My Addiction

 

chocolate

My addiction began very early in life.  My fiends and family may have known something was up……but I don’t think they would have ever guessed how bad things got.

I have a picture of me as a very young girl in the kitchen of my parents home.  I’m standing on a stool, a big wooden spoon in my hand, chocolate pudding (or chocolate cake batter) all over my face.  I was sooooo happy.  The sweetness racing though my body and triggering the dopamine that creates the ultimate chocolate high.  It could have stopped there.  But we all know that it didn’t.  I was hooked.

choc bars

I remember being in elementary school and getting my allowance on Saturday mornings.  I would take that money and walk about a mile to the closest corner store to buy……you guessed it, chocolate.  But I felt guilty buying too much at one store so I would split it up and go to three stores.  Harry’s Market, the grocery store and then the drug store.  I figured I would get less disapproving stares if I bought one candy bar at a time and not three.  Whatever it took to get my fix.

Then there was Switzerland when I was in my early twenties.  Some days it would be a toss up.  Would I have dinner or some chocolate?  I could have potatoe soup anytime.  But Toblerone wasn’t readily available in North America then and I may not taste it again for, well, weeks. A few weeks after we had left Switzerland my traveling companions gave me some Swiss chocolate for my birthday.  I think I scared them a little when I hugged them.  For half an hour.

toblerone

In my thirties not a day would go by that I wouldn’t have chocolate.  And I wasn’t picky.  Mars Bars.  Mint Patties.  Maltesers.  Oh Henry.  Lindt Bars.  Hersheys Kisses.  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Halloween Minis.  Kit Kat.  Easter Eggs that I stole from my nephews.  Ferraro Rocher.  Three Musketeers.  Need I go on?  I would hit up any vending machine that would take my money.

At thirty four I went to work for Starbucks and was introduced to a new taste.  Dark chocolate.  A fellow employee once said to me.

“People who don’t like dark chocolate simply have unrefined palates”.

dark chocolate

I’m not sure that she was right but I will say that coffee does taste better with a nice piece of dark chocolate on the side.  Really it was just another option to feed the monkey on my back.

Then came Nutella.  Oh how I loved Nutella.  At first it was just a little dab on toast or a waffle.  But slowly it became a mandatory after dinner treat.  I’d quietly get a spoon out of the drawer while “doing the dishes” and dip it into the jar.  How it melted on my tongue as I licked it off the spoon.  So sweet.  So smooth.  So creamy.  The Europeans really know how to do sinful don’t they?

nutella

Then came the day that all of the sneaking and over indulging came back to haunt me.  I knew it would.  Nothing that good can last forever.  The doctor said I needed to go cold turkey.  No sugar for at least 6 weeks.  What?  Are you kidding me?

Sadly, she was not.

I knew I had to do it for my health.  I wasn’t going to last long if I didn’t make some serious changes. I did my six weeks and got clean.  That was two years ago.  Have I fallen off the wagon?  Of course.

The Best Thing in Life is moderation.

Christmas

stockings

I remember when I was little and Christmas Day was always at home.  Home being the house I grew up in.  And it was always the same.  Every year.  I loved it.

Bright and early Christmas morning the three of us would creep around the corner of the stairs to see if our parents were awake.  Okay, so creep isn’t really the right word.  Perhaps thunder would be more accurate.  It was stocking time.  Stockings were pretty standard.  Trinkets and socks.  Soap on a Rope.  (It was the seventies after all).

Then there was the year that my mom had a couple too many glasses of wine on Christmas Eve and put panty hose in my brother’s stocking and Old Spice deodorant in my sister’s stocking.  She can not hold her liquor.

Once stockings had been unceremoniously emptied, my mom would start breakfast.  Being British we would have eggs, sausages, grilled tomatoes, toast and tea.  If my dad was lucky my mom would have made kippers.  Oh my god they make the house stink.  A kipper is a smoked herring.  Ya, I know.  But they love them.

We almost always ended up leaving the dishes for later as if we didn’t we would be late for church.  It was one of the three days each year that we had to go.  The carols were okay, I guess, but really it was just another obstacle in the way of getting to our presents.  Occasionally a kid would come to church with a new toy that they had already unwrapped.  I was so jealous that they had been allowed to open a gift while we had to wait.

It.  Was. Torture.

When it was finally over and we could go home, my dad would start his time wasting routine.  He would go into his room and get changed, go to the bathroom, find some gift that he had forgotten to wrap, disappear into the basement.  More torture.  Why?  Why did he do that?

When he finally decided it was time, we descended on the pile of gifts under the tree.  A pile of wrapping paper soon emerged in the middle of the living room floor and hugs and thank yous were exchanged.  Done and done.

Time to eat again.

Lunch was always cold sliced ham, cheese, crusty bread and fruit.  Sounds very European doesn’t it?  Really, it was just quick and easy.  Besides we had better things to do.  Toys to play with, clothes to try on and puzzles to do. If I’m honest, this was a time when there was a tiny bit of let down.  All the anticipation and build up and hoping.  Done.  Ahead was a long empty afternoon.

