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April 9, 2006

Mr. Henry Eats Chocolate With a Knife.

Filed under: Chocolate,Japanese Food,Mr. Henry — Mr. Henry @ 2:22 pm

To be more accurate, he pierces it with a sharp-pointed dagger and picks up the pieces with his fingers.

Chocoholics please take note: The foil-wrapped bar of chocolate is a thing of the past. Now chocolate arrives en bloc.

Mr. Henry has eaten chocolate in many ways and many places but employing a dagger is a notable first. In doing so, he has changed his life to a small but not unimportant degree.

Would not Richard Lionheart after a romp with the dauphin have unsheathed his [other] dagger to carve himself a slice of mutton or cheese? (At “room temperature” in a northern European castle, cheese must have been desirably firm, and Scotch whisky’s ancestral concoction must have been at its perfect temperature, as well.)

Did not the great Alexander himself, peckish on a hill in Ctesiphon, eat his pickled eels with a dagger? (To have conquered the known world and still not have either Scotch or chocolate at your table seems to have been more a strategic than a tactical error, wouldn’t you agree?)

This connection with antiquity comes courtesy of the elves at Scharffen Berger whose block of bittersweet 70% cacao now sits out on a dedicated cutting board next to Mr. Henry’s cheeses.

Place the dagger point just behind the edge and push firmly. The chocolate yields very slowly at first. Then, like an iceberg calving, a geological morsel falls away.

When Neolithic man pushed his thumb against a reindeer antler on the face of his flint matrix, with only modest pressure he was able to pop off a flake as sharp as glass. Like those pressure flakes, each piece of daggered chocolate has edges and points, broad smooth parabolic planes and knobbly rough patches.

However, the temptation to snarf chocolate all day long must be long resisted, else Mr. Henry seek chocoholic counseling which he cannot afford. Lying on the counter, the dagger presents a primal attraction not unlike a putter, a pool cue, a Frisbee or a yo-yo. Before the mind is engaged, the hand reaches out.

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

Seizing the trend towards artisanal chocolate, last year the Hershey’s empire purchased Scharffen Berger, a Berkeley outfit started by a couple of Napa Valley oenophiles eager to explore the New World’s most pleasurably addictive food. Consequently their chocolate can be found now at their own boutique on Amsterdam Avenue brightly appointed in yellow and brown like a shop from 18th-century Turin (where chocolate was first drunk together with coffee — the divine biccerin).

Mr. Henry finds it curious that nowhere on the Scharffen Berger site can you find any mention of Hershey’s ownership. No matter. Mr. Henry does not divulge all the secrets of his past, either. He supposes that when John Scharffenberger sold his eponymous champenoise company, he sold the rights to his name, too — hence the new space between Scharffen and Berger.

For the record, Mr. Henry’s name is not currently for sale.


  1. Mr. Henry hath murdered sleep! Well, my alarm clock actually did it, but it wasn’t just quoting from the Scottish Play.

    Interesting post!

    Comment by brackman1066 — April 10, 2006 @ 5:52 am

  2. The Hershey store for tourists in Times Square sells a few Scharffen Berger products.

    Comment by Shamhat — April 14, 2006 @ 7:44 am

  3. I very much like the idea of “chocoholic counseling”!
    Good chocolate for pastry making for sure!

    Comment by Bea at La Tartine Gourmande — April 14, 2006 @ 7:46 am

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