Anything purchased at Whole Foods is either a hit or a miss. The overpriced water with asparagus sticks floating around? Definitely a miss. The super overpriced guacamole that I could easily make at home? Probably the best thing Whole Foods makes. With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, there is a plethora of pink and red decorations throughout the store. I walk over to the little corner in the store that sells eccentric goods, all organic of course, pertaining to the spirit of love and cupids. While I did not plan on buying expensive, hand-crafted, fancy, gluten-free, organic, whatnot chocolate, I could not resist my sweet tooth and curiosity as I purchased the item. “Bayou Style Country Chili Dark Chocolate Bar,” the label read. “Vine ripened cayenne peppers.”
I unwrapped the silver foil and breathed in the chocolate. Pretty chocolate-y for the most part, maybe a slight spicy smell? Just in case, I poured myself a cup of milk. I broke apart a small piece and placed it on my tongue expecting a mouth-burning sensation that forces me to run across my floor to the toilet with tears streaming down my face.
Nothing. The chocolate was not spicy.
It was actually quite smooth. Earthy. Not really sweet. Right at the end, there is a slight kick in the back of my throat. It was more of a cinnamon, peppery sensation, though, instead of the expected burning feeling. It felt like I was eating a muted version of Hot Tamales, red cinnamon-flavored gummies. Almost immediately, I transported back in time to 2nd grade. I remembered my ballet studio.
Every day after classes, my mom drove me to the local ballet studio, where I took ballet classes for two hours. Because my class was filled with energetic seven year olds, my instructor mandated ten minute breaks between each hour. Although the break was mostly for her, my friends and I would run downstairs and scurry into the break room where the candy machine resided. The candy flavor changed every week, but we loved it when the machine was filled with Hot Tamales. We loved the strong cinnamon flavor on our tongues, because we felt like badasses for being able to handle such an “adult” candy. It was always my favorite part of ballet class, grabbing quarters out of my bag and hurrying downstairs to munch on the treats.
I reach for the chocolate bar and break off a bigger piece. Slowly sucking on it, I first taste the bitterness, sweetness, and finish off with the nostalgic cinnamon flavor. Chili chocolate may appear a strange flavor, but don’t let its unconventional pairing deter you from trying it. Who knows, maybe the bar can conjure up some mawkish, or funky, memories for you too.