The Real Willy Wonkas

My lovely local Library

I pop into my local Library a few times a week.  I love it there.  The staff are very friendly and for a small community Library, they get a huge variety of books and always seem to have all the latest newbie books too.  I admit that I’m a book-smelling-junkie too and the smell of all those books is such a comforting, warm smell that I wish I could bottle it!

Whilst I was checking out my armful of books the other day, I noticed the woman in front of me had a purple coloured book in her pile.  It was a very familiar purple and with some careful, discreet nosy-ing, I saw it was the story of Cadbury’s chocolate.  Now what’s not to love about that – a book about chocolate!  I was chatting to the Librarian about it when it was my turn and I am now on the waiting list to read it next.  Yay!  Hope that woman hurries up with it…  In the meantime though, lovely Librarian Sue found on the shelves a brown coloured book called The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner, which is the ‘Mars’ and ‘Hershey’ story.  I rushed home and devoured the book – quite a chunky one – in a couple of days.  For someone who is a real fiction junkie, I could not get enough of this factual, historical non-fiction account.   I kept reading snippets of the book out to my husband and even he was wanting me to read and tell him more.  Stories of how engineers called to the factory for maintenance are blind-folded until they get to the actual machine they’ll be working on;  how there are no doors between desks (offices don’t even exist so everyone knows what everyone else is doing at all times;) that chocolate isn’t actually Mars’ biggest profitable product…

Couldn't you just reach in and grab one of those Kisses off the Production Line? Mmmm...

It turns out that the chocolate industry is a whole cloak and dagger affair.  It was this secret world that Roald Dahl actually based and was inspired to write Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by.  Who knew there was so much rivalry, secrets and sabotage in such a wonderful sounding world?! Which kid – not to mention some grown ups – hasn’t wished to visit a chocolate factory or to grow up to work in one?  However, it is clearly not the stuff of dreams:

Ever tried placing a telephone call to Mars, makers of Twix, Milky Way and the Snickers bar, which has ranked as the nation’s favorite candy bar since the first polls were conducted in the 1970s? Calls to the company’s Virginia headquarters elicit less information than calls to the Central Intelligence Agency, located just two miles away from the company’s McLean office.

“Who is the president of Mars?” a caller asks.

“I’m sorry, I can’t give out the names of our associates,” a receptionist replies. Click.

This fascinating book tells the story of the 2 big American chocolate giants and how the original Mr Hershey and Mr Mars started from very humble beginnings (loved reading about the chocolate trial and error stage they both went through in their own kitchens, much to fathers’ and wives’ dismay!) and grew and grew into the Emperors they both are now.  It tells the story of the much reveered M & M’s, and the feud and cotroversy they caused!

Joel Glenn Brenner (which surprised me to find out that she’s a ‘she’ – never known a girl Joel or a girl Glenn!) tells the story so incredibly well that it read like a novel – with photographs!- and not a work of non fiction.  I really felt I knew the ‘characters’ and it just made me want to live in Hershey-Ville (imagine building a whole town around a chocolate factory – which is exactly what Milton Hershey did, so as to keep his workers close and his rivals out); imagine the aroma!

Downtown Hershey at the intersection of Chocolate Ave and Cocoa Ave, with the signature Hershey Kiss lights and the Hershey Chocolate Factory in the background


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