Chocolate Matters

by Mel Gilden

It's the winter holidays, Christmas and New Years and so on, and a man's mind turns to what else? — chocolate. (I have friends who claim my mind long ago turned to something that is not very good for thinking. But that's a different essay.)

Some years ago I worked as a copy messenger for the Los Angeles Times. As a copy messenger I went all over the Times building picking stuff up and dropping it off. Like many of the other copy messengers, I became friendly with the phone operators and secretaries.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, fancy boxes of candy began to sprout like mushrooms all over the Times building on the desks of secretaries and phone operators. As we ventured deeper into the holiday season, more and more boxes appeared — so many, in fact, that the recipients of those boxes began to plead with anyone who passed to please take a piece or two or six. Chocolate was a drug on the market. Even the people most addicted to chocolate found that their demand could not keep up with the supply.

Knowing that I would soon look like a Sumo wrestler if I ate all the chocolate offered to me, I made a deal with myself: I would eat only home made goods. This worked pretty well, though occasionally I could not ignore the siren call of a chocolate cube whether it contained crème, nuts, or a liquid cherry. But I never ate enough chocolate to make me sick.

Many years before my stint at the big city daily, I was taken, along with a lot of other Cub Scouts, to see one of the popular movies of the day, a little item called Windjammer. It was about a Scandinavian navy ship that traveled the world under sail, training the crew in seamanship and spreading good will to the places they visited. I know that doesn't sound like much of a money-maker, but the movie was produced in Cinerama, which was a very big deal at the time.

Like many of the other Scouts I had snack money in my pocket. With it I purchased the largest chocolate bar I had ever seen. It may have cost as much as a dollar (this was, as I said, a long time ago) and was as big as a cookie sheet — or so it seemed to me then. I bit into it, eagerly at first, but as time went on the sweet chocolate was less and less appealing. And the aluminum foil the bar was wrapped in felt funny in my mouth when I licked it by accident. And though I couldn't finish the bar myself — not then, anyway — I was such a greedy gut that I refused to share.

Biggest chocolate bar

The biggest chocolate bar in the world — 6 tons.

This experience stood me in good stead during Christmas at the LA Times, and at any Christmas parties I may attend now.  I still like chocolate. But I don't have to be reminded that a bonbon is as good as a feast.