Hershey’s Kisses come to Britain
For those that love them, they’re a halcyon taste of childhood. But that’s not everyone. Will you be making a special trip to buy Hershey’s Kisses?
Hershey chocolate Kisses. Photograph: Alamy
New chocolate is one of those things (like new cheese, new restaurants and, I am told, new shoes) which cannot fail to pique the interest. However cheap, sweet or low in cocoa solids it may be, a frisson of curiosity accompanies each innovation. New shapes and variations must be tasted, if only to be tossed, barely chewed, over one’s shoulder on the way to Paul A Young’s. Until now. Hershey’s Kisses are coming to the UK and that is something I absolutely cannot get in bed with.
The fact that the diddy conical filth-bombs are on a list (as yet unconfirmed) of Hershey’s products expected to be sold exclusively by Asda next year may explain, finally, why Mum’s gone to Iceland. They have a distinctive character, described by Paul Richardson in his history of chocolate as “a piquant background flavour of something faintly sour, cheesy, or overripe, what chocolate experts call a ‘barnyard’ taste.”
As anyone who has plunged their hand excitedly into a crackling bagful brought back from America (or a posh UK food shop with a penchant for kitsch) will know, there is nothing like the disappointment of discovering that a food which boasts an impressive amount of cultural glamour has all the flavour notes of regurgitated milk.
It’s not just the taste of ming, though powerful, which is objectionable. Given its innocent moniker, the Hershey’s Kiss, introduced in 1907 and trademarked in 1924, can pose a surprising threat to our physical and emotional wellbeing. They are the source, of course, of some NSFW innuendo. But more importantly, as a child our own Lucy Glennon drew blood at the sharp end of one. And there is an episode of Supernanny US in which a family, ripped apart by grief, misguidedly offer the children “candy” if they kiss a picture of their recently-departed grandpappy. I have a distinct feeling that that candy was a Kiss.
Richardson also notes that tastes in confectionery set up cultural barriers as rigid as religion, and we wouldn’t argue with that. Homesick Brits eager for a taste of home have been disgusted to find that our own Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has a foreign taste and texture in Ireland, America and elsewhere (the betrayal is compounded, of course, by the fact that Hershey makes Cadbury’s products in the US). But just as many of us struggle to see what is wrong with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Americans (even gourmet ones) brought up with Hershey’s Kisses seem unable to know the taste that dominated every Valentine’s Day mini-gift and Halloween treat for what it is.
Iron Chef Judy Joo, erstwhile of the Saveur magazine test kitchen and the Gordon Ramsay empire, was brought up in New Jersey, where she fell in love with Hershey’s Kisses. “They’re totally an American nostalgia thing for me,” she says. “When I was little we used to let them melt in our mouths and lick our lips with the chocolate and give everyone chocolate kisses. I love them. I used to make peanut butter and kisses cookies with a little Hershey’s Kiss snuggled in the middle.” She doesn’t know when she last ate one, but remembers, “I had a special way of eating them. I used to rub the pointy top against my tongue in a circle until it was gone and then eat the round sphere that was left in one bite. Maybe you’ll like them more if you eat them that way!”
Nice try, Judy, but in a chocolate-based game of snog, marry, avoid, Hershey’s ain’t getting no kisses from me. Is anyone prepared to defend these tapering terrors?