Swiss Chocolate

Lynda Balslev

Swiss Chocolate

The Swiss have been onto something for ages, and we're only just figuring it out.

High-quality dark chocolate is good for you. It's good for you, because it not only tastes sublime and brings a smile to your face; it's good for you because, in moderation, chocolate is healthy for you. Now, before you reach for those Milk Duds, be aware that not all chocolate is deemed healthy. According to studies, the best chocolate is dark chocolate that has been minimally processed, thus preserving its natural antioxidants, and according to the Swiss, the best chocolate is, well, Swiss.

I became privy to this information when I lived in Geneva for nine years. During this time, I was indoctrinated into the Cult of Swiss Chocolate. In a country with four national languages and myriad regional cultures, there is no dissension when it comes to their chocolate, which is viewed as a necessary element, like water or air. It rises above the frivolous label of “dessert,” transcending all nutritional categories while standing shoulder to shoulder with cows, banks, and the Matterhorn as a national symbol. This dedication is exemplified in a telling display of Swiss efficiency, where chocolate is the multi-tasking equivalent of a power bar, a balanced diet, a healthy psyche, and an aspirin. It's found in every pantry, lunchbox, and ski-pack, while every requisite bomb shelter (seriously) likely stockpiles kilos of Swiss chocolate alongside its First Aid equipment.

It was a steep but quick learning curve for me. One day, early on in my expat life, I crossed the local Swiss/French border, returning from a shopping excursion at a nearby French supermarket. The border guards stopped me for a routine check of my purchases. (There were strict quantity restrictions on meats, cheese, and wine). That fateful day, I informed the guards that I had several bars of French chocolate in my possession. They gaped at me in disbelief, their practiced stoicism crumbling in disgust. Never mind the bottles of Burgundy wine clinking in my shopping bags, the odor of runny Epoisses cheese wafting from my car window, or the side of Charolais beef buckled into the backseat – they were aghast that I had the gall and obvious bad form to purchase French chocolate. I had committed an act of treachery in their minds, thus diminishing my already lowly foreign status. The next time I crossed the border, I would have to wear a paper bag over my head.

I learned my lesson. Clearly, integrating meant more than learning the local language and paying taxes. It also meant buying, consuming, and revering Swiss chocolate. I grew wise and so did my need and use for le chocolat Suisse. To this day, I remain a convert and continue to stockpile bars of Lindt bittersweet chocolate, ever on hand for a boost of energy, a lifting of the mood, and a restorative moment of pleasure – after all, it's healthy, right?

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