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"I started out on Burgundy but
soon hit the harder stuff."
Just Like Tom Thumb Blues - Bob Dylan.
A story of The Dark Side of the Chocolate
You know how it is. You start on something soft and then move on to the harder stuff.
They say confession is good for the soul so here goes. Apologies that this is off topic but sometimes you just have to spill the beans (cocoa beans that is).
For me it all started at college when my girlfriend at the time introduced me to Terry's All Gold. It was the first time I have ever come across a box of chocolates that was all plain; and truffle fillings. I could never look at a box of Cadbury's Roses again, milk chocolate and fondant cream fillings, yech - except maybe the purple ones with the caramel centres.
So that was me for the next few years until the Sheffield posse started expanding their territory down south. Yes Thornton's Chocolate Cabins opened a branch in Oxford. Well that was it, Terry's were history after I discovered Thornton's Continental Selection. At Thornton's I could pick my own mixture! "A quarter of plain truffles, just start at the left and work along until the bag is full". And then I would have another quarter of all plain truffles. I had to have separate bags even if I bought a full pound, because opening that next bag slowed me down (a little). I realised I had it bad when I knew that you got eight truffles to the quarter, and if one was a little light they would give you a crystallised ginger stick to make up the weight.
Then I moved to London and no longer had access to my regular dealer. There was no Thornton's branch in London. So I went cruising the wild West End and there behind Oxford Street I found Bendick's. Now I knew they did after dinner mints but what I did not know (Boy was I naive) was that they also did "Sporting And Military" chocolate. OK, it was not a truffle, it was a solid bar but it was 70% cocoa solids. This was the hard stuff! You could not chomp this you just had to let it rest on your tongue and slowly dissolve. Oh that bittersweet taste.
I should mention Green and Black's chocolate bar here. It too was 70% cocoa solids but it just wasn't the same.
Then I moved to work in the City - the heart of London's financial district. Well, you have heard about these high-rolling dealers. It's true. There behind the Stock Exchange was 'Charbonnel et Walkers'. Do you remember Carlsberg's very successful advertising campaign with the slogan "Probably the best lager in the world"? No such modesty for C et W. The window display simply declared "The BEST chocolate in the World". And it probably was. Although I have to say that Thornton's fillings have the edge. You could tell what kind of shop it was - there were no prices in the window, always a worrying sign. And the boxes on display. Heart shaped and all pink, Laura Ashley; these were not the kind of chocolates you bought your wife! So in I went, into a positively Dickensian interior, deserted but for the sound of the tinkling bell my entrance had set off. From a back room appeared an immaculately dressed youth in a pinstripe suit and white gloves. I made my request for a quarter of plain truffles and back came the response I shall never forget, "Certainly, sir, with or without nuts?".
So there you have it. Dela, we must meet sometime. I'll be standing there, 26 dollars in my hand.