Oreo cookies! Love them. Yum.
Mom made German chocolate cake. A lot. Did you know the name has nothing to do with the geographic origin of the cake? You did? You knew it was originally called German’s Chocolate cake because the man who developed that particular type of dark baking chocolate was named Samuel German and they named the chocolate after him? Clever you! Have a cookie. 😉 Anyway. Loved the cake part, from licking the bowl and beaters to the baked result.
HATED the coconut-based frosting. Waste of a good cake, in my opinion. Scraping it off never seemed to make a difference, either, as if the coconut flavor infiltrated every crumb of otherwise chocolaty goodness. Also, scraping off the frosting was an insult to the cook. Or so said mom’s attitude.
On the other hand, there was her fabulous red devil’s food leave-in-pan cake. No, not red like red velvet cake — no food coloring here, simply enough cocoa to tint the rest of the ingredients with a subtle crimson undertone. She baked it in one of those white-speckled blue enameled baking pans that pretty much everyone had at the time. GraniteWare. Not made of granite. Tough as granite? Probably. Anyway, baked it, let it cool, frosted it right in the pan. Chocolate buttercream, I think. Lovely.
First time I made it, however, I didn’t properly dissolve the baking soda in the hot water. Flat cake. Might have made a nice faux brownie, if not for the salty-tasting white streaks of said undissolved baking soda. I never made that mistake again, trust me.
Candy, of course. I was a big fan of the chocolate-and-puffed-rice bars, and the plain bars you break into squares and slap onto s’mores, although I was quite possibly in fifth or sixth grade before I ever had a s’more. Mom wasn’t much into camping.
A brief digression: You’ll have noticed I’m not naming names, mostly. (a) You can probably figure out which varieties I’m talking about, and (b) I’m not in the mood to research which major chocolate makers use ethically sourced cacao and which ones use cacao from producers who rely on virtually enslaved child labor. And I hate that I even have to think about this, but I do.
Chocolate was a simpler, more innocent pleasure when I was growing up.
At some point in the proceedings, I started appreciating more interesting flavors than plain milk chocolate or mint chocolate. (Steve’s favorite ice cream, or so he always told me: mint chocolate chip, and the more virulently green, the better.) I remember once when I worked for the investment advisory firm downtown, getting a Secret Santa gift of Belgian chocolate shells filled with marzipan or ganache. Ye gods and little fishes, those were sumptuous. And one of my coworkers once got a gift of imported French chocolate truffles that she was kind enough to share, a not-quite-pyramidal box filled with odd little shapes almost like gumdrops dusted in dark cocoa, and you didn’t chew them, or at least I didn’t. I would hold one on my tongue and let it melt into a luxurious mouthful before finally swallowing.
Truly one of the most luscious things I ever put in my mouth.
I went so far as to look up the maker and see if they sold truffles in the US, but every retailer I found was so far away, the shipping would have been almost as much money as the truffles — and the truffles were not cheap.
And then one day a year or two later, what did I find when at Trader Joe’s but a display of those same not-quite-pyramidal boxes. So of course I checked the label — imported from France! — and bought a box…yes, the same melting deliciousness under a TJ’s label. Color me a very happy truffle fan! I’d buy a box and keep it in the freezer, and one or two truffles dissolving on my tongue was all the dessert I needed.
Everyone needs a bit of an indulgence now and then, don’t you think?
Then there was the time I made a chocolate cappuccino cheesecake for a house concert, and one of my friends couldn’t decide whether he loved it (CHOCOLATE!) or hated it (COFFEE! WHY DID YOU PUT COFFEE IN THE CHOCOLATE??!?!??!?!??!). Or the Oreo cheesecake that, I think, may be about the most popular cheesecake I ever made. “What did you bring?” “Oreo cheesecake.” ***happy drooling noises***
Not a huge fan of chocolate ice cream, though, ever since I read an article that said all the odds and ends of other flavors got used to make chocolate. On the other hand, Moose Tracks: vanilla ice cream, fudge ripple, mini peanut butter cups. And one of my favorite desserts is oh so simple…good vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce. A well-made hot fudge sundae is a work of art, if a messily melting one. 😉
Oh! Also at TJ’s, once upon a time but not available for years, sadly, on the shelves at the checkout stations, were little tins of ancho chile-flavored dark chocolate triangles. They still sell the little tins of chocolate triangles, but not chili-flavored. Which is too bad, in my opinion, because those were awesome.
Do I need to mention that Chocolat is one of my favorite books? (Also a fave movie, but I can’t look at them the same way due to the way they changed the book for the film. But that might be another post…)
I guess you’ve figured out by now that, as far as I’m concerned, chocolate is a good thing. A very, very good thing.