I gave up chocolate for Lent one year. For 40 long days I turned my back on traditional break-time Twixes, marched defiantly down aisles looming with early bird offers on Easter eggs and prayed every morning that school dessert would be crumble. Come Easter Sunday, half crazed with cravings, I regarded everything – breakfast, my grandmother, the resurrected Christ – as an unnecessary and irritating distraction from the main event. Chocolate.
When it came to the traditional Easter egg hunt, I tore through the house like I’d lost my concealer, my crush was coming over, and my face was one giant pimple. I didn’t win – but I did behave so badly I was banned from ever again quitting chocolate; and when the time finally came for that sweet, creamy bite – the first since my Nutella pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – I found there were five distinct stages to eating an Easter egg.
It’s been building since January, when your bleary eyes first lit upon the Creme Eggs that roll in each year with the diet books and Sale signs. ‘Not now,’ you whisper to their sparkling, colourful ovoids, ‘but soon. Just let my mince pies settle down.’ You crumbled a week later, natch – but a single Creme Egg in January is not quite the same as five Creme Eggs AND a hollow shell of Dairy Milk, and after three months of back-to-back, bus-to-bus chocolate advertising you basically feel like Charlie with a golden ticket by Easter Sunday.
There are, let’s be honest, really only two types of chocolate egg worth caring about in the world: Cadbury’s and Nestlé. And while I like a Kit Kat Chunky as much as the next sentient girl, when all’s said and sampled, it’s Dairy Milk every time. So why in sweet Jesus’ name does Grandma insist on buying me Aero?
‘At what point,’ I want to cry – but I don’t because, manners – ‘have I said anything about liking Aero bars? Why has my brother got Mini Eggs? Is there any justice in this world?’ Sometimes we’ll strike a deal. Mostly, he’ll eat pour the entire tube of mini eggs into his gullet and chew it in my face.
Still we soldier on and attack our eggs with enthusiasm – pausing only to reflect that the chocolate-to-packaging ratio is even more insulting this year than last. How can you possibly justify charging four of my grandmother’s hard saved quids for what is almost entirely cardboard, high-impact polystyrene and (especially if it’s Aero we’re talking about) air?
Worse still it holds you up: the plastic packaging inevitably reducing you to scissors and brute force to get to the foil-wrapped goodness… at which point, the real fun begins.
Yes, foil. It’s not everyone’s thing, but the joy to be had in unwrapping and flattening out the wafer-thin, crinkly metal foil should not be underestimated. Unwrap the egg, taking great care not to rip or tear the foil, and lay it flat on a hard surface; then, using the back of your fingernail, gently iron out each crease. Watch the signature of Mr Cadbury emerge in all its fine clarity; admire the sheen; then fold it away for a rainy day/the recycling box. It is, as grandma never tires of telling you, the little things in life.
5. Decision time
The egg, or the bonus chocolate/sweets? Some have a default setting; others choose according to whether this point is reached before or after lunch. If after, it’s egg all the way; if before, maybe a modest Mini Egg or three? Personally I find the decision hangs on whether a sibling or cousin is still open to trading. ‘An Aero bar for a Cadbury’s egg!’ I’ll cry, and chow down the good stuff before the sucker has a chance to change their mind.
6. Breaking the egg
A sacred ritual, on a level with the tapping/whacking the Terry’s Chocolate Orange at Christmas.
Do you bite into it headfirst? Play catch until someone drops it? Stab it with a finger, or oh-so-gently prise apart the two halves? Deliberate too long in our family and someone else will decide for you (and eat it for you too) so speed is everything. Personally, I find the stab-and-twist the most satisfying approach.
7. Eating the egg
Still with me? Then congrats, you can have your first mouthful! Feel the sweet, silky richness melt on your tongue, and proceed swiftly on to the second, third and fourth.
Meanwhile, surrounding adults will proclaim that the chocolate is “so much thinner than it used to be”, as if you needed an excuse to double your portion. At this point, only the necessary process of chewing and the slight fear you’ll find a stray piece of foil in your mouth can slow you down: you’re on a mission, and that mission is to eat all of the chocolate, right down to the flaky bits at the bottom of the box that you can only get by licking your finger.
Because if you take the hit today, then it won’t be there tempting you for the rest of the month, right guys? Right?
Inevitable. If you’ve not got it, you’ve done Easter wrong.