Dear Reader: I am re-posting this piece because, well, this is chocolate’s week, right? In addition to being an Urbane Grandmother, I ‘m a chocolate educator so how could I resist? Happy Valentine’s Day!
Alas, pity the poor chocolate-loving grandparent! What are we to do when our children insist that our grandchildren must not eat sweets – specifically chocolate? Their good health is of paramount importance and their parent’s wishes must be respected. But, major health issues aside, we must reason for the importance of a bit of chocolate from time to time. A little something-something to soften the impact of life’s rocky road, as it were. And for the importance of including chocolate for children in the celebrations of our lives.
Chocolate walked into my life when I was 7 years old. If you were to ask any San Franciscan of a certain age if they remember Blum’s they will reply with a quick “I loved Blum’s…did you ever have the …. fill-in-the-blank?’. For some it was the Coffee Crunch Cake (still available here.). For others, like me, it was the Hot Fudge Sundae (HFS). This was no ordinary sundae. This was the iconic HFS to which all the others I have consumed in the past 40 years have been measured. A tall parfait glass was filled one quarter full with hot fudge. Scoops of vanilla ice cream next, more hot fudge, real whipped cream, toasted nuts and, of course, a cherry on top. But what set this HFS apart was the stainless steel pitcher of extra hot fudge that accompanied each order. Dark, thick, chocolate sauce that hardened when it hit the cold ice cream and turned into fudge. It was sensory overload. The hot sauce was the perfect foil to the cold ice cream. The crisp nuts provided just the right resistance and contrast to the smooth whipped cream. The trick was to get a spoonful of cold ice cream, hot sauce, whipped cream and crunchy nuts in your mouth at one time. All the while the clock was ticking. Linger too long and the entire concoction melted into a brown soupy mess.
I know that Blum’s HFS would not have loomed so large in my memory if I was allowed to have one any time I wanted. I only had them a few times a year – during the holidays after a performance of the Nutcracker Suite or as a reward for a great report card. Which is just as well. Too much of a good (and chocolate) thing is just that – too much. The special becomes ordinary and mundane. The concept of a special treat disappears because life becomes just one big sugar high.
Blum’s Hot Fudge Sundae conjures up a feeling of happiness in the soul of this old child. A happiness brought on by the memory of generous, kind adults who wanted to acknowledge my accomplishments or celebrate our time together. Since the sense of smell, and therefore taste, is our longest memory, I propose we gift our grandchildren with the transformational experience of a piece of delicious chocolate early on. For it will be the sense memory of that lovely piece of chocolate and their time with you that will get them through the hard times later on in life. They may not remember that you were the first to give them the gift of the joy of chocolate but somehow you will be there every time they savor a chocolate confection.