The Finer Things

I live in rural China. I’m not talking about an outhouse with a pig in the backyard, tramping up and down terraced rice paddies to buy my vegetables, but let’s say that things like bread, coffee, chocolate, pasta, cheese, real ice cream, vegemite, and peanut butter are luxuries. Some are nonexistent (vegemite and cheese), some have a degree of falsity (sugary bread, instant coffee, carob chocolate), and some are downright expensive (6 yuan for a Magnum ice-cream bar?).

I’m not trying to point my finger at anyone: I know that there are plenty of specialties Chinese people would have trouble finding in the United States. It’s just, there’s no reason for me to discuss which parts of a pig might not be waiting at the local Albertson’s.

Actually, the point is to bask in the things I do enjoy here. There are foods I’ve found that cannot go unmentioned because to do so would be kind of like forgetting to thank your friend for bailing you out of jail, especially if your friend fails to appreciate the intrinsic reward of helping to free you from what was obviously an unjust incarceration.

Topping the list without question is Dove Chocolate. In my neck of the woods, the closest thing to Dove is Mylikes Chocolate, which, as it turns out, my really don’t likes (the truth is, I don’t like Mylikes Chocolate for the very same reason that I don’t like candle wax). The extent which Dove Chocolate has captured my heart can be seen on my Peace Corps living allowance survey, where “chocolate parties” is listed under entertainment and the cost is too embarrassing to divulge here.

Dove Chocolate bars come in two different styles. I classify the styles as “flavors” and “stuffers.” Flavors include dark chocolate, chocolate, and white chocolate. Stuffers include a regular chocolate bar with “stuff” added. The stuff ranges from almonds and hazelnuts to little bits of coffee, depending on the label. Let me explain which kinds of chocolate I like by telling you the following: white chocolate is disgusting. If you eat white chocolate I genuinely feel sorry for you. No amount of early-age indoctrination could have convinced me that eating white chocolate is not a sin. The sanctity of chocolate has been ravaged by the perpetuated lie that white chocolate is actually chocolate. It’s like saying that broccoli is actually broccoli chocolate, then stepping back to wait for your children to eat it as they eye it distrustfully, except that broccoli actually doesn’t taste half as bad as white chocolate, especially broccoli with a little cheese, which I don’t have in Anshun. The invention of white chocolate has emboldened me to make outrageous claims like, “I can fly,” and when people question me skeptically I point at a white “chocolate” bar and say, “You let THEM get away with it!”

By now you probably guessed how I feel about Dove Chocolate bars “stuffed” with various nuts. In case you haven’t, these bars are a last-resort if the shelves are devoid of dark chocolate or regular chocolate. Even if this is the case, I belittle the chocolate bar the entire way home, to make sure it knows it’s not wanted. I do this aloud to further bolster my resolve against chocolates that are obviously embellishing delusions of grandeur. Besides, the addition of nuts or coffee chunks is a flagrant violation of “getting your money’s worth.” We could compare the price per pound of real Dove Chocolate (flavor: chocolate) to a pound of hazelnuts to get a better idea, but I’m still so angry at the persistent fraud of white “chocolate” that I can’t think clearly anymore.

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