Sometime around 2009, on the topic of chocolate, I would have said something like this; I like chocolate. I prefer lollies (Bon Bons or Süßigkeiten to the Germans, sweets to the Brits, candy to the Americans? Although candy is also chocolate, so help me out here.) and chocolate ice-cream is the last flavour I will ever choose, but sure, I feel like a Snickers once every six months, and enjoy a Freddo Frog on occasion. (And Nana’s chocolate cake – any day of the week, lathered in chocolate icing, and filled to the brim with butter.)
I can’t quite put my finger on when I started eating gigantic amounts of chocolate – oh, wait, yes I can. When I moved to the land of plenty. I have only myself to blame for the beginning; Milka bars were like 80c at the supermarket and I think there was an element of comfort eating involved; it became concerningly normal to wedge in an Alpenmilch as an afternoon snack. I reached out to Germany’s chocolate before Germany’s chocolate reached out to me, and since then I couldn’t turn back if I tried. (I’m actually eating a Kinder Bueno as I write this.) You see, Germany’s streets are paved with Nutella. Their buildings are made of Kinder. They ride through the year on a wave of Nugat, careering past Easter with its volcano of chocolate, raining down on open mouths, and pop praline Kügeln like drugs to get them through until Christmas. People have entire drawers in their kitchen dedicated to naschies (treats, lollies, sweets, chocolate). Nutella and Kinder seem to produce an uncountable number of products, mostly in stick form, mostly available in bulk boxes in pyramid forms at the grocery shops. Avoiding chocolate here is harder than avoiding pork. It’s harder than avoiding rain. Forget beer people, this is the land of chocolate. And I, for one, have lost my way. I am no longer ambivalent towards it. A yearly Snickers no longer suffices. Actually, a Snickers in general doesn’t cut it – pass that huge block of the Swedish stuff, with the minty pieces inside.
And then Christmas rolls around. Chocolate becomes as common as air. The skies open and it rains chocolate for what feels like months on end, until people’s teeth begin dissolving and their pancreases cry out for mercy. You eat chocolate for breakfast. McDonalds hands out Lindt Santas on St Nikolaus Day. I realise tradition is nuts and and orange or something in the boots of well-behaved children, but I have never seen a kid anywhere near an orange on this day of smearing chocolate all over one’s body. (We gave die Lüdde a book, because we’re fun parents. And because we knew the German family members would take care of the chocolate.)
I thought we had at least this Christmas before die Lüdde fully clocked just how many treats were loitering on street corners, ready to bounce into her sweaty little paws and beg for their foil to be peeled off. We hung up our adult advent calendars nice and high, and she just thought they were pretty decorations, not particularly worth her time. She plucked out the treats on the daily, and either willingly put them in the chocolate bowl, or carried them around like friends. Then St Nikolaus rolled around. Oma gave her a chocolate Santa and a toy dog, the latter of which was more interesting. Uroma gave her a sizeable bag of Niederegger marzipan, covered in chocolate, which I think she took to be bright little knick knacks to carry around the house and stash in various places. I took them to be an exceedingly adult treat, but only the finest for this baby. ‘Well this is good,’ I thought, ‘perhaps she’ll spend the season thinking chocolates are simply pretty little things for hiding in clothes drawers.’ We were already attempting to control a wild Pfeffernüsse adoration, forced to call them Pepper Nuts so her ears wouldn’t prick up. We didn’t need to add chocolate to the mix.
Then she, possibly accidentally, possibly driven by mild curiosity, unwrapped a Niederegger. The foil fell away like silk and as I turned, she discarded it with a flick of the wrist, and crammed the entire chocolate into her mouth. The eyebrows shot up. ‘Mmmmmm,’ she said, turning and sprinting away, knowing I’d suggest she give it to Mummy. No chance. Mouth covered in chocolate, fist gripping the remnants of marzipan, it was all over. For days afterwards, she’d turn up chocolates she’d stashed away, and begin expertly manipulating the foil off. She’d wander into the living room holding a Lindt angel, or a mini Twix bar, like it was no big deal. Now she hears the word ‘advent calendar’ and sprints to the wall where they hang, banging against it. She has joined the ranks of millions of Germans before her, the chocolate lovers, the praline feasters, the naschers.
We haven’t lost entirely. She still thinks picking chocolate crumbs out of the palm of my hand, is like the greatest treat ever. And Christmas will end soon; the calendar supply will dry up, the stores will dismantle the gigantic displays of every imaginable incarnation of chocolate, it won’t feel as if just by walking down the street, you have inhaled 3kg of chocolate.