Z fudge

🐇 🐇 🐇 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭 Hail, Caesar Augustus! (rabbit rabbit rabbit for the 1st day of this month, August) Hail, Helvetia, unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno!

Swiss flags for Swiss National Day, August 1st; I am of course wearing my Swiss-flag gym shorts — plus a rainbow-heart tank top, since I cheer for Team Queer as well as Team Helvetica.

But wait! I also cheer for Team Z, of everything named with a Z, from zucchini and zithers, through Zerlina (là ci darem la mano) and Zippy & Zerbina, to Zoroaster / Zarathustra and Zuckerberg, with a special fondness for ZW names: zweiback, zwölf of anything, Die Zwitscher-Maschine, die sieben Zwerge (und Schneewittchen), Zwingli, Zworykin. And, in the food world, I cheer for Team Savory, embracing umami, meaty, fermented, fragrant, and flavor-intense (taking in dark and bitter chocolate). And, in the word world, I cheer for Team Fuck, embracing vocabulary from what I’ve called the profane domain (see my 5/7/18 posting with that title).

So what would catch the eye of someone who cheers for Team Z, Team Savory, and Team Fuck too?

A fudge company with a Z name.

And so, one appeared, in an ad in my Facebook feed, about a week ago. (To anticipate your unspoken query: no Swiss or queer connection I could find. Well, nobody’s perfect.) This ad, for Z. Cioccolato:

(#1) An attractive ad, for a genuinely local company, offering very traditional plain fudges (dark chocolate, milk chocolate) and fudges with nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, coconut), plus entertaining inventions, eventually working out to confections that would have to be called fudge-adjacent (bottom left above: “7 layer peanut butter pie” (which I would describe as containing some fudge, but not being itself fudge)

This posting is going to go some surprising places. I’m putting off for another occasion some material (long in my posting queue) on the place of fudge in the taxonomy of foodstuffs, but there still is an enormous amount of stuff. I’ll lead with two big things, about the name Z. Cioccolato and about Z.C’s fudges (there will be a rave review coming, totally unsolicited by Mike of Z.C).

(#2) The company’s banner

The Z of Z. Cioccolato. I was strangely incurious about the Z, despite the fact that it was what first caught my eye; I suppose I was led by cioccolato to suppose that it was just some Italian surname (Zamboni, Zappa, Zefferelli, Zimbardo, Zoccoli, something like that) or place name (there are a fair number of these, but all small owns: Zerbo, Zoppola, Zuccarello, for instance). I did notice the address to write to with queries etc.:

Contact Mike:  info@zcioccolato.com

But then this Mike could just be the company’s order guy. Well, yes, but it turns out that Mike is also the company X guy for most values of X. Thanks to my first order having gone awry (misdelivered by the USPS), Mike and I have had a series of e-mail exchanges, so I can tell you that Mike is the Z of Z. Cioccolato; that his Z surname is Bavarian, not Italian (I looked its origin up, and Mike confirmed); and that, oh frabjous day, Mike is in fact a ZW like me (but with a 4-syllable name — Zwiefelhofer — that doesn’t trip off the tongue and should probably be avoided except when necessary, though I have his permission to tell it to you, for the sake of a paragraph (coming later on) about difficult names — “Oh, what makes you think your name is difficult?”, Tony Rzepela once wrote to me.)

Some chocolate. I put in an order, for a box of six big pieces of fudge, chosen from a list of flavors available at the moment (the list changes often, at least once a month): dark chocolate; dark sea-salt caramel; chocolate peanut butter; Heath English toffee; raspberry chocolate swirl (with a solid raspberry puree; raspberry and chocolate are fabulous together); 7 layer peanut butter pie (yes, as above, and I recommend it; it’s a stunt, but it’s also a study in contrasting textures, among other things). A new month has come by, with a new list, and I’ve now (as of 7/30) ordered: chocolate pecan, maple walnut, Reese’s (I’m a peanut butter and chocolate guy), Snickers caramel, California Earthquake (fudge with walnuts and coconut), Black Panther fudge (milk and dark chocolate, peanut butter, caramel).

(For some reason, big cats figure prominently in the names; from the lists I’ve seen: panther. cheetah, cougar, saber tooth, tiger.  Rrrowr.)

