Saturday, July 03, 2010

Melting Chocolate Bars

In the early part of the ‘39/’45 war, when I was a refugee in America waiting to be old enough to return home to become an RAF pilot, I much enjoyed eating a chocolate bar, called OHenry.
Being then entirely dependant on the Killorin family who very kindly took me in, I earned my pocket money (for such as OHenry chocolate bars and ice cream covered in liquid marshmallow and chocolate shot), by selling subscriptions to magazines and garden work (avoiding the nasty poison ivy, which is prevalent in Connecticut).
Move forward to just after the war, in the late 1940s, when TB had destroyed my start in medicine and when I had become an art student.
In England we were still suffering from winning the war, and subject to severe rationing.
In France things were different. Food there was so plentiful that a war might never have happened (I suppose there’s a moral there).
So, in Paris, while drawing at La Grande Chaumière and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, I met up with friends made in those refugee times in America. Several were now in their Foreign Service. Among them was Jeremy Hodson, who was one with whom I kept in touch afterwards.
Move forward once more, now to 1959 and Vietnam, before America’s disastrous war there.
Jeremy Hodson was based in Saigon in the employ of the U.S. government, and living within the kind of compound of American life and artefacts that suits them when abroad.
He wanted to escape those confines and see what was actually happening outside Saigon, and to understand the feelings of Vietnamese people.
He managed to obtain permission to travel a long way north toward the 49th parallel (the border between North and South Vietnam) and to take me along. We were to see, among other surprising things, many South Vietnamese troops being trained to fight their fellow countrymen in the north (crazy) should those in the Communist north encroach on the American-run south.
Armed with food aplenty in ice-boxes, including OHenry bars, we headed north, a journey about which Jeremy wrote a report for his government (ignored) concerning the feelings of the Vietnamese people toward their northern countrymen and of the Americans.
Back in Saigon, and now knowing of my enthusiasm for OHenry bars, he very kindly gave me a whole box of them.
The room in which I lodged had a fan in the ceiling for air-conditioning. In the extreme heat at that time, the chocolate bars melted – to become a thick liquid. To consume flowing chocolate in a steamingly hot climate is not a particularly appetising prospect.
Move forward again to now, as I write, in a period of hot English summer.
With OHenry bars unobtainable, my wife, Margreet, kindly surprised me with a gift of its near equivalent – a bar with a fudgey centre, surrounded by roasted peanuts with a coating of milk chocolate.
The bar was beginning to melt like the OHenry bars in Vietnam. So I shoved it into a freezer drawer of our refrigerator.
What came out, hard, cold and crisp, was quite delicious – and very different from the bar that went in.
It was not the first time that I have frozen chocolate bars and greatly enjoyed the result. I recommend the procedure – even in cooler weather.
Belgian-type chocolates were not a success. So it is probably only run-of-the-mill chocolate bars that respond well to this freezing treatment.