This story was originally published on MUNCHIES UK.
It was the second Strawberry Delight that did it. That, or the Caramel Barrel. Although, God knows, there was an incident with a Coconut Eclair that I won't forget in a hurry.
That's right, I single-handedly ate every chocolate from four Christmas chocolate tins in one sitting: Celebrations, Roses, Quality Street, and Miniature Heroes. Bish, bash, bosh, and bleurgh. I did it for you, dear reader. I did it for Christmas.
In fact, thanks to an inspired suggestion from my boyfriend, we invented the Christmas Chocolate Tin World Cup specifically for the task. According to this competition, my housemate, my boyfriend, and I all picked our favourites from each tin—plus a wild card from each—then put them head-to-head in a randomly assigned play-off until we reached the Grand Final (and a third place play-off). In order to do this, we ate every single flavour of chocolate in every single box, even though I had completely misguidedly opened the tin of Celebrations on the way back from the shop and eaten two mini Snickers off the top of a bollard.
Now, I should probably point out here that I feel about Christmas the way most people feel about prostate exams. It's not exactly hatred, more a looming sense of despair, discomfort, and extreme disinclination.
So, who better to munch her way through 100 grams of shiny, sugary meaninglessness, I hear you ask? Who better to literally eat a tin of Xmas sweets? What is Christmas, after all, but minuscule moments of fleeting pleasure, tinged with nausea, all wrapped up within a gaudy foil pretence at goodwill before a miasma of sticky fingered greed?
The taste for tins full of poorly differentiated micro-chocolates seems a particularly British tradition. Quality Street, before its boorish buyout by international breast milk baddies Nestle in 1988, was actually invented in Halifax by a man called John Mackintosh and released to the general public in 1936. The name was, apparently, a play on "Quality Sweet" (hilarious, I'm sure you'll agree) and captured the tight-belted spirit of the post-Depression 1930s, when cheap chocolates were the order of the day, even if they were just wrapped in coloured paper.
And, according to a Wikipedia story that may well be apocryphal but is so beautiful I literally don't give a shit if it's not true, "Quality Street gained the implied endorsement of Saddam Hussein when the Iraqi dictator was reported to have offered them to visiting British politician George Galloway in 2002." Now, that's a Christmas moment I would have paid good Toffee Coins to see.
The 1930s were something of a boom time for mass-produced chocolate, and Christmas tins were no exception. As well as the invention of the Mars bar, the Crunchie, the Aero, Kit Kats, Rolos, and Smarties, the decade also saw the birth of Cadbury's Roses.
Now, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but they've absolutely dicked up Roses. Destroyed. Ruined. Instead of the lovely, nostalgic, idiosyncratically shaped chocolates, each Rose now comes in a small, painfully wasteful foil wrapper. They are differentiated only by colour and a tin that creates at least half a bin's worth of rubbish. Unforgivable. This is what happens when you get bought out by Kraft, I suppose.
The other two tins—Celebrations and Miniature Heroes—are more recent additions to the festive race for diabetes, introduced in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Celebrations, as I'm sure you know, are sneeze-sized versions of popular Mars chocolates like Snickers, Bounty, Malteser, and Galaxy, while the Cadbury's Heroes play the same song but with Twirls, Eclairs, Fudge, Dairy Milk, and (shudder) Cadbury's Creme Eggs.
Now, for the Chocolate Tin World Cup to function adequately, we had to lay out some ground rules. You had to vote on the basis on your own personal combination of flavour, nostalgia, or design, but whichever chocolate got the majority vote (either two or more) would go through to the next round.
Things started badly. As mentioned, I'd already eaten a small skein's worth of chocolates before even hitting the sofa. Then, my fuckwit of a boyfriend decided to put through both the Cadbury's Creme Egg and the Fudge as his first round selections. (Honestly, I wonder why I let him anywhere my genitals sometimes.) Next, my idiot housemate added insult to injury by putting the Strawberry Delight up against the Quality Street triangle in the first round.
Fuck me, the Strawberry Delight. What unholy mind created this abomination? Imagine a chocolate purse full of perfume-flavoured pink phlegm and you will have some idea of quite how bad the Strawberry Delight really is. Of course, the Green Triangle won. Not only did unwrapping its sweet and promising corners take me straight to being back in my grandparents' front room in front of a roaring fire and haze of dog hair, it was also actually kind of delicious, with hard chocolate giving way to a soft, chocolate fondant filling.
What is Christmas, after all, but minuscule moments of fleeting pleasure, tinged with nausea, all wrapped up within a gaudy foil pretence at goodwill before a miasma of sticky fingered greed?
Other notable rounds in the play-offs included the particularly "soft group" of the Galaxy Caramel vs Fudge (the Fudge got kicked out of there like a burning ballsack in a methane container) or the Snickers vs the log-like "Brazilian Darkness" from Roses, which tasted like a slightly bitter fudge stick and disappointed my clearly unreliable memories. One of the few unanimous winners was the Quality Street Toffee Penny, even though it is not, as you will have noticed, a chocolate at all. Oh, and there was a new kid on the block: the Quality Street Honeycomb, which is the poor relation of both a Crunchie Bar and the Malteser Celebration, but put up a good fight against the latter in its first round play-off nonetheless.
By this stage in proceedings, I was starting to feel genuinely ill. I viewed the Quarter Finals with something approaching bowel-driven doubt. I may have run 10 kilometres that day and taken the precaution of a high-fibre lunch, but I was by no means sure this was going to prepare me for the glucose onslaught about to erupt on my bloodstream.
For those of you keeping track of details, the Quarter Finalists were: Green Triangle vs Galaxy Caramel, The Quality Street Purple One vs Bounty, Teaser vs Twirl, Toffee Penny vs Snickers.
While I have a lot of love in my heart for all things peanut, I accepted with dignity when the Snickers got overruled by my fellow participants and the Toffee Penny went through. And, while I remembered with a certain professional caution that my editor had politely informed me that her favourite was The Purple One, I happily saw it knocked out of the running by my coconut chum, the mighty Bounty.
We were now in the nail-biting Semi Final. If by "nail-biting," you mean I would have happily eaten a full horse's hoof if it had got me out of digesting any more miniature chocolates. But no, we had agreed to a World Cup and a World Cup we were going to complete. So, I undid my flies (sure), leant back on the sofa, and got stuck into the penultimate round. This saw: Green Triangle vs Bounty, Teaser vs Toffee Penny with a chance to play in the Third Place Playoffs.
My friends, I know, the tension is palpable. The excitement nearly unbearable. The quantity of sugar and cocoa solids almost unfathomable. But here's what happened. We made our way, discordantly, to a Green Triangle vs Teaser Final, while the Bounty and Toffee Penny fought it out to the end.
Would it be the nostalgic, emerald enchantress or the Mars malted upstart? Who would walk away the winner? While I bravely fought the corner of the Green Triangle, my boyfriend calmly chewed through a couple more sweets, thinking, while my housemate stared balefully at the floor.
In the end, we came to some accord. The thing about the Teaser is that while it's not actually just a wrapped-up Malteser (I would love that), you've got to give them some credit for inventing a whole new chocolate just for Christmas. And it is delicious. Better than that stupid bunny. And a world away from the bloody Creme Egg. So, in the end, first place went to the humble Teaser, followed by the Green Triangle, with the Toffee Penny sliding in at third place.
After a handshake, a brief moment to try and swallow the rising bile in my throat and mop the sweat from my brow, I walked into my room and collapsed on the bed, nauseous and exhausted.
So, this is Christmas. And a Happy New Year.