Here’s my problem. It’s about the Hershey bar.
Like most other red-blooded Americans, I grew up loving Hershey’s chocolate. Regular Hershey bars, Hershey’s with almonds, Hershey miniatures, Hershey kisses, etc. I wasn’t proud, I’d take any variety that crossed my path.
I was indoctrinated at a young age. As a little kid I visited Hershey, Pennsylvania, and toured the factory. I knew S’mores weren’t complete without a few squares of Hershey’s chocolate. And I saw the commercials proclaiming Hershey’s “the Great American Chocolate Bar.” Mr. Hershey put a lot of effort into creating a delicious, affordable milk chocolate bar for us. He was a true American hero.
So back to my problem.
After more than 20 years of devotion to Mr. Hershey and his fine products, I went to live in London—a Hershey-free zone. I had to go without my favorite chocolate bars. But you know what they say: if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. So I hooked up with Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.
My relationship with Mr. Cadbury’s confections felt perfunctory. Mechanical. Our encounters were zipless fucks.
One day I received a package from a friend at home who took pity on me and my Hershey-less existence. He sent me a big box of Hershey bars and Oreos (another delicacy not found in the UK). I was in heaven. And I wanted to share my bounty with my flatmates. One was from Malaysia and the other was from Greece. Neither of them had first-hand knowledge of the joy of the Hershey bar, although they had certainly heard about them. It was my responsibility as a good American to show them some confectionery examples of our global superiority. We went into the kitchen to enjoy the contents of my care package. There was a Dairy Milk bar sitting on the table so we added that to our feast.
It would be the first time I ever tasted the two chocolates side by side. I ate a piece of Cadbury’s first and then reached for a Hershey bar, fully prepared to bask in smug contentedness.
In stark contrast to the Cadbury chocolate, the Hershey bar tasted like what I imagine passed for chocolate in the former Soviet Union. It wasn’t creamy, and it tasted sort of sour and “off” compared to the smooth sweet flavor of Cadbury. How had I not noticed this before?
I was horrified. Was America’s favorite chocolate bar nothing but a poser? I glanced at my companions, hoping they hadn’t noticed my confusion and despair. But they had. They looked at me with the sort of wincing pity usually reserved for someone who just got an awful haircut and wants to be reassured that it doesn’t look that bad.
I felt duped. I had spent my whole life in the North Korea of chocolate, unaware that a vast, glorious world of better chocolate was out there. I had drunk the chocolate Kool-Aid. The Chocolate Emperor Had No Clothes.
But I knew I couldn’t swear off Hershey’s completely. Eventually I’d go back home and it would be everywhere. The honeymoon period was officially over but that didn’t mean we couldn’t still be together. Instead of looking at Hershey bars with blind adoration, I’d treat them as longtime foil-wrapped little spouses. And you don’t leave foil-wrapped little spouses just because they aren’t perfect.
Don’t get me wrong, I still keep Cadbury around. I’m only human, for crying out loud.