A complex indulgence

Sept 2023
Phyllis Shragge

Chocolate:  silky-smooth melt-in-your mouth goodness that everyone loves.  Well, almost everyone.

Our relationship with chocolate is confusing, often complicated by our life experiences. Eating chocolate should be a simple sensory delight, but it can be skewed by our upbringing, or by our relationships or by our sense of ourselves as we progress through the years.

I’m not going to divulge my chocolate-eating regime, but I do admit that chocolate is dear to my heart.  I consider it one of the main food groups.  It’s as necessary to my day as vegetables and fruit and all those other healthy items, but I won’t detail my personal history regarding chocolate here.  Instead, I will throw this thesis into the fiction realm.  

Here goes:

Picture a 30-something female whose boyfriend has dumped her.  She’s tried drowning her sorrows in too much wine.   She lamented her misery with her girlfriends. Eventually, she seeks comfort from something that always gives her pleasure, chocolate.  Her heart goes pitter patter when she thinks about chocolate balls in shiny wrappers, especially the milk chocolate ones in red tinfoil. 

She discovers a sale on these chocolate balls, but only if bought in large quantities.  She has no choice but to buy a huge bag, right? Initially, she’s delighted with her purchase, but later she feels guilty about buying so much.  Then she has an idea.  She’ll donate most of the chocolate to women who need cheering up way more than she does.  She keeps an assortment of chocolate balls for herself, then heads to a local women’s shelter to donate the rest of the bag.  The receptionist laughs but admits the women there will be thrilled.  For the first time in weeks, she feels her tension easing.   It seems that chocolate, especially if you give a lot of it away, can be good for your mental health.  But what made her share her goodies?  It wasn’t just altruism.  She has a right to all the chocolate she wants, doesn’t she? She knows she wouldn’t eat it all in one day.  But she can’t get over that nagging uneasiness about chocolate.  It was rationed when she was a kid.  She goes home and scarves down five chocolate balls. 

Now, picture a six-year-old boy who hates broccoli.  He takes a few bites, just because his mom’s glaring at him, but he finds it revolting.  “This stuff is awful,” he screams.  

His mom’s old-fashioned. She touts chocolate as a reward.  “There’s chocolate cake for dessert,” she says, “but only if you eat your broccoli.”  When she turns away for a minute, the boy grabs a handful of broccoli and stuffs it into his pocket.  His mom thinks he ate it all and she rewards him with the cake.

He devours it, but he’s upset that he deceived his mom.  When he’s all grown up, he has a love/hate relationship with chocolate.  He feels guilty every time he eats it. 

And now, picture an elderly woman who eats dark chocolate every afternoon.  She loves chocolate.  She always has.  And she’s sure she read somewhere that dark chocolate is healthy.  

One day, when she reaches into the kitchen cupboard for her chocolate stash, she discovers there’s no more chocolate.  She would love to run out to buy some, but her car is being serviced and it’s too cold to walk to the store.  As the afternoon passes, she realizes all she can think about is chocolate. Is she addicted to it?  Can you be addicted to it?  Is chocolate her drug of choice?  Is she going through withdrawal?

She decides to cut back on chocolate.  Chocolate will always be her comfort food, but she wonders how comforting it is when it takes control of you.

She will make dinner now, and whatever she cooks, the meal will include broccoli.  No one has ever been addicted to broccoli.  It’s comforting to know that.

For many of us, chocolate seems to have the power to mess up our heads, yet it’s the best thing ever.  Just try to enjoy it.  

And follow my lead as I wolf down some chocolate chip pancakes. I will not regret a single bite.

Phyllis Shragge is a local writer, mother of five, and grandmother of five.