There’s no doubt about it. Chocolate has helped make me the man I am today. That’s no knock on my parents. Heck, they’re the ones that introduced me to the stuff at an early age and that’s where the trouble started.
I was about four when my mother received a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates from all of us “boys.” That being my dad, who picked it out and paid for it, my brother and me. My mother was generous with her gift, allowing us each a piece a day. After a couple of days, she noticed the math wasn’t working out. Too many pieces were missing. When she asked who was slipping an extra piece, we both did what any four and twelve-year-old would do: we pointed at each other, showing at an early age that both of us could be cut out for a career in politics. Yet only one of us was telling the truth.
My brother was determined to clear his name and, sad to say, he was able to do so albeit several months later. He decided to take a tip from our revenuer father and pull a stake out. With family camera in hand, he hid in the shadows of kiddom watching the heart-shaped treasure chest. Mind you, this was back in the day when you had film in the camera and had to send it off to be developed so satisfaction wasn’t instant like it is today.
When the photos arrived, there I was with chocolate dripping down my chin. Not my finest moment. I got in trouble for lying and stealing, but reform comes hard. I did not learn from this lesson and repent. I was caught in the clutches of the sweet treat that the Aztecs thought was so precious that they even used cacao beans as money. On that scale, a Hersey Bar would count as a one-hundred-dollar bill.
My quest for chocolate continued through my growing years. It was my driving force on Halloween. I would score a big enough haul to last me until the start of Christmas baking season. Then there would be another influx of chocolate infused into a variety of cookies.
Another confession: cookies are also kryptonite to me. I was called a cookie monster from time to time as a kid. In adulthood, I have taken the issue into my own oven mitts by taking up baking. I’m like “Breaking Bad” but with cookie dough. Which I guess would make it “Baking Bad.”
In the elementary school years, I was like a Spanish conquistador and my gold was chocolate. It was my reward when I took bottles found along the side of the road to be turned into coinage. When I worked at a movie theatre, we had to clean the theatres after each show. In doing so, I would sometimes find a three-pack of Reese’s with one or two left behind. How could someone do such a thing? I felt it my moral obligation to eat the leftovers and live up to my motto of “no cups left behind.”
Speaking of Reese’s peanut butter cups, they were a rare delicacy. We hardly ever had them except at the movies or at Easter. But mom occasionally bought Brach’s chocolate stars. They would be deposited into a fancy glass candy dish that had a lid. 007 was never as stealthy as I when it came to lifting the lid and replacing it without making a sound. Then it was off to the panty with a fistful of stars. Opening the peanut butter with the same stealth, I’d dip the stars in like chips in salsa. And there you have it: redneck Reese’s cups. I was a regular chocolate MacGyver.
When the dish was empty, I would scour the kitchen pantry for any morsel of this precious treat. Mom’s supply of chocolate chips was an easy target. But when they were depleted, I had to dig deeper. Once I found a small plastic container filled with little squares wrapped in foil. Jackpot! The excitement was quickly extinguished when I unwrapped one and popped it in my mouth. That’s when I discovered what a bouillon cube tastes like. It came out as quickly as it went in. Such are the pitfalls of not being old enough to read.
I have refined my taste in chocolate over the years. In my younger days (ugh…terms like that and “for a man your age” hurt), any ole chocolate would do. But I’ve learned to sift the first tier treats from the second and third. No more of that no-name stuff that tastes like it is made from plastic. While I prefer dark chocolate, my every day go-to is a good ole peanut M&M. Not as good as Godiva or Ghirardelli, but certainly more affordable and the peanuts almost make it healthy. Protein is a good thing.
It would also be this addiction that would get me into some trouble at the theater when one day a new young lady joined the staff behind the concession stand. I didn’t really notice her at first. But one day she brought in a leftover chocolate chip cookie cake. That got my attention. Later we struck up a conversation and I mentioned that perhaps we might go out sometime. She agreed but I never got her number.
One morning a few days later, the phone rang. It was her inviting me to lunch. For the younger set wondering how she was able to call me since we hadn’t exchanged digits, in those dark times cell phones did not exist. We had land lines. We also had this handy reference guide called a phonebook where you could look up someone’s name and get their number. But I digress.
When I arrived at her house, she was just pulling a tray of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Guys keep your guard up. Women will find your weakness and exploit it.
In all fairness, this young lady was attractive and smart, and she still is. I love the conversations we have about all sorts of subjects. Her wit and intellect keep me intrigued. But the truth is she didn’t have to say a word…she had me at “chocolate.”
It wasn’t until shortly after this past Halloween that I realized I may have a problem. I had purchased a bag of miniature candy bars. Not the fun size. Smaller. So much so that they are close in size to the aforementioned bullion cubes. The bag held 125 pieces all of which were still in the bowl by the door the next day since we didn’t get any trick or treaters. Doing the math, I figured there I could eat two pieces a day until Christmas cookie season with some to spare. That was not to be.
I arrived home after work one afternoon anticipating a couple of miniature Snickers only to find they were gone! I searched the panty thinking my wife may have put them there to get them out of the way. I was wrong. She had taken them to work to share with her office and save both of us from their clutches.
It was like a punch in the gut. I knew I had to do something. So, I searched the panty and found some chocolate chips. They were hiding behind the bouillon cubes.
My name is Bill and I’m a chocoholic.