Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chocolate That Makes You Alert

Eat a chocolate bar every day to get your vitamins in? I think I can do that. Please tell me more about Vita-Sert Chocolate Bars!

This was one of the earliest vitamin-fortified confections ever. The wrapper says that a bar of Vita-Sert gives you "100% of minimum adult requirements of listed vitamins" - not all vitamins, just some: B1, B2, C and D. Just the first four letters of the alphabet. Anything after D, you're on your own.

Best of all, if you sent the Cook Chocolate Company of Chicago (who clearly favored the letter C) a dime and 3 Vita-Sert wrappers, they would send you the "Pocket Guide For Vitamin Hunters." That's to help you find all the rest of the vitamins that you didn't get in your candy bar, I guess.

I always wish I could send away for the stuff advertised in old ads, and this is no exception - because who wouldn't love to be a Vitamin Hunter? I picture myself with a deerstalker hat and a large magnifying glass, examining things in the kitchen. Examining all the chocolate in shops, hoping against hope that I'll find ones packed with vitamins.

This ad  (which I have just pinned on my Pinterest board, Chocolate Chronicles - the link will take you there) is quite similar to the one on the left, but features the exquisite verse, "Be Alert - Eat Vita-Sert"  - and a cartoon girl before and after.

Parents' Magazine and Good Housekeeping were on board with Vita-Sert, too. In fact Good Housekeeping promised they would give you a fresh bar if you thought your Vita-Sert was "defective" or "not as advertised therein" - which sounds like kind of a bad idea, because those are pretty subjective terms. "I ate a Vita-Sert and I did not become alert! Please send me more!"

Actually, that really happened in 1943. There was a libel case filed against Cook Chocolate Co. in 1943 with reference to 367 cases of Vita-Sert. The bars were labeled as giving you all your daily vitamins and that just was - well, wrong. The FDA made them relabel - the ad above is from ca 1946, and is pretty careful to say the bars contain "needed vitamins" - not all of them.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Time

This is something you should know: now is the time for chocolate covered cherries. Lots and lots of them. Whether you like it or not. Actually, the real time for them in the US is National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day - January 3. But you do see them around the holidays quite a bit. Just plonk the box down in a hedge or a holly bush, like the Brach's people, whatever you have handy, and there you go: instant holidays!

They are are sometimes called Chocolate Cherry Cordials. The term cordial, which I thought referred to the syrup or liqueur, is used for any candy with a chocolate-coated fruit filling. 

The Brach's ad is from the mid 1950s and made me wonder, when WAS the first chocolate covered cherry? 

Feeding America
The earliest advertisement I found was for the Loft Store in New York City in 1907. They sold chocolate covered cherry clusters for 29 cents a pound. It was by far the most expensive item in the ad - peanut brittle was 10 cents a pound, and Maplo Walnut Bonbons were 19 cents - those sound really good, too. I need to get to this store! And in 1914 a candy place in upstate New York sold fancy-sounding Martinique Chocolate Cherries, adding that "everyone knows how tasty a chocolate covered cherry is."  Yes. Yes we do. And now is the time to have them.

Conclusion based on a small but intense burst of research: chocolate covered cherries were probably made commercially beginning around 1900. Before 1900? You're on your own. You need to make some.  Just ask Bertha F. Kramer - also known as Aunt Babette, who (as far as I can tell) wrote down one of the first recipes for this candy, in the 1880s.

Aunt Babette's Cook Book, published in 1889, is one of the earliest Jewish cookbooks published in the US; it was reprinted many times and has recipes for lots of French, German, American and Jewish dishes. If you click the link you can go take a look. Yesterdish has a really interesting post referencing Aunt Babette and her cookbook, too. 
Aunt Babette will tell us how to make "Chocolate Cherries."  And she doesn't care how much washing up we will have to do afterwards. She tells us to roll candied cherries in melted chocolate - a messy job easier said than done. But Aunt Babette wasn't done yet. She adds:

If desired cover each cherry with French cream and then roll in the chocolate. Use a long hat-pin for this purpose.

If desired! Oh, Aunt Babette. If I do this it will be like Lucy and Ethel working at Kramer's Candy Kitchen. I will just used dried cherries and dark chocolate, or maybe even buy some from Brach's, thank you very much.