Sunday, February 20, 2011

Little Chocolate Lie

In my last post, "Overdose," I forgot to mention something about the time when I started secretly eating chocolate behind my Mom's back (because she feared it would make me sick, which it didn't). When I was 15, my friends and I ate candy as an after-school activity and when that wasn't enough, I'd sneak some back into my room. One error in judgement—brought on by sheer teen laziness—almost ruined everything. After eating candy in my room, sometimes I'd forgot to throw away the wrappers. My Mom noticed and confronted me. (Guess I wasn't so stealth after all.) My quick reply birthed from mortification and fear was, "Oh I didn't eat those Mom. They're my friends' candy bars...they ate 'em and gave the wrappers to me because...I'm starting to collect them." If my Mom didn't believe me (who would?) she never let on. But because I felt so awful about lying, I figured the best way to fix it was to make the lie true, and that's how my chocolate wrapper collection began.

This all must have gone down in the spring, since my first wrapper was a Twix Bar, my second a Cadbury Easter Egg (after 3 tries, that's really thin foil!), and my third a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Easter Egg. You probably think this is all very silly, but after five years of collecting I had 3000 wrappers from all over the world. Many arrived in the mail after I built relationships with other collectors, strangers who thought to be generous with a young starter like me.

After I ran an ad in the Chocolate News for a Milk Chocolate Mounds Bar—not sold for long and when it was I forgot to buy one—a man in Wisconsin mailed one of those to me and also threw in the prize of my collection: a Hershey's Bar from World War II.

Then the motherlode arrived. Unbelievably, a baker from Prague saw my ad and started sending me wrappers from his inherited collection in exchange for American wrappers! I think at the time he had about 56,000 of them, and he not only sent dozens of mint-condition, printed-yet-never-used wrappers to me from Prague, he also sent some amazing Russian wrappers from the Cold War era that boasted military art (e.g., fighter planes, and children wearing uniforms from each military division). One time he even went into East Berlin before the wall came down and snuck a package of candy to the post office for me to try. Though the candy wasn't too delicious, it was a marvel for a college kid. I shouldn't be too surprised that once the baker realized my American bars were limited in scope (words printed on wrappers instead of art, and not too exciting in design or variety), he claimed his English was getting poorer and stopped writing.

Years later I received wrappers from a soldier in the Gulf War I'd been corresponding with, which for the life of me I can't find. And eventually my hobby was discovered by the New York Daily News, who printed my story in a lifestyle piece on collectors (see original article photo at top). These days there are wrappers flattening in books around my home, and I can only imagine how many are in my collection now. It's kind of an odd hobby to have but one that seems to give people an odd pleasure, especially friends who enjoy picking up wrappers when they're on vacation. To me it's still kind of funny that this hobby all started because of a little chocolate lie.

Until we eat again,

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