Friday, 20 August 2010

Writing Off Chocolate

It has been raining here. Now, this is Scotland, so a sentence like that is really redundant, but even the old-timers here admit that this summer's rain is excessive. The radiators are groaning under the weight of our wet laundry -- with three generally active teenagers we keep them well supplied -- and I seem to spend half my time wiping down the front porch, where from the looks of things we seem to have opened up a used shoe and umbrella store.

This rain means that I can get a lot of writing done. Unfortunately, it also means that if I want to do any walking or gardening, I'll end up in mud from head to toe. I look at our exhausted radiators, festooned with steaming towels, countless undergarments, rivers of socks -- and decide to stay indoors.

And unable to walk or go out into my garden to dig up flower beds or tend my herbs, I get bored. And when I get bored, I get hungry. Specifically, I get hungry for chocolate.

Logic tells me I don't need it -- what I need is a walk. But damn it, I want it. And sometimes desires get so strong that they can pound logic right into the ground. This is one of those times.

I know every single place in this house where chocolate might be. Like a junkie sniffing out a fix, like a nicotine addict desperate for a cigarette, like an alcoholic trying to dry out, I know where the stuff is kept. I've gotten down on my hands and knees and peered into dark cupboards where I once stored a nest of Easter eggs and forgot all about them until Christmas. I've dragged a kitchen chair across the floor and stood on my tiptoes, scouting the tops of the cupboards for stray chocolate bars. I've ruffled through the books and magazines, hoping for a bit of forgotten secret stash (not likely in that we've barely been back a month, but my need is stronger than logic), and I've been through the linen cupboard, dish towel by dish towel.

But there is no chocolate in this house. No baking chocolate, no foil-wrapped pieces of candy bars, no forgotten after-dinner-chocolate-covered mints, not even powdered cocoa.

So I go back to my writing and amazingly, I do good work, even in the absence of chocolate. I work until I've done over half of my daily quota, so I decide I've earned myself a tea break. On my way to the kitchen, I spot it on top of the linen cupboard in the hallway: a beautifully wrapped box, the red ribbon stretched tight over crisp white and gold paper. And I vaguely remember my daughter receiving this as a late birthday gift, leaving it on the kitchen table. I remember putting it on top of the linen cupboard where I often stash abandoned items that happen to be in my way when I'm cooking.

And there it has stayed, unneeded, forgotten.

Now we don't just have lust for chocolate beating down logic, we have lust for chocolate beating down moral scruples. Is it right for me to open my daughter's birthday gift just because I'm desperate for a fix? Yes, the chocolate-fueled demon in me says, because remember, you made her a birthday cake AND sushi; you did all the washing up and had all her friends over and remember what a mess they made in the lounge? You cleaned that all up with hardly a whimper of protest. Go on and open that box -- you've earned it!

And the part of me that is still good and decent and able to withstand the pull of chocolate says, Don't do it, look at that box -- it's special. Somebody picked that out for her and her alone, not you. You can't open it.

And the chocolate-lusting demon reminds me that she's forgotten it for almost an entire week, and my better angel tells me that whether she's forgotten it or not doesn't matter, and back and forth they go -- and I am torn between these two.

And finally, after I've finished my cup of tea, I can no longer bear it: I decide to see just what is inside that box. What it is that has kept me wondering, hoping, seething with chocolate greed. Because a peek can't hurt, can it? I gently ease one side of the ribbon off -- I'll be able to put it back on later -- and find: a box full of tiny bottles of shampoo.

Both of my angels are so disgusted by the depravity of putting shampoo in a chocolate box that they vanish in a puff of outrage, just like that.

Chocolate deprived, but blissfully free of temptation, I go back and finish my writing.


Eryl Shields said...

How this resonates.

Dale said...

Oh, how this made me laugh! Even as I shared your indignation. Shampoo?

Bradmouth said...

Was it at least chocolate-scented shampoo?

I think I'd shoot myself if I opened a Reese's wrapper and found a bar of Irish Spring.

theBrad (verla tag)

P.S. Let me know if you'd ever like to write anything for Bradmouth. I think you'd be a funny fit!

Charles Gramlich said...

When I was a kid on the farm I used to pray for rainy days so I could stay inside and read.

Anonymous said...

I hear chocolate in sufficient doses can counteract the evil effects of mold and mildew. But it has to be pretty good stuff, Lindt 70% or better, none of this stale foil-wrapped candy-egg stuff.

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- We've all been there, haven't we?

Dale -- If I'd had my glasses, the fine print would have set me straight. But I was too lazy, so both greed and sloth had their way with me.

Brad -- It's plain old shampoo, as far as I can tell, but packaged fetchingly in poncy little bottles to endear feminine hearts. But not mine.

There is only one place in this town that used to stock Reese's peanut butter cups, and they've stopped doing it now. It's very hard.

Charles -- Me too, but very much in vain. Praying for rainy days in Scotland is probably against the law. I've taken to putting on a sad, grumpy face on rainy days so as not to antagonize or confuse the locals.

Anne -- I've got Lindt 70%! I went out and stocked up. Which is a good thing because we are doing very well here for both mold and mildew what with all this rain. Those stale chocolate eggs are beneath my contempt -- unless I'm desperate.

Kim Ayres said...

...chocolate... whimper...

Carole said...

I was just sitting at the computer minding my own business when you had to write about chocolate. Now I am going to have to bake some chocolate chip cookies. My mouth is watering.

Kit said...

I love this story! I'd have the same desperate battle of scruples versus chocoholism. We have the constant temptation of our kids Easter eggs sitting in the larder long after Easter and probably all counted. I have to keep Lindt chocolate in stock just to keep me away from that temptation... 85% here.

Vijaya said...

