Doc, Meet Equal Exchange

I always need to know where things in my mind originate. Obsessively.

Not the organic, billowing creations of fantasy that incessantly bubble inside my head, but rather my life’s decisions and emotions.  I believe that who we are today was molded by what we experienced long ago as wee ones.  Let us begin our sugar psychology session together:  you are getting very sleepy….very sleepy and very hungry…very hungry…

…I remember sitting down at the table in his quaint kitchen and waiting.  I would stare inquisitively at the remaining portions of Slovak pastry on the plate in the center of the table wondering why anyone would want to make their dessert selection something with an obvious lack of anything powerfully sugary or enticingly colorful. And, after resolving that this must be the choice of grandpa-like people, I further wondered how you could show such composure as to return the surviving half to a position of such prominent visibility that would taunt you with every pass through the house?

My grandpa, with such subtle excitement that only his granddaughters would recognize as joy, reached for our usual crusty bread wrapped in deliciously crinkly paper from the local bakery.  With much care, he sliced and distributed us each only a half of a slice at which point was still easily the size of our heads.  He would return once more, this time from the fridge, with a paper tub of white gold:  unsalted butter.   Here there were no rules.  No limits for the young yearning for that instant satisfaction and self-indulgent excessiveness that a child desires for their selected interests.  I would proudly, and with no fear of repercussions from my disagreeable mother, take my knife to that cold tub and draw it slowly across its surface creating such a breathtaking rippling and curling effect as enticing as those seductive ice cream commercials where the cold treat would slowly succumb to the warm scoop in front of the camera.  I perfected the magic 2:1 butter to bread ratio at his table where, with each bite, the creamy butter would melt into the warmth of the crumb and fall apart like an expensive delicacy in my mouth.

Finishing my butter…I mean butter and bread, we would get rewarded with the pristine white box that my grandpa kept annoyingly on the shelf in the fridge just out of reach of my oldest sister:  the candy box.  He would place it on the table equidistant from the three of us and we’d proceed to lean peacefully over our established territory at the table to see what delicious selections were available this visit in the assorted chocolates box.  Although they preferred dark chocolate, it was as if my grandparents always thought of us when they purchased their candy, selecting a bipartisan arrangement of both dark and milk chocolate treats.  To me, at that time, the dark chocolate pieces were purely decoys and cooperative members of my alliance to distract my little sister, who had yet to discover how to identify the ones she liked, all of which were of milk chocolate descent.  I would scan over the mounded raisin clusters and fancy swirly-topped bon bons to locate that pale green and rich chocolate sandwich candy, the only confection I would eat in such a deep shade of cocoa.  No greater a size than a small matchbook, it always waited for me nestled primly in its fluted white paper cup proudly displaying it’s green and brown edges.  My grandpa would always help me get there first as I think he knew they were my favorites as much as his.  We would snap through our cold, minty squares together and exchange appropriately similar chocolate-tinged smiles…

.…you are feeling very awake…very awake …..very awake and very- well, hungry still since you’ve been reading this whole time.  Sorry about that.

Fortunately, this memory did accomplish two things:  1.  I now know why my affinity for creamy white frosting leads me to arrange my forked bites of cake in a 2:1 ratio of frosting to cake and 2.  Why I refuse to eat most chocolate unless it has just awoken from a long nap in my fridge, especially that magnificent bar that takes me right back to my Grandpa’s table:  my Equal Exchange Organic Mint Chocolate Bar.

This satisfyingly sizable bar comes appropriately wrapped in two layers of protection.  The first of which is a beautiful exterior wrapping of pale, almost faded vintage mint green and mellow chocolate brown that prepares your stomach for the flavors your eyes have registered.  The second, a white, thick plastic to what I can describe as the most gourmet wrapping a ho-ho could ever dream, gives way to the prized item itself.

After the final sealing has been shed, the faint hint of mint that originally seeped through the packaging has now fully taken over the entire room. The smell and taste of this chocolate does not come from the same family as its commercial cousin whose glowing white center and harsh, cooling sensation whip your taste buds to surrender.  The mint here comes in as a soothing softness, disguised completely in chocolate and makes a compatible mate with the cocoa flavor rather than aggressively overpowering it.

At 67% dark cocoa, this candy is seriously luxe and rich in its appearance.  With imprints of strong blocks of smooth, ridged surfaces, this bar is surely a rare treasure for currency in some wonderful chocolate fantasy world.  It is a sheet of printed chocolate gold.   Schools of black flecks swim just beneath the chocolate’s surface frozen in time.

From the fridge, each bite produces a snap and then small crunches as you delightedly realize that this elegant bar contains shards of beautiful flavor-packed peppermint crisps that glisten in recognition if properly angled in the light.  These crisps add the excitement and surprise whose absence have kept me away from this flavor profile for so long.  I have yet to have any guest decline a second piece after the first has been finished.

Both the chocolate and mint flavor arrive and depart in slow harmony, lingering softly long after the last bite has been taken. To finish a bar in one sitting seems disrespectful.  These pieces are to be savored and remembered….just like our family food memories.  I thank Equal Exchange for helping me hold on to this one.

After that deep dive into the depths of my consciousness to discover the origin of some of my habits, I hope we have all learned one thing together:  Don’t send a therapist to do the job of a $4 chocolate bar.

And oh yeah, go get yourself an Equal Exchange Organic Mint Chocolate Bar.

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