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The Theory of Chocolate

I have a theory that the reason we will munch on a Mars Bar (other chocolate snack foods are acceptable and available; another personal favourite is the Fruit and Nut bar) is that they are consistent. If you nibble a chocolate button it is going to taste of chocolate. Although possibly not button. Hopefully. If you found it down the arm of the chair then I’m afraid I would just chew and not think about it.

So, back to the theory of chocolate. It’s consistent. Nutritionists everywhere need to take note. If its dark it will have a rich bitterness, almost a dryness. If its cheap it will be cheerful and sticky. It might be in brick or square form, easy to snap and carrying a sense of physical strength with it.

If it’s an orange however, you are on dangerous ground. Oranges have only two consistent attributes. They are round (or roundish) and they are orange. I remember oranges when I was a child in (all together now) the 70s and they were globes of unctious and juicy delight. Their flavour had the citrus vitality that seemed to be promised by the orange colour of a felt tip pen I had, one of a rainbow set that nestled in a foldover plastic wallet. Anything this colour would taste of sun and heat, of flowers and light. The juice of these 1970s oranges glittered down your skin as you peeled away each fruity segment.

The oranges I have had in recent years have been, almost universally, sour. Once, in a very short while, you pick a few Navel ones from the selection and they are juice bombs, exploding with flavour. You return, like Rapunzel’s father to the witch’s garden, but the juicy treasure is gone and someone has knitted some dry replicas.  I once had three oranges labelled ‘Organic Italy Ovale’. They were fairytale fruits, the like of which I have never tasted, golden and delicious (ahem!) and it appears, as accessible as the apples from the Garden of the Hesperides, as I have never encountered them since.

Apropos of that thought, apples are another case. I have no idea why anyone eats a Cox’s Orange Pippin. Bleugh. My favourites are Egremont Russet, soft and bronze skinned and lush. and the rosy red and green Spartan, bright and crisp and juicy. Sometimes. I have bought a bag of Egremont Russet only to find that they are woolly or dry or wizened, like poisoned fairy tale apples. This is the kind of fruit that puckers your face. Chocolate never puckered anyone’s face, never made them grimace with sourness. You can understand why the witch built her house out of gingerbread. It’s consistent. Plus it is square or rectangular and therefore easier for construction purposes.

I was reminded of the theory of chocolate only the other day when I bought some cherries. I love cherries but these were terrible, their life cycle was hard to furry in less than 24 hours. The handful I grabbed after tea on the evening of their purchase was a grim mouthful, slimy and sour. I realised I ought to have plumped for the oaty consistency of texture and flavour offered by the chocolate HobNob. That’s another point, you can’t dunk a cherry into your tea.

My love of cherries hails from the cherry tree that my maternal grandparents had in the back garden of their council house. Their garden was, in general, a desert wasteland of rose bushes and bare earth bordering the neat lawn with a path down the middle. My grandmother did not tolerate weeds and so the rose bushes were guarded by slug pellets. Tributaries of weedkiller sluiced their way into a surging river of chemical warfare that ran along the side wall and made druggies of the hedgehogs. Actually that might explain some of the weirder behaviour of her tortoise.

The back border however was dominated by a beautiful cherry tree and in the summer my sister Jane and I were allowed to pick the fruit. We made earrings out of it, looping the little stems over our ears and we ate more than we ever collected. They were the epitome of cherry. They had that perfume, ethereal rather than sweet and their delicate red flesh would explode in your mouth. We’d spit the pips out until they looked like a pile of miniature skulls beneath the branches of the tree.

I am not certain nowadays what the alchemy is. I have a theory, part of the theory of chocolate, that those cherries tasted good because they were from the tree in my grandmother’s garden. They were sweet and soft because it was sunny and we were happy. Behind us my granddad would be pegging out his vast tent so that we could use it as a playhouse, a dark gothic canvas mansion. The cherries tasted good sitting on the fold-out campbed inhaling the odd canvas and french chalk scents of the tent itself. The slight whiff of Perth that it held from their recent holiday watching the salmon leap and dodging the midges. Well, it’s a theory at any rate. Perhaps I need another chocolate button to complete my research.

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‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge


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