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Chocolate Ice Cubes and My Dad: Why Nutella Just Doesn't Cut It
Nostalgic Candy Is Bittersweet...
You remember those chocolate ice cubes from decades ago? They came in silver foil and they had a delicious milk-chocolate-hazelnut flavor. They were made by the German company, Alberts (Moritz) and had the heavenly flavor that we now associate with Nutella spread, but in a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. Well, when I was a kid I fell in love with them. Today they are still available, packaged in gold foil this time, though they are admittedly hard to find. But to me they represent not merely a vintage candy from a retro era, but a piece of nostalgia.
When I listen to music from my childhood or taste a food from childhood, I feel nostalgic, but not because I loved the music or the food. It's the memories.
Oh, there's other nostalgic candy my taste buds yearn for...the flaky, layered Whatchamacallit candy bar...sesame halvah candy...the long, taffy-like Charleston Chew...those little Brachs mix candy...they all have good associations from childhood. But it's those silly little chocolate ice cubes that really hit me each time I experience them again, all because of my dad.
Retro and Delicious, Too
My dad used to take me with him to art fairs. If you're over forty, you probably remember the heyday of art fairs - those craft displays in malls where you'd find handcrafted jewelry and country wall hangings and other kitschy stuff. Dad made wooden plaques and displayed his wares every weekend, while I wandered all over the mall. (Yes, in those days, it wasn't so weird for young kids to wander on their own around shopping malls.) At certain malls, my first stop was usually Woolworth's.
The chocolate ice cubes would be in a bowl by the checkout counter - a nickel a piece. You know that scene in the 70s version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when the boy looks at the gold-foil-wrapped chocolate bar like it was the answer to all his prayers? That's what those little foil-wrapped hazelnut cubes looked like to me.
I liked how neat they looked and their square shape - kind of the way the first scoops of ice cream from a square carton looks - neat and blocky. Somehow, that made them more creamy.
Like the greedy kid I was, I'd buy as many as I could. I'd take them back to dad and my brother and I would eat them.
I spent many summers with Dad this way. My parents had split up when I was young - back then, divorce was unusual and considered tragic, though for me, the big tragedy was how precious my time with dad became afterwards.
Since dad lived in another city, days with him were like those hazelnut chocolates. Pure fun. I snatched the opportunity whenever I could get it.
Now I associate Charleston Chews with him, too. That was the candy I got when he exhibited at street fairs. They weren't easy to find even then.
But chocolate ice cubes were sooooo delicious. I'm not a great fan of hazelnuts, yet when mixed with chocolate, the hazelnut flavor is nirvana.
I've tried to make my own chocolate ice cube candy with ground hazelnuts, using recipes I got off of the Internet, and they just weren't the same. So I ordered some chocolate ice cubes over the Internet (unless you live near the Vermont Country Store or someother big retro retailer, buying nostalgic candy is limited to tourism and online). And I tasted them again.
They Were the Chocolate Ice Cubes of My Youth...and Not
I was a bit disappointed. They were still just as delicious and so very creamy. Maybe sweeter and not quite so hazelnut-tasting as I remembered - but then, kids have a high tolerance for sugar. And I looked at the ingredients on the label and saw "partially hydrogenated coconut oil." Trans-fats are the bad guy these days, right?
But then it hit me what was missing. My dad had died recently. I missed being with him at the mall. Dashing over to Woolworths and seeing if they had any chocolate ice cubes in stock.
The excitement of his presence underlay everything I did back then when with him during those visits. And for that reason, Nutella, though it tastes as delicious as those chocolate ice cubes did, doesn't give me the same emotional kick as the chocolate ice cubes do.
Do you have a favorite candy from your youth that you associate with something special?
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