October 1st

theresa albert - my friend in food


Cocoa Nuts!

Hershey bar

I’ve had a love-affair with chocolate for as long as I can remember.  When I was very little, my parents’ European friends would bring over foil-wrapped creations that looked like ladybugs or miniature umbrellas. These were so pretty, it was very hard to finally eat  them; I wanted so much just to admire them but their aromas always wore me down.

I discovered the Belgian chocolate bar called “Zero” which is meant to be eaten slightly chilled when I was in grade school.   That was my first taste of dark chocolate and from then on, a plain old Jersey Milk bar just didn’t stand a chance.  Even then, I took my treasured confection to a quiet place where I could slowly savour each morsel, first removing the hard, dark shell with my teeth and then slowly sinking into the ganache centre.   No one taught me to love these cocoa creations this much; it just seemed inherent and it’s an obsession that persists to this day.

Almost 20 years ago, my husband and I went to Brussels for a conference.   Since I was going to the Mecca of chocolate, I went on, what was then the Compuserve list forum (am I old, or what?) and started a thread asking which was the best chocolate shop in that famed old city.  Several Belgian ex-pats duked it out in cyberspace, leaving me with a top-three list of chocolatiers to visit.   Once there, I went on a tasting pilgrimage and found one which stood out from the pack: Wittamer.  I bought a small selection from them and, along with my husband, ate one per day, letting each edible jewel wrap its glory around my tongue, sending my brain into a paroxysm of endorphins.

Just last year, we had a seven-hour layover in Brussels and though I had no address and no map, we took the train into town and, like a salmon instinctively returning to its spawning grounds, I found my way back to my favorite purveyor of chocolate splendor.  My excellent sense of direction and memory for landmarks was well-rewarded.

Stopping in Hershey, Pennsylvania on a recent family trip through the U.S., we visited the Hershey “museum” (it wasn’t exactly the Smithsonian…).  The entire town smells of chocolate and even the streetlights are shaped like the ubiquitous Kisses.  There’s even a spa which offers treatments such as the “Chocolate Fondue Wrap” and the “Cocoa Facial Experience” –  a serious waste of chocolate in my opinion!   Clearly, I am not alone in my infatuation with the seed of the Theobroma Cacao tree.

These days, as a more informed consumer, I buy fair-trade organic and with the new evidence showing that a square of dark chocolate can have health benefits, I feel practically virtuous as I indulge… provided I do so in moderation (see photo above!).



Ilana Waldston is the mother of two teenage girls who keeps sane by singing. A graduate of the prestigious International Cabaret Conference at Yale, she’s been delighting Toronto audiences with her comedic patter and well-honed ability to sell a song. She’s a self-professed foodie, loves to bake, travel and dine (often all at once) who sometimes sings of food in songs such as “My Diet Starts Tomorrow”, “Dieter’s Prayer” and “Foodblooz”. In addition to her solo work, she’s also a part of Toronto’s only female jazz quartet, The Satin Dolls... www.jazznlaughs.ca


4 Responses

    Linda L.
    January 29, 2012 at 3:37 am Reply

    But … I thought it was okay if you only ate one chocolate bar! Like it’s YOUR fault it isn’t a standard size?!?

    January 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm Reply

    My sentiments exactly, Linda! :)

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