An assignment to judge chocolate for the Royal Show. Oh, how the colleagues oozed their envy. I must say I was not displeased with the challenge.
Equipped with a very prestigous judge's badge and a lab coat, I was one of three judges - head judge being a leading retired chef and culinary teacher, the other being a confectioner and speciality cake maker. My only qualification was my choc snobbery, being one who refuses to eat couverture or compound chocolates and who believes that Belgium's Leonidas chocolates with their fresh cream centres are the best in the world.
Chocolates were laid out in categories on trestle tables. 66 samplings in 12 categories.
Sadly, we had to start with the worst and work our way up to my favorite - chocolate ginger. This, said the head judge, because we work from mild flavors through to the strong.
Shaving slivers of chocolate bars and cutting centred chocolates, we let each sample melt naturally on the tongue to explore its qualities after examining the appearance of each offering. I had not realised how many things there were to be considered. But I caught on. The head judge was a wonderful teacher. And, hey, it's hardly an unappetising subject.
Well, it took four hours to go through all those chocolates. Four hours of nothing but chocolate and water.
I had not had breakfast, apart from the usual coffee and cigarette. But the chocolate did nicely as first food of the day. In fact, as the hours wore on, I found I was feeling charged and a little high with all the chocolate. It is good energy food, after all. The process, however, was incredibly intense - so much so that one hardly noticed the time passing. It was an adventure in subtleties puctuated by thrills of excellence. The top chocolates were world class. They rivalled Godiva and Hefty. They were sublime. Two in particular - neither of which I am permitted to reveal until the results are announced. But both are made in Adelaide.
After the judging I had thought maybe I would feel sickly. But no. Instead I had a passionate craving for salad.
And I absolutely could not face another chocolate. For at least a few hours.