So I’m testing out this new idea, in which I will attempt to write something about Colombian food every week or two. Because I know how much you (by which I mostly mean I) like food! And we’re picking Fridays because alliteration. So there.
Considering that it is essentially its own food group in my diet, and given how much of it I received yesterday, it’s inevitable that I begin with chocolate — specifically, Jet Chocolate. Jet is probably the most popular brand of chocolate in Colombia. In fact, it’s produced by the National Chocolate Company, which we don’t even have in the U.S. (yet. We don’t have it YET. Still waiting on those Oompa-Loompas to show up). Jet bars come in just about every possible size, from tiny two-square bites to giant ones bigger than my hand, filled with strawberry or arequipe flavoring. [Side note: arequipe is a sweet, sticky, caramel-like substance, kind of like the Colombian dulce de leche. I’ll get to it sometime soon, don’t worry.]
The bars, always wrapped in shiny blue paper with the little airplane logo (get it?), are your typical mass-produced milk chocolate bars, nothing special flavor-wise. HOWEVER. There is something truly, gloriously, incredibly magical about Jet bars. Something that makes them better than any other milk chocolate bar I’ve ever seen or consumed in my life. Something that creates in me the uncontrollable desire to buy EVERY JET BAR EVER. Something that is undoubtedly making their marketing people terribly and deservedly rich.
That thing is DINOSAURS.
Yes, that’s right, ladies and gentlemen. In every Jet bar, chocolate or ice cream, with the exception of the very tiniest ones, there is a beautiful color sticker with a DINOSAUR on it, and a short description of said dinosaur on the back of the sticker. It’s kind of like opening one of Wonka’s chocolate bars to find the Golden Ticket — except that it happens EVERY TIME [Incidentally, I would apologize for the repeated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory references, except for the fact that we’re discussing chocolate here, and it’s therefore entirely relevant]. Needless to say, I am now the proud owner of a massive collection of marvelous dinosaur stickers, and I have no intention of stopping. I have dinosaurs on my notebooks, on my desk, on various papers, and I’m sure that by the end of the year a good percentage of my living space will be covered in prehistoric beasts. I’m excited already.
Oh, but did I mention that it’s not just the stickers — even though they’re basically the most awesome things ever? No, there’s more. Some of the bars bypass the whole sticker thing entirely and just go straight for the gold: Chocolate SHAPED LIKE A DINOSAUR.
I want to take a second to pause and reflect here, partly because I’m getting over-excited but mostly to give those of you who know me a chance to understand how this discovery was more or less the most exciting thing to happen to me, ever. Why of course we’ll take two of Natalie’s favorite things in the world, and combine them, and make them delicious, and then make them cheap and readily available on literally every corner of the city! This will make her never want to leave.
It’s damn good marketing, though, because I seriously would consider staying here longer just so I wouldn’t have to leave the dinosaur chocolate behind. The truth about Jet, as I’ve learned, is they’ve been using this sticker strategy for years, with obvious success. Every year or so, they change the theme of their stickers, so that you’ll always have a chance to get new ones. They even sell sticker books in supermarkets so you can preserve all the ones you’ve collected for posterity. So the stickers aren’t always this exciting — it just so happens that I picked the most fortuitous year ever to be hanging out around Jet chocolate central. If my presence here in The Year of the Chocolate Dinosaur isn’t fate, I just don’t know what is.