The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Give a dog a chocolate — why US-based expats shouldn’t use UK Chocolate Week to revive an old complaint

Continuing this month’s food-related theme — and in honor of National Chocolate Week in the UK — founding contributor Anthony Windram weighs in with some thoughts on the often contentious expat topic of American chocolate.

Though I do, like most people, enjoy a bit of chocolate, I’ve never been a connoisseur of the stuff. Any old rubbish will do for a quick fix, truth be told. I’m not one of those people looking for what percent of cocoa is in a bar. As a six year old, I remember my Nana — God bless her, then in the beginnings of dementia — had bought me a packet of chocolate from the corner shop. I can still recall the packet which, rather tellingly, was taken up with the picture of a happy dog. The chocolate inside was a little more out of the ordinary, a little grittier than normal. But it was chocolate and I was happy sat on the floor of my Nana’s living room munching away while watching TV, my mouth doubtless covered in chocolate. My dad, however, happened to notice the packet of chocolate and asked me if he could see it for a moment. Being a trusting child I made the mistake of giving him the packet of chocolate. I was never to see it again.

Nana, I was later to learn, had inadvertently purchased for me some chocolatey dog treats. However, as I recall they really weren’t too bad. Yes, the texture was more gritty than you’d prefer, but I had been as happy as Larry eating them. That should have been the moment that I realized that I was not, and never would be, a chocolate aficionado. When I was older and the only chocolate that I could find in the house was cooking chocolate, I was more than happy to snack on that, too. Coincidentally, its grittier taste reminded me of the dog treats I’d been given all those years before.

In its own way eating that chocolatey dog treat turned out to be good preparation for living in the US. The European expat now often seems to have strong views about chocolate in the US. Without any prompting they’ll bring the subject up and scrunch their face in disgust. “American chocolate,” they’ll say, spitting out the words like they probably do the chocolate itself, “is disgusting.”  And yes, I will admit, that it’s not great. Hershey’s chocolate has a lingering, bitter aftertaste that after eating it I often think I’m suffering from GERD. But you can eat a Milky Way and for the most part it is fine. You’ll possibly suffer from cognitive dissonance from the fact that an American Milky Way is, in fact, like a British Mars bar rather than a British Milky Way bar which is, in turn, like an American Three Musketeers Bar…oh, the confusion! But the chocolate in a Milky Way, while different, isn’t necessarily worse. It’s just in the grand scheme of things in the world of chocolate, American chocolate is the chocolate dog treats my confused Nana bought — and that isn’t something I’m going to complain too much about.

Question: What are your thoughts on American chocolate?

Image: MorgueFile

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, part 2 of Joanna Masters-Maggs’ quest to find paradise in Provence.

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16 responses to “Give a dog a chocolate — why US-based expats shouldn’t use UK Chocolate Week to revive an old complaint

  1. Sonja Holverson October 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Good story but the title could be misleading to some people who don’t know that “chocolatey” dog treats and real chocolate can create confusion. For many dogs real choclate is toxic. We had to rush our dog to the Vet after he managed to open and eat a pound of chocolates and have his stomach pumped. It was scary. Thanks for your great posts.

    • ML Awanohara October 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      I second Sonja’s remark. I named my American cocker spaniel Cadbury for his sweetness — but have to resist buying him any treats under the Cadbury label for fear they would prove fatal.

      Are you certain Britain had chocolate treats for dogs — I thought you were a nation of canine lovers?! Beginning of course with the Queen and her corgis…

      • Kate Allison October 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm

        Anthony is quite right. They were readily available, and we used to buy doggy chocs for our dog at Christmas. This was kind of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted – she’d already devoured Toblerones and numerous bars of Cadbury’s, and lived to tell the tale until she was 14. I’m not sure the dangers of chocolate to dogs were that well known in the 1970s/80s, tbh.

