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Memories of what was real

I am the kind of guy that would prefer to eat quiche on Thanksgiving; dive into a good New York-style cheesesteak on Christmas Day; and dig into homemade lasagna at Easter, bypassing the traditional, run-of-the-mill baked ham, of course.

I don’t give a Belsnickel for food holiday traditions.

But I do love chocolate. Oh indeed I do. And those lip-smacking memories abound.

Back in late August-early September 1998, I attended the Baltimore Worldcon convention at the Inner Harbor. I think it was Denmark that was vying to be the host of an upcoming Eurocon in 2007. At the party suite, a Belgian lawyer -- whose name escapes me, but she was part of the staff in charge of the bid and trying to promote votes -- introduced me to the best chocolate I ever tasted.

Here at home, we are lucky to be able to get our chocolate fix in a number of ways.

Growing up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I became, and remain, enamored of the iconic Wilbur’s Buds, made locally in Lititz, Pa.

Now for the past nine years, I’ve lived in Hershey. I may be in the minority, but in my opinion, the best chocolate Hershey’s makes is its lesser-known Dagoba bar. I wonder if that was named in honor of the planet that trained a young Luke Skywalker?

Some chocolate memories will be lost to time and circumstances, unfortunately.

My wife Deb and I always take long walks uptown into Hershey proper. At one time, you could walk down Chocolate Avenue and be outside the former downtown factory and, from vents in the side of the building on Chocolate Avenue, take in the glorious scent of chocolate, a sweet melange that was overwhelming.

Not anymore, however. The chocolate is now made in a new, robot complex on the west end of town. The only scent of anything chocolate in Hershey today comes, sometimes, from the Reese’s factory.

A stop at Lititz’s Wilbur’s Chocolate until recently meant visiting its iconic store, a charming circa late 1800’s wood-and-brick factory. Today, the store resides in a renovated, first-floor, modernized, former fast-food building. Ghad.

While we lose old traditions, we sometimes get the opportunity to make new ones.

Several years ago, while working in print/social media sales for a local media group, I ran across a family-owned candy store in my cold-call travels. It was a lovely place, a bit of a best-kept secret. We ended up helping the company with a website design. Every year since, my wife and I make up “the list,” those lucky folks who will be the recipients of a box of luscious, gorgeous handmade chocolates from Spence Candies. The holidays just wouldn’t be complete for us without that trip to see proprietors/chocolatiers Wendie and Rob Spence, a few miles down the road, at their store in charming, small-town Elizabethtown. Take a look:

Better yet, take a bite. That’s what Deb and I do. Forget the monster corporate stores. We support this small-town America candy store. Spence is excellent and uses the finest chocolate. Call Wendie or Rob. I’m sure they ship.

Tell them Andy sent you.

To memories and chocolate and a fabulous 2018.

May your new year be bright and merry.

Andrew M. Andrews