My love affair with chocolate has undergone many twists and upgrades. When I was nine, I got a 25-cent allowance every week. I could spend this at the five-and-dime store (that’s how old I am), selecting from a dizzying array of sweets for 3 cents apiece. When they went up to a nickel, I was appalled. When they hit 8 cents, I decided I couldn’t afford chocolate anymore. (I’m over that one.) Mind you, these were name-brand candy bars, and they were bigger than the ones you get now for 60 to 80 cents: $100,000 Bar, Snickers, Milky Way, Almond Joy.
Because I was inept in the kitchen and also because my mother didn’t keep the cocoa powder where I could get at it, I was forced to sneak-manufacture plain buttercream frosting. This diverted me from chocolate through my most zit-enriched years. (It also left long-abandoned bowls containing spoons set in hardened frosting concrete in all my dresser drawers. For some reason, I could never eat all the frosting I’d made.)
In high school, I started buying those giant Hershey bars—I forget how big they are now, but they used to be 8 oz for a dollar. I bought milk chocolate because that was all you could get in those days. For the record, I never had trouble finishing one.
Later, there was a Fannie Mae store on my route to the health club. In those days, you could buy factory seconds for a fraction of full price. Back then, Fannie Mae made chocolates with real butter and sugar. I swam every day. So, yes, I stopped in there a lot. Then Fannie Mae apparently suffered the usual ineptitude-and-greed meltdown, closed for a couple of years, then reopened with all new recipes—using vegetable oil and corn syrup. Feh. At least that cured me of eating their stuff.
It wasn’t until the mid-Oughts that classy, high-quality, uberdark chocolate became a Thing. I ran quickly through Ghirardelli, Scharffen Berger, Godiva, and other popular upmarket brands. I stopped eating chocolate with anything extra in it (fruit, nuts, chili pepper, bacon, cardamom, old truck tires, whatever). Somewhere in there I discovered that I was mildly allergic to corn syrup and soy lecithin. This means I can’t eat quite a few of the chocolate brands out there, including any chocolate at all from Trader Joe’s <snf>.
Fortunately there’s Lindt & Sprüngli, which omits the offending ingredients in several of its 3.5 oz. bars. And also, there’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, whose truffles are matched only by their peanut butter bucket, a 4oz “serious piece of candy.” My weekly wanderings used to take me past the Libertyville Rocky Mountain store, 28 miles away. Alas, I don’t go to Libertyville anymore. This makes it hard to “accidentally” drive there and buy my drug of choice.
I’m not rich enough to patronize those fancy indie chocolatiers, but I’m always open to hearing about them and enjoying vicariously. Got any recommendations? Over to you.