Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A Strawberry Chocolate Post by way of Nancy Mitford

I don’t know, perhaps it’s the sudden fortuitous change in the weather, just after 6.30pm this evening the clouds gave way to a marvellous golden sunshine - the sun's now setting behind the houses I can see from my kitchen window – or perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading rather a lot of Nancy Mitford of late, but I’ve come over all frivolous. Ridiculous I know, I’m Scottish and I’m a feminist, but the very Englishness of Mitford’s prose has somehow absorbed itself into my psyche and it’s all terribly this way or a total bore! I’ve decided to just go with it, for next on my reading list is a collection of short stories by the wonderful Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Hopefully he’ll go some way to redress the imbalance, particularly since this collection, After the Quake deals with the effects of the Kobe earthquake in 1995. For now though I am absorbed in the story of Grace and her French husband with the roving eye in The Blessing.

I do feel under qualified to discuss Mitford’s work because as I said I’m neither English nor of the class in which she discusses in her novels and to be fair I don’t think the types of upper classes she describes even exist anymore. Indeed in all honesty when I first started reading her writing I felt hugely alienated. But like all good things that one persists with there was a moment when the experience of reading something for reading’s sake, introduces the power of words in their own right. Suddenly the prose began to dazzle with descriptions of the kinds of clothes, jewellery and life-styles that of course belong to a by-gone era, but which somehow transcend history by way of aesthetics. By this I mean, sometimes the descriptions of expensive things, no matter how bourgeois I might otherwise try to fob them off as being, become a kind of poetry.

I read in the introduction to the collection that I am reading that Mitford was often dismissed for this kind of writing and yet male writers deal with similar aspects of the human condition that attract us to expensive things and costly lifestyles. One cannot read F Scott Fitzgerald’s work, particularly The Beautiful and Damned without seeing that his stories are imbued with a desire for social mobility and the acquisition of the goods that allow it. Perhaps the difference is Mitford’s heroines are unapologetic in their social lives and desire to make good marriages. Of course today given the economic situation and the damage years of consumerism has done to the planet we should be wary and indeed critical of our western materialistic lifestyles.

And dear reader it’s for this reason that it’s taken me so long to get round the point of this post. In the beginning I had simply set out to talk about some chocolate I ate the other day. This simple premise couldn’t be more ordinary, and yet because of the way I am and the way I think I managed to write all of this first. The thing is I read lots of other blogs that celebrate things; fashion, shoes, luxury cosmetics, art, books, music, handbags, food, whatever it may be and however much I admire their unashamed frivolity, their recognition of the simple joy in a beautiful thing, I cannot bring myself to do the same. It’s probably my own fault for being too serious. Feminism probably has something to do with it.

However here we are, and thanks to a bar of chocolate I’ve covered literature, class, materialism and consumer guilt - I might as well show you it!

Zotter's fairly traded, bean-to-bar 'in and out' chocolate

Willy Wonka style golden wrapper

Marvel at the layers of pink chocolate and jelly centre!

Coincidentally as my flatmate and I poured over the luxury bar of ‘hand-scooped’ strawberry chocolate and jelly confection, as we exhausted the many and varied adjectives; sweet, vanilla-y, smooth, soft, jammy, unctuous (I could go on), we decided the only expression that made sense was ‘its Willy-Wonka-ish’. All that English, Nancy Mitford and Shakespeare, and we’d divined this. Still perhaps Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is where this should end, for Charlie’s one bar of chocolate a year on his birthday is actually a much more significant thing than mere cocoa solids, milk and sugar.


  1. Three of my favourite things Nancy Mitford, F Scott Fitzgerald and chocolate! That chocolate looks amazing. I'm going to have to track some down. Hope you're good xx

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for your comment!
    Yes I agree it doesn't get much better than Nancy Mitford, F Scott Fitzgerald and chocolate. The chocolate is pretty much like nothing I've tasted before - I'm going to try their raspberry and coconut next so I'll endeavour to post something about it on the blog soon. Just wanted to say I very much enjoyed your post about the Dalai Lama over the weekend. xx