In my earlier Fillet about chocolate, I had mentioned in passing that while American chocolate is big, it isn’t good. Sure, there’s lots of it and it comes in large economy sizes. If you ever want to get toothache by eating lots of chocolate without spending too much, the United States is the place to be. On the other hand, if you want to indulge yourself in delicious, flavourful chocolate, go get a bar of German chocolate. Or Swizz. Or Italian. Surprisingly, even Australian or Thai are up to standard. But not American.
Which is bizzare (or is it spelt bizarre?) on the face of it. After all, it isn’t as if Americans don’t know what good chocolate is. For well over a decade, my mum has been baking cakes out of a recipe book by Diana Dalsass, an American lady who, I am sure, would shudder at the thought of cakes without chocolate. And good chocolate at that. Half the introduction deals with how to proportion butter and chocolate so that the chocolate spreads evenly through the batter. Only my brother is as obsessive, and in his case it’s about spreading butter on toast- which is nowhere near as important.
So it’s not as if Americans don’t care about the chocolate they eat. And yet American chocolates are crap. This is befuddling.
And this week, Bill Bryson told me why this is so.
If you have not already read Bryson’s book Notes From a Big Continent, I suggest you run out and get a copy as soon as possible. It’s brilliant. In one of seventy eight essays in the book, he explains why American chocolates are crap- because all the candy manufacturers compete on price and dilute the taste until nobody can possibly say it’s too strong. He also elaborates on the joy of having a garbage disposal unit, how Americans refuse to walk anywhere, why Americans are stupid despite producing most of the world’s new research, and why Americans have no sense of humour. To make up for bitching about America and the Americans in seventy six essays, he also slips in two pieces on how gloriously beautiful North Hampshire is, and how friendly the people there are.
The focus of this post has slipped away from chocolate to Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Continent, and there’s a reason for this. Be patient.
One of the nicest essays in NFABC is the one in which Bryson describes watching the basketball games at Dartmouth College, which is a walk down from his home. He says that the Dartmouth College basketball games are free of the rampant commercialism that affects American sports, that they’re nailbiters, and that the Dartmouth players play for the love of the game.
He also compliments the “endearingly nerdy Dartmouth band” that plays tunes like the Hawaii Five-Oh theme during halftime.
Now, here is the reason the focus of this post has shifted.
Checking my website stats, it turns out that one of the top visitors to aadisht dot net is an American desi- I don’t know if he’s an ABCD or an FOB- called Shounak Simlai from Dartmouth College. And Googling further, we find that- drumroll, please, Billy- he’s in the Dartmouth College marching band, playing the didgideroo.
So, I write a W-Fillet about India’s Third World Mentality as measured by the size of it’s chocolates, which leads to me wondering why American chocolate is awful, which is answered by a bloke who likes the Dartmouth College Marching Band, which just happens to have a didgiderooist who reads the Fillets.
How’s that for the fundamental interconnectedness of all things?