My best friend Alison and I met when we were 13ish. We didn’t become good friends until we were 15/16ish. She used to say to me, “I don’t believe you’re really allergic to chocolate. Let’s go get a bag of Hershey bars and go sit in the emergency room parking lot and just see what happens. What do you say?” I always said no. No way in hell. A few years ago, she and her mom bought a fake Christmas tree. After setting it up and separating all the little wire branches, her hands started swelling and turning red. It was her first allergic reaction and her mom had to run to the store to buy Benadryl. She’s allergic to the fire retardant stuff on the fake tree. The next time she saw me, she very sweetly said she wouldn’t suggest the emergency room parking lot scheme again.
Now it’s become a joke between us, but when I first found out I could eat chocolate, I thought “Damn it! Now I really am going to have to go do that with her!” I always said I’d never do it, but now I didn’t have any excuse not to! And it would be a rather poetic way to celebrate. She was the second person I called after I found out the news (mom was first; she had to suffer through a lot of cry-talk). But I told Alison and she said almost immediately, “If you don’t want to eat any of those things, it’s ok. I promise I won’t tell anyone your secret.” That started the waterworks again. I was so touched. I didn’t have to change and she wasn’t going to pressure me to do so. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect response, but I mean, duh, there is a reason she’s my best friend.
My first taste of chocolate would, therefore, have to be with Alison. I waited. I waited five days after I found out. I think that helped ease me into the idea. We went to Whole Foods and she acknowledged as we looked at the candy bar section, that she could see how overwhelming this process could be. Just staring at all those different kinds of chocolate, without any idea where to start, I would definitely need a guide. She also had an interesting theory that had never crossed my mind before. She wondered if I would have to go through a taste-evolution. Kids start out liking sweet chocolate, milk chocolate with lots of sugar. Hershey’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&M’s. Adults generally prefer richer, dark chocolate. Their tastes mature. Since I was a chocolate novice, but also an adult, which would I prefer: milk or dark? I had no idea. We decided to try both.
I loved how she kept telling people about how this was my first time eating chocolate. I never would have told strangers that. But somehow having her there to break the ice and back me up, made it ok. She was very excited for me. We went back to her house with dark chocolate gelato, mint chocolate gelato, a milk chocolate bar (33% cocoa), a dark chocolate bar (77% cocoa), Justin’s peanut Butter Cups (I have a slight peanut butter obsession), strawberries, and 2% milk. She was going to make me chocolate chip cookies and warm, fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies needed to be dunked in good milk—none of this non-fat stuff would do. I watched her melt chocolate chips and dip the strawberries in it. Did I mention Alison is an amazing cook? I’d eat anything she makes. She was explaining how chefs deal with mixing their own sugar and cream and cocoa when they cook. Chocolate seems very complicated to deal with. She made chocolate chip cookies. And then came the fateful moment.