Moments to savor: A sweetly bitter treat

Drawing of a half eaten 100% cacao chocolate bar
(Bella Pettengill • The Student Life)

I’m not going to lie — I’m tired. We are almost at Thanksgiving break, and though I’m amazed at how fast the weeks have gone by, now I wish that time would move slower. How can I push through to Thanksgiving break, which will give us just enough time to recharge before finishing off the semester? This question ran through my mind as I sluggishly emerged from my desk this week, making my way to my snack shelf for an afternoon pick-me-up and study break. 

I was just about to grab a cookie when I noticed something clad in a simple black wrapper, a far cry from my other colorfully-packaged snacks. “What is this again?” I thought to myself as I flipped over this mystery item. “Montezuma’s 100% Dark Chocolate Absolute Black,” the packaging read. I chuckled to myself, getting flashbacks to fall break when I brought this from home. This dark chocolate was exactly what I needed to get me through to Thanksgiving break. 

I know this might sound weird, so let me just clarify a few things: Yes, 100 percent dark chocolate is essentially pure cacao. Yes, it’s bitter. And yes, I still love it. 

“But why?” you may be asking yourself. I understand you may be confused and perhaps disgusted, but I assure you, I will explain. Just bear with me, because I’m about to add another crucial — albeit confusing — part to my explanation: Animal Crossing New Horizons.

My love for this gloriously bitter dark chocolate emerged when I started playing Animal Crossing at the beginning of the pandemic. I was intrigued at the obsession around this little game. I saw my friends rave about their islands and newest villagers via social media and wanted to join in, thinking that it would be a leisurely way to pass the time at home. 

Well, let me just say that I grew obsessed. I unlocked all of the terraforming tools in a matter of days and soon, the only goal in my mind was to make my island look spectacular.

It was around this time when my dad came home from the store with some 100 percent dark chocolate. I was scrolling through Animal Crossing Instagram accounts when my dad handed me this bar, joking that he bought it for me because he wanted to see just how far my love for dark chocolate went. He knew that I had always preferred dark chocolate over milk chocolate, preferring sweets that were not too sweet, but he wondered whether I would like a bar that, to him, “probably tastes like dirt.”

I remember breaking off a square and tentatively taking a bite, immediately being overcome with bitterness. Though I expected it to some degree, actually experiencing it on my taste buds was shocking. But then I took another bite. And another. 

I grew used to the bitterness as I continued eating, and soon I began to appreciate the unadulterated cacao flavor. “I like it!” I told my dad. He gaped at me for a few moments before laughing in disbelief. “Well, enjoy,” he said between chuckles. He left the room shortly after, and then I was alone again with my phone and Switch, but now, this dark chocolate, too. 

I returned to the couch to resume my inspiration searching, nibbling on the chocolate throughout. Soon, I realized that I had eaten half of the big bar, and I was feeling oddly energetic. Not thinking too much about this sudden spurt of energy, I put the rest of the bar away, and as I walked back to the couch, suddenly inspiration hit: I would make an art history corner next to my virtual house, using the custom design tool to recreate my favorite paintings. 

I got to work quickly. My dad came back downstairs a few hours later and saw me attentively trying to recreate Fragonard’s “The Swing” into a 32×32 pixel square, but he didn’t say anything. Looking back, I suppose he simply wasn’t surprised. If his daughter would willingly eat a block of cacao, the fact that she was trying to recreate a famous painting to decorate her virtual island wasn’t weird at all. And I didn’t recreate just one. After finishing “The Swing,” I continued into the night painting miniature versions of Thomas Cole’s “The Oxbow” and then “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt. 

By the time the morning came, I had six Animal Crossing-esque versions of my favorite paintings displayed in a little corner of my island. I was over the moon, and though I was now feeling the effects of not sleeping, it was totally worth it. 

I took a nap that day and, upon waking up, went to retrieve the half-eaten chocolate bar from the day before from the pantry. As I grabbed it, my eyes fell on the nutrition label, and, more specifically, the high caffeine content. 

“Ahh,” I thought to myself. “Now that’s why I was able to stay up last night.” 

So while as college students, we are not necessarily playing Animal Crossing deep into the night, perhaps dark chocolate can energize us in our studies, too. Perhaps it can serve as an alternative option in our caffeine-fueled lifestyles, allowing us to venture into the bitter unknown but also to rest in the pureness of its flavor. In contrast to our usual sugar-laden beverages of choice, 100 percent dark chocolate can provide a healthy boost of energy to power through whatever assignments we have left.

As we sprint towards Thanksgiving break and the end of the semester, I encourage you to set down your usual cup of coffee and maybe opt for some 100 percent dark chocolate instead. It may be bitter, but just like I experienced with Animal Crossing, the reward will surely be sweet.

Emily Kim PO ’25 is from Irvine, California. She loves baggy sweaters, YouTube karaoke and banana bread. 

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