LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — When I was a kid, Christmas wasn’t Christmas until the box of Black Magic chocolates appeared on the bar in the basement. It would usually show up around the beginning of December, and my brother and I would hover over it like flies until my dad pulled off the cellophane wrapper.
When he lifted the lid, there was the layer of crinkly protective paper lying like a stiff blanket atop the chocolates. We’d hungrily lift that too and there they were: little, pretty treasures nestled in a tray molded with custom-size cradles.
So familiar was I with the Black Magic box, I didn’t need to refer to the chocolate legend, although I did think it was thoughtful of the Black Magic people to include one. But I knew exactly what the orange cream looked like: draped in dark chocolate, the shape of a boomerang and two chocolate lines drawn decoratively across the top. I’d pick it up and sink my teeth in, the chocolate giving in to the tangy orange frosting inside.
I’d savor for a long minute, swallow and then immediately hunt for the strawberry dream: oval in shape, likewise encased in dark chocolate but with a twirl of milk chocolate looping across its top. Though it never tasted like strawberry very much, I’d love it until it was time for the coconut chocolate, held cupcake-style in a black wrapper.
There was two of each kind of chocolate in the Black Magic chocolate tray. After I’d had both creams, both dreams and both coconut confections is when the moral dilemma set in. There were still, after all, a lot of chocolates left in the tray: the one that had the nut in the middle and all those endless caramels. I’d half-heartedly chew on some of those before I’d lift the tray and put it on the table beside the couch. Before me lay another crinkly protective sheet.
See, the real magic of the Black Magic box is it is a two-story construction. There is the top tray of chocolates and underneath it lies an identical one containing, you see, two creams, two dreams and two coconut cupcakes. Depending on how principled I was feeling that day determined how long I could put off dipping into the second tray before the top tray was devoid of its contents.
I hate to admit it but I usually couldn’t hold out for very long.
While the Black Magic box was a Christmas staple in my home, it was a different chocolate story at my grandma’s house. Like every good grandmother, she was well stocked with candy bars anyway, but at Christmas she went all out. And for her, that meant Ferrero Rocher chocolates displayed enticingly on the coffee table in her living room.
I’ve never met a chocolate I didn’t like, but those Ferrero Rochers were the epitome of class in my book, the Rolls Royce of the chocolate kingdom. The fact alone that they were individually wrapped in gold foil meant they had to be extremely expensive. Then when you peeled off the exquisite wrapper there appeared this planet of chocolate whose surface was littered with rocky hazelnut shards. You’d bite in, pass the thin wafer and descend into the smooth milk chocolate and roasted hazelnut inside. A treat to be sure. A treat I realize now has 73 calories, but one that as a kid was entirely guilt free.
Also guilt free were the Toffifee chocolates my parents would occasionally receive as gifts. I’d pop those suckers in my mouth sometimes two at a time, chewing diligently on the sticky caramel and savoring the nougat, which always seemed very European and fancy to me. After Eights, another rare treat my parents would receive, also did not last long in my presence, with the black envelopes shielding each mint-chocolaty square collecting quickly beside me. And Turtles, who can forget? Was there anything better than nibbling off the pecan turtle feet before diving into the caramel?
I thought of all this as I stood in line at Kmart earlier this week and spied a three-pack of Ferrero Rochers. I stared at it, thinking of my grandma, my dad, of all who have passed and put it in my basket.