  2. awindram October 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Well I was five or six at the time so I have no idea precisely what the treat was other than it was a chocolate or chocolate-esque button that was manufactured for dogs. A quick google shows such treats are available – the Good Boy Choc Drops. I’d imagine it was a packet of these or something of that ilk.

  3. Marion Clamp October 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I lived in the US for 25 years and my opinion of chocolate there is simple — it’s Nasty!! Like the gritty doggy treats, Hershey’s reminds me of when I was young (born and reared in the UK, many, many, many years ago), my parents weren’t rich and if we were in town the day before “payday” mam would buy me a treat of chocolate from Woolworth’s. Again, nasty, nasty stuff — and anybody out there old enough to remember chocolate “flavoured” worm cakes, with the coloured sprinkles on them?? Good grief, how did I survive my youth??

    • Kate Allison October 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Oh, but *some* of the US chocolate is really good, and this is coming from someone who grew up a sniff’s length from a Cadbury factory in the UK! Ghirardelli chocolate…great stuff.

      I do remember the nonpareils at Woolworth’s pick and mix counter, though. Nasty, and non-Cadbury.

      But when Woolies closed in the UK, according to wiki:
      “The final bag of Woolworths’ Pick ‘n’ Mix was sold on eBay for £14,500.”

  4. Doreen Pendgracs October 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Believe me. I LOVE British chocolate. It’s amazing!

    But there is also wonderful chocolate being made in both Canada and the US.

    Any true chocolate connoisseur has heard of SOMA chocolate maker in Toronto. They are remarkable, in producing both pure perfect chocolate (they roast and process their own beans) as well as first class single origin truffles.

    And perhaps my favourite chocolatier of all is Norman Love of Fort Meyers, Florida, USA. His BLACK collection is to die for. I have not eaten a better chocolate, and believe me … I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate from around the world.

  5. Lunch in Paris October 11, 2011 at 4:27 am

    My father used to leave mini milky way bars in the freezer – excellent. Even after 10 years in France, I still like the occaisional Hershey’s kiss – but I think it’s more to do with the shape than anything else…

    • Kate Allison October 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

      That must be the equivalent of freezing EnglishMars Bars… yummy! I’m not keen on the regular Hershey’s Kisses, but the candy cane white chocolate ones at Christmas – yes, keep them coming.

  6. ML Awanohara October 12, 2011 at 9:55 am

    On Monday when you posted this, #chocolateweek was trending on Twitter as Americans thought National Chocolate Week applied to them (in fact, American Chocolate Week is the third week March). But who could blame them/us? In this appalling economic and political climate, we’d all be grateful for a chocolate shaving or two…

    In any event, I’d like to point out that you have something in common with Joanne Harris, author of the best-selling Chocolat. Like you, she has French blood (she was born to a French mother and an English father in her father’s parents’ sweet shop). Also like you, she is not as particular about the chocolate she eats as her luxurious novel might suggest, telling one interviewer:

    I can eat almost any chocolate in an emergency.

  7. Jack Scott October 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Don’t worry, continental Europeans have been banging on about British chocolate for years. Not proper chocolate they say. Who cares? It tastes good. Perhaps this is why Kraft bought Cadbury’s?

  8. E. October 15, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Belgian chocolate is supposed the the ultimate in good chocolate, but NOTHING beats Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. My son, who has a charming turn of phrase when the mood takes him, said that Hershey’s tasted like vomit. I thought it was just another of his “charming turn of phrases” till I actually tasted some. You know what? He was so right!

    • Kate Allison October 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm

      Indeed he was. Original Hershey’s milk chocolate has an “interesting” aftertaste. But their dark chocolate is pretty nice, as is their “Symphony” milk chocolate, and even, dare I say it, the stuff they make in the name of Cadbury’s. It’s not the same as proper Cadbury’s, but you know, if one is desperate. Not that I am. Still have two suitcase-sized blocks of proper CDM in the pantry (although the gifts someone brought me in May are sadly gone!) and half a dozen Flakes are even nearing their best-before date. Evidently I am falling behind in my chocolate-eating duties.

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