The proof of a charmed life is that the news—from wars, to government policies, to Super Bowl melodramas—has little discernible effect on your happiness.
Thus, when current events materially affect your well-being it can come as a shock, a slap in the face, a source of emotions ranging from outrage, to anxiety, to mourning.
I’m thinking in particular of a settlement last week between HersheyCo. and an importer of British products that prevents Cadbury chocolates made in Britain from reaching the U.S.
Hershey, which has a licensing agreement to make Cadbury products here, such as the Dairy Milk chocolate bar, apparently contends that the packaging on the domestic and imported versions are too close for comfort, and thus a threat to their trademark.
I’ve never suffered any confusion. And the reason is that I seek out Cadbury in places where I know the British version is sold—such as Fairway and Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street.
And if I happen to be shopping at an unfamiliar supermarket, I scour the labeling to make certain I don’t suffer the disappointment of arriving home and discovering I’ve bought the American version by mistake.
What’s the difference between the two? Why the big deal?
This analogy comes to mind. In the late ’70s I purchased a photograph by Edward Weston called “China Cove.” It’s a beautiful, almost abstract scene taken from a great height at Point Lobos in California in 1940. The image depicts the effect of radiant sunlight on the sea, on a rock formation that rises from its depths, and on long tendrils of seaweed.
The version I own was printed by Cole Weston, the photographer’s son, rather than by Edward Weston himself.
It’s a mesmerizing photograph. Nonetheless, it doesn’t compare to the original, which I ran across in a museum not long ago. The differences are subtle—the gradations of light in the father’s print are somehow more nuanced, the seaweed seems to whisper, the sea is imbued with something like melancholy.
That’s sort of how I feel about the difference between the British version of Cadbury’s, which has a higher fat content, and the American recipe.
And it would be noticeable even to the average 8-year-old.
How do I know? Because that’s when I first discovered Dairy Milk, as well as Cadbury Flake—compressed leaves of chocolate that literally melt on the tongue—and other delicacies, such as Aero and honeycombed Crunchie.
It was on a trip to Ireland with my family. I spent the entire summer’s allowance—$5—on British candy in the first two weeks, turning me into a sniveling supplicant, begging my parents for more money to feed my habit.
There are even those who claim that Irish Cadbury is superior to English Cadbury, that the milk is slightly more sour, creating a sort of yin yang—between the sweetness of the chocolate and the piquancy of the milk.
The distinction between the English and Irish versions is subtle. But then again, whether the subject is photography, candy, or barbecued ribs, it’s precisely that subtlety, that sophistication, that has raised us above brute nature, and given us the will to tame chaos and glimpse the eternal.
As a full-blooded patriot, I believe the United States is the greatest nation on Earth—only not when it comes to mass-produced chocolate. Peanut M&M’s stick out as the exception to the rule. But I’ll choose a Flake or a Dairy Milk over a Milky Way or Snickers any day.
Some will probably disagree. But where British Cadbury falls short, in my opinion, is in products that try too hard to indulge American-style insatiability: such as Picnic—a pileup of peanuts, nougat, caramel, puffed rice and biscuit covered in milk chocolate.
The genius of British candy generally is that it doesn’t try to overreach. It realizes—unlike American manufacturers, who sell us short again and again by substituting inferior ingredients in their relentless quest to shave costs and increase profits—that the human palate is infinitely discerning.
British Dairy Milk’s “glass and a half” of milk slogan is borne out in every bite.
So where do I go from here?
I suspect the reason Hershey’s took the action it did is that British Cadbury has become increasingly available in the U.S. in recent years, and shoppers have probably become spoiled, realizing there’s no comparison between the two.
This feels like a Soviet-era Iron Curtain falling over my freedom of choice. But I will hurry to Fairway to stockpile Flakes and Dairy Milks as soon as this column is completed. And I will be even nicer to my cousin George, who travels to Britain frequently and generously brings back my favorite candy bars.
And if a black market develops stateside I will be among its first customers. No action is too extreme in defense of liberty.