Gastronomic Patriotism

Posted on February 13, 2007


Have just bought a square of ye olde socialist Egyptian chocolate, Corona. I grew up eating Corona in the 80s on summer vacations and during the Gulf War when my family and I were stuck here. I remember unwrapping bars purchased for me by my grandmother and wondering in that brief six-year-old way why it was grey, before stuffing it into my mouth anyway, spitting quasi-milk-product everywhere. Baheyya once voiced similar sentiments, adding to them her nothing-short-of-miraculous ability to locate appropriate images:

If Korona were to ever compete with other chocolates, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would barely make the bottom of the list. It’s too sweet, the chocolate used is obviously mediocre, and it’s always too soft no matter what the temperature is. It doesn’t melt in your mouth so much as stick there in a heavy lump (am I right?) But to my seven-year-old palate, Korona is the best chocolate in the world. It’s the most exciting treat in the world. Korona reminds me of the excitement and perpetual sense of wonder of my childhood. It reminds me of going to Um Sana’ all by myself and buying it along with bim bim (coca-cola flavour, please). Every time I walk into a baqqal now, my eye zooms in on the neat teal square lying forlornly in the fridge, overtaken by Toblerone and Twix. The grocer devastates me with his offhand remark, “children don’t prefer it now.” Maalesh, maybe one day they’ll rediscover its ordinary charm.

They most certainly will, if they already haven’t. Clearly under new management, the Alexandria Confectionary and Chocolate Company have re-vamped both the packaging and contents of their product and the resulting effect is gold embossed and foil-wrapped and deliciously creamy. Moreover, they appear to now have dark chocolate and hazelnut chocolate and other manifestations of western decadence as well. Spotting the name on unfamiliar wrapping on the shelves of the supermarket, I convinced M that it would be the quintessential Egyptian experience (the 100% successful way to sell him on anything) and he set aside his Kinder and we each bought a square of Corona. Both my officemate and I agreed that it was yummy, and is now distinctly my milk chocolate of choice for flavour reasons as well as at the urgings of the khitm el nisr stamped on my ass (speaking of which, you would not believe how often my friends debate, in seriousness, whether they should get the Egyptian Eagle tattooed on their behinds. The allusion to the age-old idiom “Makhtoom 3ala afaya” tickles the fancy of people like Faisal). It also gratifies me to note that not a single word is spelled wrong on the package, something that frankly makes me feel faint with sheer disbelief. The darlings also retained the phrase “keep in a cool dry well ventilated area away from direct sunlight”. Apart from the pleasing historical continuity (although it’s now “cool” rather than “cold”), such obvious liability limitation suggestions delight the lawyer in me. It would be cool though if something fun happened if you left chocolate in a hot, stuffy, wet place that was somehow also in direct sunlight. It just slowly goes squishy – I assume most human beings are familiar with chocolate management and decay patterns. Sadly, it never implodes.

** I was so excited I bought a whole box of Corona bars, which now reside in my fridge. I had some more and realized it wasn’t that great…

***M’s feedback: “It has an aftertaste that tastes exactly like garbage.”

Posted in: Egypt, food