Ah, it serves you right, Mary! And I'll share a box story with you ... when I was a child in India, I had a box in which I stored some treasures. Well, a thief came in the middle of the night and took my box, because it was heavy. I can only imagine his disappointment at lugging that heavy box ... to find out it had stones.

I have a secret stash of chocolate that nobody knows of and I'll share it with you. It's been hard partaking of it with the kids at home with me this summer. They seem to have radar when I break of a square of two ... and come running to ask me a question.

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- Yeah, I know.

Carole -- I'm sorry. These things are very contagious, I know. Which is one of the reasons I'm glad I seldom watch TV. The commercials would do me in: it's bad enough to have a good memory and an active imagination.

Kit -- My kids used to count their Easter eggs, but I'm pretty sure they don't do this anymore. Or perhaps they do, but I doubt they'd go to the trouble of counting them every single time. Which is good to know if I'm ever really desperate and I come across somebody's stash.

85% chocolate there? I'll bet it's good stuff too!

Vijaya -- Your story reminds me of something similar that happened to me as a child. Our house was burgled when I was about eleven -- and I was a real slob. My room was the only one that was untouched. I can imagine that the thieves took one look and backed right out. Even I couldn't find my valuables in there. My sisters both lost money: their purses were neatly hung on their doorknobs.

I used to have my chocolate late at night when the kids had finally gone to bed. They would invariably KNOW I was having a quiet square or two of good chocolate and make appearances -- and requests.

Anne Spollen said...

I have resorted to opening the Nutella and helping myself with a spoon. My kids call this fat girl behavior...

Robert the Skeptic said...

Here you go, Mary, a bit of information to help you with your Chocolate addiction: Slaves to Chocolate What makes chocolate addictive isn't what you think.

And enjoy your chocolate... it's good for you!

Anonymous said...
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Marcia said...


And here I was wondering why you didn't text the kid and ask if you could bust into her box. Probably what I would have done. :)

Mary Witzl said...

AnneS -- I do the EXACT same thing: Nutella on a spoon, sometimes with a bit of peanut butter (which is very close to a Reese's peanut butter cup). I call that versatile behavior.

(I went to town to order your books -- FINALLY! I had fun acting shocked when they told me they didn't have them in stock.)

Robert -- Thank you for that! My body knows that chocolate is good for me, but my mind likes to be reminded of this from time to time. It helps us to convince my super ego.

Marcia -- That would have been a great idea -- she'd have loved telling me that the contents of that box happened to be shampoo. Unfortunately, my cell phone has been misplaced and her cell phone has no credit left on it. Plus, she had forgotten it. Hopeless, aren't we?

Robin said...

I, too, share your indignation. Shampoo masquerading as chocolate! How dare it???

Whenever I scrounge for chocolate I find those little foil bottles that are chocolates with liquor inside. I don't even know where they come from, and how they magically regenerate. Weird.

If I ever visit, I'll bring you chocolates in a shampoo box.

Mary Witzl said...

Robin -- There's probably a law against it, or if there isn't, there ought to be.

You find tiny liquer-filled-chocolates when you scrounge? You live in a better world than I do! The best I've ever found was half a Cadbury's milk chocolate and nut bar that had ridden rough in my bag, totally unnoticed, and smelled a little like hand lotion and dead plants.

Falak said...

Had a humungous bar of Lindt Hazlenut choclate sitting in the fridge for almost a month waiting for me. Everyday I'd make up my mind to go and help myself but somehow that would not happen. Finally when my craving got the better of me and I decided to eat it I realised two teenage boys had beat me too it. Atleast you were quick to act on your craving.

Mary Witzl said...

Falak -- You say that like it's a good thing! :o)

I'm generally slow to act on my chocolate cravings. I'm always trying to develop my deferred gratification skills, but in this case, the fit was on me and the only way I could get rid of the temptation was to give into it, Oscar Wilde style. But...shampoo? It still makes me fume!

Bish Denham said...

Much as I absolutely LOVE chocolate, I can no longer eat it. It can be agongy when I want some. I avoid the candy aisle in the grocery store like it's the place to catch the plague.

A Paperback Writer said...


Angela Ackerman said...

Shampoo! Bwahahaaa. That is too funny.

I love chocolate. What I tend to do is buy a chocolate bar that comes in individual portion-sized sticks or squares and that way I can satify the craving with only a small bit, then keep on writing.

I've been waiting to see where you would end up settling. How great it must feel to be Scotland!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Stella said...

I feel your pain. Honest! I've had chocolate hunts, too and when you're a diabetic, that's bad. Good thing I've learned to never buy it, although now and then a stray piece wanders through the door with a visitor - a chocolate chip cookie, a fudge brownie. Great post, Mary!

Mary Witzl said...

Bish -- I don't know whether to feel sorry for you or envious. On one hand, if I were allergic to chocolate, I'd probably be a size 9 again. On the other -- ooh, no, I can't bear to think about it!

APW -- Thank you. Believe me, it wasn't beautiful at the time. I felt pretty ugly, getting that close to stealing from my own daughter.

Angela -- Scotland really is cool, in every sense of the word. Yes, I'm really happy to be back!

Wrapped stuff is definitely the way to go. I feel too guilty unwrapping a whole separate piece of chocolate just for myself. Sadly, the wrapped stuff tends to be more expensive than the non-wrapped, but to heck with it: from now on, that's the way I'm going to go. Now I'll just find a good hiding place, and then I'll be all set!

Stella -- We've got a good shop in town that carries diabetic chocolate which is fantastic. I ate some of it by accident and could honestly not tell the difference between that and the stuff with sugar in it. I know that even chocolate for diabetics cannot be consumed in vast quantities (the price alone puts you off), but it's some consolation. I hope they have something similar where you are!