Photograph by Chris Clemente
Food & Drink Features

Why Choco Mallows, Curly Tops & other chocolates of our youth might be the best Valentine gifts

The perfect Valentine’s gift is still chocolate, but you can sprinkle it with lots of nostalgia (and booze)
Feliciano Rodriguez III | Feb 08 2020

Why is chocolate the perennial gift of choice for Valentine’s Day? Is it because of the purported aphrodisiac qualities of the cocoa bean? Or is the whole phenomenon just a clever (and very successful) advertising campaign cooked up by ad men in slick business suits in the 50s? There’s a big lull in chocolate sales between Christmas and Easter time, after all.

For our part, we blame the Brits.

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In an interview on The Colbert Report, popular British comedian and talk show host John Oliver explained, “Historically, everything is still fundamentally our fault,” in reference to the former British Empire, which peaked in the 19th century. “Almost every global flashpoint can be traced back to a mustachioed Englishman drawing a line and saying, ‘There we go, learn to live with it.’”

In terms of chocolates, the Englishman in question is Richard Cadbury, scion and heir to the still popular and ubiquitous Cadbury chocolate manufacturing company. Back in the early 19th century, chocolate was mainly consumed as a drink, but the clever Cadbury discovered a way to extract pure cocoa butter, a process that revolutionized the industry.

The ubiquitous Cadbury chocolate available globally. Photo from the official Facebook page

The improved cocoa butter made a more delicious chocolate drink, and also produced a lot of excess butter. Richard Cadbury then had the novel idea of producing “eating chocolates” from these butters, well-sweetened from sugar taken from the territories of the Empire. Instead of just drinking it, chocolates can now be molded and turned into confections of different shapes and sizes.

Capitalizing on these new solid comestibles, Richard Cadbury sought to market the new goodies. He reportedly designed the gift boxes himself, and sold these chocolate candies to the prudish, but romance obsessed Victorian-era Brits—with their fascination for courtly love, extended betrothals, and unrequited passion. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here in the Philippines, we’ve adapted this chocolate obsession from the West. We scramble for gift ideas days (or even hours) before Valentine’s Day, with most of us settling on the traditional (and boring) gift of chocolate truffles in a box, or the even more plain combo of a chocolate bar with flowers.

A standard gift box of chocolate pralines. Photo by Egor Lyfar on Unsplash

If you’re planning to woo a loved one, we suggest you go the nostalgia route, like the late-era Victorians did with chocolates. With the boom of chocolate gift-giving in the 19th century, priggish Victorian-era women and men waxed nostalgic about medieval times when knights would pursue and court their fair maids with gifts of roses and unearthed treasures.

Here in the Philippines, you don’t need to go back hundreds of years to tug at the nostalgia strings of your loved ones. A decade or two would suffice. Playing the nostalgia route would evoke emotions that may indeed get you the response to whatever it is you’re hoping for on Valentine’s Eve. (We’re trying to keep it PG-13 here, folks)

If you’re a bit of a stickler, this proposal is scientific. Tugging on the nostalgia strings of a person almost always illicits a positive response. Items that remind people of their past, their childhood, will bring them back to happier times.

Some of the Philippines’ longtime favorite chocolate confections.

When was the last time you saw an item from your childhood, and smiled at the memories that popped up suddenly in your mind’s eye?

A 2018 study by AB Mallory, “Remembering the Good Times: The Influence of Relationship Nostalgia on Relationship Satisfaction Across Time,” concludes, “Nostalgia has consistently been shown to generate positive affect, increase self-esteem, promote a sense of personal meaning, and can foster a sense of social connectedness with others.” And what is this whole Valentine’s thing about if not for the pursuit of this “social connectedness with others”? Right? (Sex. We’re talking about sex.)

So, with the history lesson and scientific studies, what are we getting at? We’re saying, instead of going out and buying some expensive chocolate brand, which has no emotional connection to you or your partner, why not go for the more familiar, well-loved products of our youth. You know what we’re talking about.

Perhaps surprise your date with a cute box of Curly Tops by Ricoa after a romantic dinner in your favorite restaurant. Those boxes are hard to come by in supermarkets now, by the way. A shoutout to Ricoa from us fans—please make more!

The chocolate boxes of our youth.

Who wouldn’t smile at seeing a box of these sweet goodies presented to you. A big bag of their sister brand, Flat Tops, is also a good pick. To be sure, we sometimes can’t differentiate the taste of the two, but the shapes are what sets them apart, and we all love the earthy, muted sweet taste of these two childhood favorites. 

Flat Tops

Also good, Choco Mallows by Fibisco. We remember in our younger days when this was our baon for school (not a nutritious one, in retrospect). The chocolate-coated marshmallow sandwich is an all-time favorite for many of us, and we still second-glance these items when we encounter them in supermarkets.

Choco Mallows

If you want to level up your Valentine’s nostalgia themed gift, why not look for cake versions of these well-loved candies? The Baker’s Table in Quezon City creates cakes infused with the aforementioned confections.

Another well-loved chocolate goody from our childhood—LALA Chocolates. Made of pure milk and cocoa, the candy is a popular snack for Filipinos for nigh 40 years now. The iconic packaging and its well-known chewy and milky quality is a sure hit when wanting to surprise your loved one with a nostalgic gift.

LALA Chocolates. Photo from the official Facebook page

After gifting your loved one with these unconventional chocolate gifts, what’s a romantic night without, “ahem,” alcohol. Don’t just serve wine or cognac on its own, serve it with chocolate. We suggest you find these cute liquor bottle-shaped candies from Anthon Berg filled with different alcoholic drinks. These booze-filled candies are made with Jim Beam, Remy Martin, Grand Marnier, and more. It’s a fun way to laugh, eat chocolates, and drink alcohol at the same time.

Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs. Photo from the official website

The chocolate bottles are wrapped in foil with the design of the booze brand filling printed on it. Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs are available at select retail outlets and online at Duty Free Philippines. Or for something more local, there’s the Intramuros Liqueur de Cacao from Destileria Limtuaco that uses 100% local cacao, and available online at manila-wine.com and boozy.ph.

So, this Valentine’s Day, go with the unconventional, the unique, and the well thought out route. Don’t just buy roses and chocolates, look for items that resonate with both you and your partner. And for the love of God, don’t give your date a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. That’s just lazy.

 

Photos by Chris Clemente