But then there was the annual Christmas walk.  Rain. Sun. Snow.  No matter what, we would put the turkey in the oven then head out the door.  My favorite walk was down 29th Street to the beach, along the beach to 31st Street then back up over the railway tracks to a house that was filled with the scent of food.  As a grown up I now appreciate the fact that I could eat more after that walk.

By now my mom was in full “cooking” mode.  Usually we would have guests for Christmas dinner.  My parents would contact an organization that helped out any sailors/workers who were in port that day and wanted to celebrate the holiday.  It made for some interesting conversations as they didn’t always speak a lot of English. If I thought that English cooking was odd can you imagine what they thought?

Time to eat again.

Bring on the full Christmas meal.  Roast turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, stuffing balls (meatball size balls of stuffing fried in butter), veggies, gravy and bread sauce.  Bread sauce?  Another British delicacy.  Simmer a whole onion studded with cloves in milk for a couple of hours.  Discard the onion and fold in fresh white bread crumbs.  Yup, savory porridge.

xmas

Christmas Day always, always, ended with all of us in the living room.  A tray of chocolates and nuts (because we needed more food) and my dad pouring us all shots of Grand Marnier, port or brandy.  So what if we were only kids.  This is the one British tradition I enjoyed.

The Best Thing in Life is still remembering these things and passing on the stories to my kids.  They think they are ridiculous but one day they will be our family history.

TBT – Easter Memories

I found this picture of my sister, brother and I all dolled up for Easter church.  (I’m the one in pink if you hadn’t guessed.)

easter

My earliest memories of Easter are of my mom getting us ready for church in pastel coloured dresses with white gloves and white wicker purses covered in fake flowers. Even though we were the Christmas , Easter and Thanksgiving only church family, my mom ensured that when we did go, we were dressed appropriately. I remember her inspecting our hands to be sure that we didn’t have any chocolate on our sticky little fingers. In those days the Easter Bunny came very early in the morning and left a beautiful egg on our breakfast plate. Hollow in the middle and decorated with our names in royal icing. “How did that bunny know our names?” I wondered. I learned later on that my mom was actually the bunny and would order the big chocolate Easter eggs from Woodward’s department store.

When we were a bit older the best memories are of Easter Sunday bonfires. It was Spring, the weather was getting better and my mom and dad would have been working in the yard to get ready for the summer. The yard waste needed to be disposed of and, for us,that meant a great big bonfire at the bottom of the yard. Usually a couple of other families would come over for the day and there would be a dozen kids standing around the fire roasting hot dogs and burning marshmallows for lunch.

Yup, that’s when destroying the ozone, processed meats and sugar were all good.

The big draw for the kids was the tire swing. A large tree stood at the top of a grassy hill and dad had hung a rope from the tree and then attached it to an old tire. When pushed properly you would swing out over the hill and hang 20 feet over the back lawn. I can not even count the number of times I fell off and had the breath knocked out of me. How none of us ended up in the emergency room is a mystery. Every year we had a contest to see how many of us could get on the swing at the same time without falling. Again, can’t believe we all live through it every year.

And then there was the egg hunt. The only acceptable candy was foil wrapped mini chocolate Easter eggs, mainly because they could withstand being tucked into crevices and hidden under logs or rocks in the garden and could survive being transplanted by squirrels if the hiding had been done the day before. Frantically we would search for those little eggs in every inch of that 3/4 acre space. I remember hitting pay dirt at the bottom of the tree that my sister fell out of when she broke her arm. I guess whoever was hiding the eggs got tired and dumped the last dozen or so in a hollow at the bottom of the tree. Score!

As the years passed and my sister, brother and I each got married and had our own kids, things changed. Nobody goes to church anymore, bonfires are now prohibited and the tree that held the tire swing died and the swing was lost. That may have been a good thing as my mom and dad ended up with six grandsons who I can say, without hesitation, would not have been as fortunate as us in not getting injured. But with that change and those grandchildren came different traditions.

untitled

I’m not sure how or when it happened but at some point the chaotic search for foil covered Easter eggs in the garden became an Easter scavenger hunt. The Easter egg hunt evolved into my mom and dad creating elaborate clues that took the grandkids around the house and garden. The little ones had pictures to follow and usually an older cousins to help them out. The older ones had the task of not only following the clues but deciphering Granny’s handwriting. If you stood on the front doorstep you would see them standing scratching their heads, looking at the clue and then suddenly tearing around the side of the house when they realized that “Minki’s Flowers” meant the patch of daffodils that bloomed every year where my mom and dad had buried our dead cat’s ashes. (creepy yes, but really pretty.)

Easter at Granny and Poppas

Now the house where all these memories originated stands empty and the yard is a series of little holes where my parent’s friends have dug up my dad’s lilies, roses and yes, the daffodils. We will all go on to create our own Best Things in Life and memories for our kids around the holidays in our own homes. I can only hope that they are half as good as the ones my parents created for us.