somewhere along the line the Oh Henry has become one of my favourite chocolate bars. i cannot account for how this happened, as it was certainly not one of my favourites growing up; the ‘fudge’ inside so unlike either the rock-hard brown-sugar fudges of my mother, the gummy chocolate varieties of my friends’ parents,* or those one could buy from old women at the flea market along with those suckers that were just a lobster-shaped piece of chocolate on a stick. there was something so very dull-seeming about the Oh Henry, like a lumpy, unfinished, poor man’s Turtle. i must have been more of a wafer kid, because i remember Kit Kat and Coffee Crisp jockeying for the favoured position much of my young life.
now, in the twilight of my youth, it is certainly a sign of something that the homely yet reliable Oh Henry has come to occupy the seat of my affection, and no less its permutations the Peanut Butter Oh Henry, Honey Roasted Peanut Oh Henry, and seasonal Oh Henry Egg (which is not, as you might expect, an egg along the lines of the Cadbury Cream Egg or Mars Egg, but really just a roughly ovular mass of Oh Henry. i suppose there was no holiday appropriate to the marketing of the Oh Henry Lump Of Shit,** so Easter and thus egg it had to be. luckily, like many seasonal confections and failed spin-offs, they are available year round at the St-Henri Dollarama). the Honey Roasted Peanut Oh Henry (hereafter HRPOH) seemed like a bit of a gamble initially, and i will admit that when i first tried it i wasn’t totally convinced. the differences are slight. the honey is almost undetectable, but i am willing to believe that the bar is sweeter, and the peanuts are slightly crisper and more delicate. which is to say that it is only by this juxtaposition that you can consciously appreciate that in a normal Oh Henry the peanuts are raw, almost vegetal in comparison. although i have turned around in my opinion about the HRPOH, and sometimes crave it specifically in lieu of a regular Oh Henry, but i think it has also made me appreciate the original all the more, become more cognizant of its particular charms. there is something endearing about the oafishness of the original, that is lacking in the inexplicably more refined HRPOH. it really depends on what kind of company one is in the mood for.
anyway, the other day i was passing through downtown, grumbling about the lack of snow no doubt, and was struck by the desire for a chocolate bar, speculating that it might brighten my mood somewhat. i stepped into one of those sad downtown deps (i don’t know why i feel this way about deps downtown, perhaps i pity them for having to rely entirely on the patronage of people who live downtown, at the same time that i resent as slightly evil their quite understandably obscene beer prices) and was surprised to find one Honey Roasted Peanut Oh Henry sitting in amongst the regular Oh Henrys. so, praising my good fortune (because i hadn’t had one in a while), i purchased it.
now there are two things that make this story worth recounting:
1) there was a small note taped to the surface of the counter of the dep that read “IS THIS THE END OF CAPITALISM?”
2) the chocolate bar was incredibly stale. not inedibly so, because i certainly ate it, but undeniably so.
and there was something about this, or these things taken together, that brightened my mood considerably more than i could have anticipated. partly there is the perverse satisfaction i derive from things going wrong. ie: putting stock arbitrarily in a thing only to have it up and spit remorselessly in one’s face. perhaps because i do find something comforting in the tendre indifférence du monde, as it were (because the idea of a universe in which “everything happens for a reason” is much more deeply terrifying and disheartening to me). it in a sense leaves us freer to enjoy the delicate humour in life’s little failures, a humour that i find touches me almost like music, in that i can detect it, but can neither explain nor understand it. and here is the added touch of the mysterious consonance of so unexpected a sentiment of economic pessimism (or political optimism?) along with the experience of paying $1.69 for a stale piece of shit chocolate bar.
it’s basically Liszt, people. (or maybe more like Ryuichi Sakamoto?)
postscript: i realized after writing this that i first started liking, or at least buying Oh Henry when the corner store down the block from my parents’ house started selling Peanut Butter Oh Henrys 2/$1.00. it really could have been anything and i would have bought two of them for a dollar, at that point. this of course was the old Peanut Butter Oh Henry, circa probably ’93, long before the advent of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Oh Henry, which i like less than the original PBOH. it’s minor, but what really gets me is that there is a very thin but still perceptible -crisp- layer of some sort, like the ossified membrane of some prehistoric fish (probably not like that at all. what does that even mean? do membranes ever ossify? membranes don’t ossify. right?) around the peanut butter inside that throws me off. i’ve elsewhere written on the strangeness of a chocolate bar so long taken for granted being made eerily unfamiliar. this isn’t quite the same, because i can tell what the difference is, but sometimes it can feel like some Invasion of the Body Snatchers shit. the point is, i figure it was this cheap availability of PBOH that got me into Oh Henry in the first place. it does not explain the drift over into original Oh Henry appreciation, but it at least brings us one step closer. to solving this awesome mystery.
* that somehow in the symbolic register of my family’s relationship to the outside world came to be thought of the fudge equivalent of white bread – vacuous, but exotic and desirable; as if one could seriously denigrate the nutritional content of one fudge compared to another (can the addition of marshmallows really cheapen something that is already entirely made out of sugar? apparently the answer was yes.)
** Valentine’s Day, perhaps?