A photograph stashed away in a shoebox in the house I grew up in contains a photograph of me, aged 3, absolutely covered in chocolate. And by covered I mean coated; my whole face smeared with chocolatey goodness and tiny hands bearing evidence to the origin of the sweet melted mess. This very picture is a testimony to one of my favourite sayings 'If you get chocolate on your fingers, you're not eating it fast enough!'. Luckily, I learn from my mistakes.
My entire childhood is sprinkled with chocolate-flavoured memories. As a child, my father used to create the most elaborate Easter Egg hunts with trails leading to nooks in every part of our large farmhouse and the sprawling garden outdoors. Oats for my little sister and rice for me, we had to work hard to discover the treasures hidden in potplants, shoes, peanut butter jars, grassy hollows and even the microwave. I admire my father's creativity and dedication to the time-consuming task which was done in the wee hours of the morning. Rather ironic to me now, when I consider my father's lack of patience and self-control when there is chocolate in the house. I'm sure there's a saying which applies here... something about an apple and a tree? Anyway, I have him to thank for my impossibly sweet tooth and to this day, he is still the only person who can devour a chocolate slab faster than I can say 'sharing is caring'! The lengthy build-up of the hunt only intensified the craving which led up to that sweet moment when patience was rewarded and we both sat clad in dew-soaked pajamas, with piles of jewel-wrapped chocolate orbs on our laps, devouring the candy with chocolate-induced bliss all over our faces.
Christmas was not without it's cocoa confections, with mom choosing the easiest (and most delicious) stocking fillers from the chocolate aisle. My fondest memory, however, of Christmas and chocolate, is filled with Quality Streets. Each year we eagerly await the family gift from our most favourite neighbour – a gigantic box of Quality Streets that don't last more than a day in the antique tin my mom places them in, rendering the effort completely pointless. After observing the Quality Street-eating habits of the rest of the family, and taking note that the orange-centred gems always got left behind, I resolved to force myself to like them (an evil laugh would be appropriate here as my chocolate genius knows no bounds!). I'm pretty sure this is the ultimate definition of gluttony, a deadly sin I am unashamedly guilty of. The bright orange enrobed Quality Streets were, however, the beginning of my love affair with dark chocolate, for which I am eternally grateful for, and led to the ultimate epiphany that it was in fact good for you. Chocolate is a vegetable. It comes from a bean. No scientists required thank you very much.
Growing up, Fridays were chocolate days. Standing in the sweetest part of Pick 'n Pay, we'd be given our weekly pocket money – which was always oddly enough, the exact amount for a Cadbury's bar, and allowed to choose an entire slab of 'a glass and a half' for ourselves. Yes, we were perfectly aware that our mom was awesome. As we got older, and Cadbury's more expensive, I thought my prayers had been answered when a chocolate factory shop aptly named 'Sweet Dreams' opened up on the route home from school. Shelves and shelves piled with chocolate bars rejected by factory standards but welcomed with an open mouth by me. And yes, when it comes to chocolate, I unashamedly have no standards. At least not when it comes to looks.
High School presented its own set of sweet memories. I fondly remember the Tempo's and P.S bars my first boyfriend bought me on an almost daily basis – each with a little handwritten note stapled to the wrapper as if professing his undying love to me should I indeed get fat from said chocolate. My obsession with chocolate ran so deep that each teenage year was celebrated with it – the best of which was my sweet16th birthday – an apt name indeed. It consisted of a mass of giggling girls sprawled over the house in pink pajamas with a midnight chocolate fondue. Through trial and error (and there was lots of it) I have learnt that my favourite delights to drown in molten chocolate are my sister's homemade toasted coconut marshmallows, soft Wilson's toffies, tuisnywerheid koeksisters and Romany Creams. I've also learnt that half-way in, skewers and dippers should be abandoned and the fondue rather tackled with a spoon. That is how I roll.
I learned that although Cadbury had served me well in my youth (or rather I had served its business well), my palate had grown more sophisticated and so I professed Lindt the love of my life. And in true teenage style, promptly changed the love of my life when I discovered artisan boutique chocolates such as Green & Blacks, Honest and our very own locally made DV Chocolate (Sorry Valhrona and Felchin!) Don't get me wrong, I'm still guilty of infidelity on occasion. When that purple wrapper catches my attention while I'm standing in a queue at Spar with a trolleyfull of groceries, I don't hesitate for a second but rather quickly devour the evidence (and offending wrapper) in the car ride on the way home (oh the shame!). But my loyalties still lie with dark 70% plus chocolate. This passion was more deeply intrenched in me when I first watched a vivacious Juliet enchant the French towns people and viewers alike with her seductive truffles and oozing rich Mayan hot chocolate in the beautiful film, Chocolat. Johnny Depp's presence although only a minor bonus when compared to the extreme close-ups of molten chocolate and shelves of glossy pralines, cemented the motion picture at the top of my favourites list and led to my resolve that one day I too would become a professional chocoholic – I mean chocolatier. I can imagine no career more awesome than being paid to be surrounded by and tasting chocolate every day. It's a tough job but someone has to do it! But before I tackle the incredible suffering that comes with a career in chocolate, I first need to acquaint myself with this thing they call exercise...