Family, Food and Drink

Occasional Quote of the Day: On Chocolate

My grandmother Molly could be a rather stern old lady. She was born when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, on April 16, 1898. She died in 1988, long-lived, like many in my family.

If I were to tell you just one thing about Granny, it would be this: She. Never. Gave. In. Every morning she was even remotely able, she got out of bed, put on her combinations (don’t ask), hauled and strapped herself into her corset and girdle, put on her old-fashioned womanly clothes, did her hair and her face, and went out to meet the day.

Most who knew her, I’m sure, thought of her as a redoubtable and unyielding old lady, one it was better not to cross, a pillar of rectitude, and a stalwart of her much-loved church.

But sometimes, I knew a very different Granny. A cuddly Granny. A snuggly Granny. One who always had a space in her bed, early in the morning, for her first, and much loved, grandchild. And one whose dressing-table top drawer, located just within reach of the bed, always held a cornucopia of delights.

You see, my granny always had lots of chocolates. Chocolate bars. Chocolate buttons. Plain chocolates. Filled chocolates. Chocolate-covered fruits and nuts. Chocolates of every shape and size.

And this little girl liked nothing better on a Sunday morning than to crawl into her granny’s bed and be allowed the joy of investigating them all, and to pick out one or two as a treat.

It ruined me for life.

But it probably explains why, as a child, Easter was my favorite Church holiday, up to, and including, even Christmas.

Yes, I loved the children’s service at Granny’s parish church. I loved the hymns, the music (sometimes Grandpa played the organ) and the rituals. I loved the flowers, and the scents. I loved coming back to Granny’s for Sunday lunch. But just as much, I confess, I loved the chocolates.

Of course, Cadbury’s, the first English company to mass-produce Easter eggs, was the home-grown favorite, as they were manufactured down the road from Granny, in Bournville, just outside Birmingham. Additionally, the cows in the field at the bottom of the garden of our own home in Worcestershire generously sent their milk off to the Cadbury factory. (Like Joseph Fry and Joseph Rowntree, two other great English chocolate makers, John Cadbury was a Quaker. Their enlightened and humane treatment of their workers, their interest in education and their workers’ living conditions, their attempts to improve the sometimes barbarous collection of the essential cocoa beans in far-flung lands, inspired their American counterpart, Milton Hershey to do likewise, a bit later on).

I don’t think the Easter egg I still dream about was a Cadbury product, though. I don’t know who made it. But it was the most beautiful and special chocolate thing I’d ever seen or eaten in my life.

It was a fairly large egg. It was a hollow egg, in two halves, perfectly fitted together. It was filled with really nice, and really delicious, chocolates. And it was decorated with candied violets and rosebuds (real ones), together with iced leaves and trailing vines. And it was wrapped in cellophane that rustled and crinkled when you touched it. And the whole thing was tied up in a huge bow with an enormous length of wide yellow ribbon. It almost makes me cry just thinking about it.

Oh, I’ve had lots of lovely chocolates in my life. And I’ve never really minded how I came by them. As Valentine gifts from my Sweetie. As presents from family members and friends who indulge my not-so-secret weakness. As surprises from admirers, probably with ulterior motives (well, maybe just one ulterior motive), who sent them, carefully packaged and boxed, through the mail. (Ha! Those were the days.) On occasion, I’m ashamed to admit, when I’ve run out, or when people have forgotten about me, I’ve even been reduced to buying them for myself. “Sad!” As I might Tweet, if were ever to do such a ridiculous thing.

But in over half a century, I’ve never seen, or tasted, a chocolate treat as magnificent, as beautiful, and as delicious as the egg that graced Granny’s table one Easter when I was about five years old.

Much time has passed since then, and, in the words of the creaky and ancient song that Granny loved so much, “Darling I am growing old.” And I doubt I’m unique in worrying about what sort of “footprint” I will leave to the world. Will I have made a difference? Will I matter? Has anyone noticed? Will anyone care?

Fortunately for me, a recent event has refreshed my optimism, and convinced me that the answer to all those questions, undeserving as I doubtless am of it, might actually be, “Yes.”

As some of you may know, I’m a granny myself, of a smart, kind, and beautiful nine-year old. She lives about 125 miles away, and I don’t see her nearly as often as I’d like. Opportunities for snuggling, therefore, are far too infrequent. No matter. Even with the limited time available to me, I’ve made my mark and done my job. I’ve ruined her for life.

A while ago, her mother told me of a conversation she’d overheard between my granddaughter and a little friend. It went something like this:

Friend: “I wish we had some chocolates.”

Granddaughter: “We should go to my granny’s house.”

Friend: “Your granny is nice.”

Granddaughter: “Yeah. She is. I love her. And, [lowers her voice to a thrilled whisper] my granny always has lots of chocolates.”

Bingo.

Game over.

Earth turns, seasons change, and the cycle begins anew. Just as it should.

Happy Easter, everyone! And Happy one-hundred-nineteenth Birthday, my chocolate-loving granny!

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