Even at my loneliest and most cynical, I have always liked Valentine’s Day. The commercialized romance bothers me not a whit—I like watching couples being romantic, or awkward, or goofy. But this I will say: for those of us who don’t love chocolate, the onset of February is, well, disheartening.
Nowadays, scientists like to point to the fact that eating chocolate somehow mimics the physiological characteristics of female arousal, but one doubts that science is behind the ubiquity of the heart-shaped variety box. After all, the whole connection between chocolate and courtship goes back to the nineteenth century. I’m no historian, but I’d imagine it’s more a “sweets for the sweet” bit of marketing that struck an immediate chord.
If we are going to talk about amateur modern chocolate historians, Roald Dahl cannot be ignored. As anyone familiar with his oeuvre knows, the man loved chocolate. But the full extent of his feelings cannot be understood until one has read the manifesto “Chocolate,” in his highly idiosyncratic Roald Dahl’s Cookbook. Talking of what he terms the “Chocolate Revolution” of 1930–37, Dahl declares,
The dates themselves should be taught in school to every child. Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one’s life. But 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers, and 1937 the Kit Kat—these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the mind of every child in the country. If I were a headmaster I would get rid of the history teacher and get a chocolate teacher instead and my pupils would study a subject that affected all of them.
(Not that one imagines he went in much for Valentine’s Day.) Read More