Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hershey Chocolate and Other Delights

When I read the biography of Thomas Lipton before giving the book to my sailing son for Christmas, I knew I wanted to read more of Michael D'Antonio's work. I also knew when I started reading Hershey, the biography of Milton S. Hershey, I'd better have a supply of chocolate on hand!* One of the things I like most about reading is how much I learn about something new. Reading Hershey was not only enlightening about the Chocolate King and his Utopian world, I also learned more about capitalism in general as well as what was going on in the world a hundred years ago. Hershey was not the first to perfect the manufacture of low cost chocolate in America, he was better at mass production, keeping the cost lower, and at marketing. I found it interesting to learn that Hershey's milk chocolate has always had a distinctive flavor - due to the fermentation of milk fat, it carries a single, faintly sour note. It was something European milk chocolate devotees would notice, but not the newly addicted American chocolate lovers. It was the distinctive flavor which Americans came to prefer over other chocolates.

When I was a lunch-bucket- packing grade schooler, a Hershey's Almond Bar was a welcome treat. For some unknown reason, it became a fad in the winter months to place our candy bars on top of the oil burning stove for a few minutes to melt the chocolate. Then we would dip it up with our fingers in order to eat it. I won't say our family was poor, but instead of a 5-cent Hershey bar in our lunch, we more often found the 3-cent Klein's Lunch Bar. (I actually came to prefer the peanuts in Klein's over the almonds in Hershey's.) Klein's was another Pennsylvania chocolate maker. William Klein once worked for M.S. Hershey before starting his own company. Even though they were competitors, they "always got along well and did business as friends."

One more little tidbit, I learned was something called fletcherizing. Named for Horace Fletcher, a Victorian era health food faddist, it was the belief that chewing food thirty-two times before swallowing would make people more healthy. His claim, "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate" earned him the nickname, "The Great Masticator". See what interesting things one can learn?

Three more recent reads included two new authors - Kate Morton and Donis Casey. Casey's Crying Blood was an interesting mystery and a look at farm life a hundred years ago in Oklahoma Indian Territory. It was a quick read which gave a glimpse of the cultural changes at that time. This book was a reminder of our visit to the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee a few years ago during a stay in that area.

Morton's The House At Riverton was a more interesting mystery set in England during the time between the two World Wars. It, too, details the cultural changes of the time through the eyes of a young girl who goes "into service" at the big house before WWI. The story is told in flashbacks when the young girl is ninety-eight years old.

Cecelia Ahern has become a favourite author of mine so I was delighted to find her most recent novel The Book of Tomorrow on the shelf at the library. "What if we knew what tomorrow would bring? Would we fix it? Could we?" Tamara Goodwin has lived a life of luxury her first sixteen years. But her materialistic world comes crashing down when her father commits suicide and her mother is forced to sell everything in order to cover their debts.

Tamara and her mother move in with their peculiar relatives in a remote countryside village. There are several entwining mysteries here - not the least of which concerns Tamara's real age and parentage. Breaking the lock of a leather-bound book to discover a diary written in her own handwriting is a shock. But when the entry is dated the following day, and then the next day unfolds just as recorded, Tamara learns it is sometimes better not to interfere with fate.

* More than chocolate, reading this book made me crave caramels. (Hershey's first business was a caramel manufacturing company.) A bag of Werther's chewy caramels and one of Riesen chocolate caramels were devoured during the reading.


  1. I'm going to keep my eye out for this one. Many people turn up their nose at Hershey's chocolate, but I happen to love it, for my sins.....

  2. Yeah, we too had a Klein Lunch Bar instead of a Hershey Bar. We never though of ourselves as poor (found out later "poor" is a state of mind), we just didn't have enough money which was typical of the times.