Lessons in Spice from Fazer Chocolates

It wouldn’t have to be chocolates from Fazer Suomi that could get us more aware of the role of sweets and spices in winter.

That company is one of the few I know – if not the only – to make a standard selection of chocolates as well as winter editions that truly fit what I want to talk about (and that are simply personal favorites).

There used to be a few more Christmas chocolates with spices and fruit, but there are hardly any now. It’s a shame, considering what deep tradition surrounds the use of nuts, (dried, citrus) fruit, and spices in winter.

Fazer still makes some.

Their Joulusuklaa (Christmas chocolate) has changed from a bar with fruits, nuts, and spices into a praline with a nutty nougat filling and spices, unfortunately. It tastes good, it still has spices, but it’s not quite the same.

Fazer Winter Edition chocolate bars, however, come in one milk chocolate version with piparkakku – gingerbread (“pepper cakes”) – where one can get a reminder of the role of spices in the very name of the “ingredient.”

There is also a dark chocolate bar with apple, nuts, and spices as well as a milk chocolate bar with almonds, cranberries, and “Christmas spices”.

Apart from their having the usual Nordic countries’ high prices, if they didn’t have a seasonality to them, these chocolates would be easy to miss in the surfeit of offerings that our modern consumer world is so characterized by.

Once you get started thinking about it, though, there is a lot to consider:

Why do we like sweets and spices so much in the winter time?
How did these spices ever get to Europe, let alone become traditional spices of the Nordic countries?

There are things about history – not least, the trade of the Vikings across Eastern Europe, reaching widely into Russia, to Byzantium and into Persian/Arab territory… which is how Slavic slaves and Scandinavian pelts were traded for silk and spices and silver… to learn.
And things about our psychology, which makes us attracted, among other things, to the same chilli that we instinctually find repulsive…

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