I wrote letters to chocolate makers. Some wrote back

By Maán Jalal

Dear Chocolate,

This is a hard letter to write. How does one start to explain, even begin to fathom, the complicated, warped, negatively intimate, obsessively addicted, blissful relationship that you and I share? It’s love. I know it and you know it. It’s love because it’s hard to define. It’s blind and all-consuming and it makes no sense.

‘Who ate my chocolate?!’

As far back as I can remember, this was the anthem that echoed through my home. It was yelled either by me when I suspected that one of my three siblings had found my stash or when one of them found that their chocolate stash had been touched. And I was never ashamed to tell them, despite the consequences: ‘It was me, I ate your chocolate, and I’m not sorry, it was good. Every bit of it.’

Yes, cold-hearted, I know. But can you blame me? This isn’t a fling, this isn’t a summer romance, it’s not a phase. Like any longstanding relationship, there are layers of feelings, experiences and memories. Doesn’t one love oneself? Doesn’t one love a relative? A close friend?

A lover? How does one define the essence of that love in all its forms? Think about it. Despite the different contexts and shapes they may appear in, relationships are defined by that one unexplainable substance which works as the founding pillar of any true and lasting experience — love.

That alone is enough for me to rebuff judgement or shame that might be set upon me, a grown man obsessed with you, chocolate in your sweet existence from your humble beginnings at least three millennia ago in Mesoamerica as Theobroma cacao seeds, roasted and ground into a number of forms — liquid, paste, a block, a bar, a cake… I never judge your past or what form, colour or texture you take. I accept you as you are, just as you accept me as I am.

My mother told me it started in the womb. Throughout her pregnancy, she had an unnatural craving for chocolates. So, this isn’t my fault. I didn’t choose to fall in love with you. We have been together, inseparable before I was even aware of time and space, before I took my first breath and first steps in life. You were there always to give me sustenance and life. Is it too dramatic to say that you are in my blood? Part of my very genetic makeup? Could this be why all my life I seek not only to be with you, but to see you in the best possible light? Like a parent, I’ve always dreamt to watch you improve yourself and reach your highest potential.

‘You really need to stop with this, it’s ridiculous, no one is ever going to email you back,’ my friends told me when, as a teenager, I made my first email account and decided to email all the great chocolate companies my thoughts on their products and how they could improve on them.

‘Dear Kit Kat, could you possibly make a special line of Coconut Kit Kats? I don’t mean with coconut flavour but with shards of actual coconut within the chocolate. I would appreciate some free Kit Kats for my suggestion, if you don’t mind.’

‘Dear Mars, I take real issue with your chocolate bars. I know that they are one of the most popular chocolate bars, however, there is room for improvement. Your nougat filling is one of the best, but the texture and taste is lost within the imbalanced proportions of the chocolate’s outer shell and the substance of the caramel. You have great potential but lack the right execution. I feel as though the Mars bar would benefit greatly if it had a wafer biscuit as a base. Despite this, I would appreciate some free Mars bars for my suggestion, if you don’t mind.’

‘Dear Milkyway, I find it a disgrace that you aren’t more popular than you already are. You are one of the world’s most underrated chocolate bars — you are much better than Mars, that’s for sure. It’s all about the marketing, really. You need to up your game and change your packaging. It looks like something from the ’80s. No offence. Also, I would appreciate some free Milkyways for my suggestion, if you don’t mind.’

‘Dear Bounty, don’t listen to anyone else. I love you. Send me some Bounty Bars please.’

It’s true. I sent those and many other emails to almost every chocolate brand whose email I could find. Sometimes, I didn’t get a response. At other times, I received a generic ‘thank you, we’ve forwarded this to our marketing department,’ and at other glorious times, I was sent a box of chocolates for my comments. Thanks, Kinder Bueno and KitKat!

Open my desk drawer and you’ll find a stash of chocolates waiting to be experienced after a meal. Pick up any of my books and you’ll find chocolate bars being used as bookmarks. The greatest present I’ve ever received? In the summer of 2011, I was given a giant Toblerone — I almost cried with joy. Silly for a grown man, but I feel no shame in telling anyone I meet when they ask, ‘hobbies?’ I respond, ‘I’m on a quest to find the perfect chocolate bar. And this requires a lot seeking, tasting, experimenting and researching. So, I would have to say that that is what qualifies as a hobby.’

So many people have tried to deter me from you, try to come between our unbreakable bond. ‘Why? Why are you so obsessed? It’s good OK, but come on, why?!’ I am asked by many. My response? I can only direct them to Shakespeare for an answer. In As You Like It, Rosalind told Orlando, ‘Can one desire too much of a good thing?’ The answer is no.

Maán is obsessed with opposites. What’s the opposite of chocolate It’s not diabetes


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