Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An essay on Chocolate

I have been scanning the internet for ways to properly articulate the relationship I have with chocolate, and I realized that there isn't one. Here is a brief piece that I submitted in a writing community to explain that chocolate should never be categorized as "candy"

There is a big difference between candy and chocolate; the only commonality is their sugar content. Candy – the billion dollar industry – is meant for children. Brightly packaged, customized for every holiday, and sold alongside beloved cartoon characters -- candy is designed to delight the inner five year old. It is sweet, sour, gooey, crunchy, and colorful all in one temporary bite. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll steal a peanut butter cup from a child’s Halloween stash without hesitation, but I don’t BUY candy. I didn’t buy candy until I became a teacher anyways, when I realized that the promise of a sugary reward was highly motivational for teenagers. I have seen some of the best group work produced just to earn one Jolley Rancher. When I upped the ante to HiChews? Amazing results.
Candy is bribery. It is sent in the middle of teacher appreciation week, it is set in front of me in training meetings, it is in a wicker basket on the counter of the local printer’s shop. Suddenly the tables turn as I recognize the motivation factor to be better and better, and I know that I have been caught. If someone gives me candy, it means that they want something from me.

There is candy, and then there is chocolate. Hold the sweet tarts, give me the good stuff.

“If chocolate could sing, it would sound like Josh Groban.”

I could mention other clich├ęs to describe the unique relationship between a woman and her chocolate, but you need look no further than a Cathy cartoon. A stressed out woman wearing a bathrobe and exclamation points above her head with the unspoken caption: Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.

No one gives me chocolate, I buy it. To me, chocolate is therapy. As a smooth piece of it melts away on my tongue, so do my problems. I contemplate nothing of what needs to be done, instead I push pause on it all until there is nothing left to dissolve in my mouth. When I’ve had a day full of students asking for extra credit or a living room full of my husband’s shoes, I choose to ignore it all. Just for five more minutes. I open my chocolate in secret, pulling it out of my secret hiding place, usually in my desk under the post it notes or away from my family behind some girly-smelling lotion. Chocolate is my trusted confidant, it is not meant to make me accept a new protocol or coerce me into any more favors than I already do for other people. Any over packaging of is pointless; bright colors do not belong nor do they entice the seeker. After a day of unknowns gone unexpectedly awry, this is my moment knowing exactly what is going to happen next. I open my soul, not to a therapist, but to myself as I open the small foil package -- I have great hours and bill very reasonably.

This escapism requires a very specific kind of chocolate; I prefer mine pure -- chocolate isn't some cheap thrill mixed with coconut or any other nut.  I don’t like the intensely dark model that is rising in popularity; I like my chocolate like I like my superhero movies, dark enough to be interesting but not so dark that I need extra time to recover. A good sampling will have a clean break when bitten into, or a satisfying SNAP when divided. Chocolate is complex, there is more to it than that one sweet note of its sugary cousin; it is bitter and sweet and salty and smooth all at the same time. The flavors should not conflict, no, they should build on one another to create an altogether poetic experience in your mouth as the overall impression of roasted cocoa beans remains on your tongue long after the bite is over. The taste that lasts far longer than the fleeting initial contact is not the sweetness, but a pleasant flowery bitterness reminding me it is okay to take a break.  All of this describes one perfect moment, when the world can take a back seat. There is a difference between candy and chocolate.

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