Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Chocolate machine lottery

You know how it is? You're in dire need of a sugar fix and scramble around to see if you can find a couple of twenty pence pieces in the pen pot on your desk and head off with high expectations to the chocolate machine. But when you get there, your hopes are dashed and you realise that there's nothing you really want. Certainly none of the chocolate confectionary that you'd purchase from the news agent or other purveyor of fine sugar fixes is hanging there in that useless metal box. There are no Minstrels, no Galaxy bars, and no packets of Maltesers or even Smarties. There’s certainly nothing exotic like Mintolas (are they called Munchies now?) or a Terry’s Dark Chocolate Orange (I can only dream!) or a honeycomb Yorkie in a gold wrapper. When I was younger, I was rather partial to a Fry's Chocolate Cream or maybe a Flake or Curly Wurly. The Curly Wurly was particularly strange as it was a chocolate bar that fought back. You bit into the first bit of Curly (or Wurly I guess) and the thin layer of chocolate encasing the caramel middle would shatter leaving you covered in shards of chocolate and clutching a somewhat naked Curly Wurly. The Fry's Chocolate Cream did nothing so antisocial and had the pleasing characteristic (shared with a Kit Kat) of allowing you to 'emboss' the Fry's or Kit Kat logo onto to foil wrapper by gently running your fingers across its surface until the logo appeared. It was a painstaking process. You really didn't want the wrapper to tear until you were ready to unveil your chocolate and leave a little foil cast behind. I think I was found of a flake because of the adverts – there was a time when the only thing I wanted in the whole world was to wear a white dress and wander through a poppy field whilst eating a flake. Could I been so young?

There were plenty of chocolate bars that I'd avoid, however. I never really understood a Wagon Wheel and I have never even tried a Boost, a Taxi, a Picnic or anything adulterated with peanut butter. And the chocolate machine is often a place for odd looking bars that you’ve never seen anywhere else. They often seem to be German and have wafers in them. If you’re stood expectantly in front of a chocolate machine, you want to see a familiar friend not a foreign curio. And this is no reflection on German chocolate, I am sure it’s very nice (though I suspect Switzerland probably have the edge on chocolate comestibles!)

There will be some familiar faces, maybe a Mars. I am sure I used to consider a Mars a real treat as a child but now it seems too curiously textured in the middle and too sickly. There might be a Twix – this has the advantage of your sugar fix divided in two equal portions. There’s often a Snickers (I so want to say Marathon) but the nougat, caramel and nut combination can often be strangely altered by the chocolate machine refrigeration and end up too solid – best avoided if you want to retain your teeth. Occasionally there might be a three pack of Jaffa Cakes – and that can be a rare, happy day or a small bag of Cheddars. There’s nothing wrong with Cheddars but I think I overdosed on them a few years in the canteen of Stepping Hill Hospital. The hospital canteen didn’t keep their Cheddars in a vending machine but in a glass bowl which various packets of crisps and you had to go lucky dipping to find one.

I guess if there’s a sugar deficiency has to be sated - then there’s always a Kit Kat. Personally I’d opt for the Chunky instead of a classic! I don’t seem to have the urge to rub the Kit Kat logo into the foil anymore and a Chunky has a fine layer of chocolate but no pleasing snap as you break each finger. Of course it’s no packet of Minstrels with is always going to be the pinnacle of quick sugar fixes. A big advantage would be that you chocolate high is administered in individual doses and can be spread out over a longer time without the chocolate going all soggy. Those crispy shells clearly protect their valuable chocolate treasure and allow you to let each Minstrel melt in the mouth before reaching for the next. And as the advert rightly depicts – it is a sad moment when you realise that you’ve reached the final one and have to savour it to the very last wisp of chocolate. Maybe that’s why we never have any Minstrels in the vending machine – maybe the thinking behind it is that we’d be just too distracted by the chocolately wonderfulness to do any work.

So I guess it’s a Chunky Kit Kat then!

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