The storefront, from Z.C’s advertising:

(#3) I like to put things in context, so in a moment I’ll write some on 474 Columbus Ave in North Beach; but I also need a candy store photo as backdrop for the Marmalade Surprises and rhubarb creams that are about to push their way rudely into my admiration of Z.C’s fudge

The stuff is really expensive — those are really big pieces of fudge, but, still, 6 of them go for $40. In fact,

the stuff is indeed made in small batches on a daily basis, from really good ingredients, and the results are just amazing: intense, with carefully balanced flavors and textures. Let the fudge slowly melt in your mouth, so that the flavor floods your taste buds and you can catch the smell; chew it pensively, to enjoy the texture. I incline towards one or two primary ingredients, but have been trying out the more playful confections too. It’s all delightful.

A dreadful digression. I don’t think I’ve written a candy / confection review before, so I wasn’t prepared for this one to run off the rails in helpless giggles. I’ve indented the fudge-rave bit, if Mike wants to use it for advertising, but at reading my own “chew it pensively” (which is good and true and heartfelt), I was plunged helplessly into recollections of the candy scene from Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow (which has gotten mingled in my mind with the roughly contemporaneous Crunchy Frog sketch from Monty Python). Just a tiny piece:

… He reaches in the candy bowl, comes up with a black, ribbed licorice drop. It looks safe. But just as he’s biting in, Darlene gives him, and it, a peculiar look, great timing this girl, sez, “Oh, I thought we got rid of all those  — ” a blithe, Gilbert & Sullivan ingénue’s thewse — “years ago,” at which point Slothrop is encountering this dribbling liquid center, which tastes like mayonnaise and orange peels.

“You’ve taken the last of my Marmalade Surprises!” cries Mrs. Quoad, having now with conjuror’s speed produced an egg-shaped confection of pastel green, studded all over with lavender nonpareils. “Just for that I shan’t let you have any of these marvelous rhubarb creams.” Into her mouth it goes, the whole thing.

And on it goes. It gets much more awful. And funnier.

Now, Black Panther fudge might sound snarky (or lubricious, depending on your dispositions — could I possibly get away with writing, “I am eating / savoring / … a Black Panther”? ), and the name is meant to be entertaining, but the candy really is the polar opposite of Mrs. Quoad’s Marmalade Surprises.

I’ll just guffaw for a bit more, and then I’ll recover my composure. Stay with me.

Difficult names. Regular readers of this blog know that I tend to avoid using my real name if I can avoid it. A fair number of people get the Arnold part wrong, and a huge number, when faced with the spelling beginning with ZW or the pronunciation beginning with /zw/, become unhinged, decide (unconsciously) that it’s an ungraspably foreign name, alter it in one way or another, and then fail to cope entirely with -ICKY, pronounced /ɪki/ (as in sticky, tricky, and picky), turning it into something vaguely Slavic. So I have alter egos Alexander Adams and Alex Adams and just Alex. Most of the reception staff at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation prefer to address me as “Mister Arnold”, which makes me feel (very unpleasantly) like a plantation owner in the Old South.

I don’t know what Mike Zwiefelhofer does, though he admits that some people call him Zwief.

North Beach. So I looked for #3 in context. Wow. Picturesque San Francisco:

(#4) You’ll see that the Z.C building is a nondescript commercial building, contrasting notably with the painted ladies next door; I asked Mike what it was before it became Z.C, and Mike told me it was a Radio Shack, which led us to reminisce about Radio Shack (a long time ago, there was one just up Ramona St from me in Palo Alto)

And then I was reminded of (a very very long time ago) taking visiting friends on various tours of SF and Stanford. One of the SF tours involved a bit of Columbus Ave, then up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower, and a tour of it, then down Telegraph Hill via the Filbert Steps to Ghiradelli Square, for coffee at a Hungarian Cafe overlooking the Square below. Sometimes museums were involved.

Mike offered to give me a tour of his candy operation, which I would have loved to do. I like seeing how work is done, how people get into their jobs (how do you get to be a fudge-maker?), what they think of those jobs, how they integrate their jobs with the rest of their lives. Some of this is an old professional interest in life histories, some just an interest in people. I mentioned knowing Studs Terkel to Mike, and Terkel’s book Working, but it seems Mike’s too young to know anything about those things.

(I told Mike that when I was a newspaper reporter, my father got it, but he was utterly baffled by a life of research and writing in linguistics and even more by the life of a university professor.)

But there’s no way I could visit Z.C. I can barely get two blocks with my walker these days. I ask people to tell me about places, send me pictures, let me travel through them. That will have to do.

Fudge stuff. Two relevant postings of mine for Team Fuck:

— in my 1/31/17 posting “fudge”: on the noun fudge, roughly ‘nonsense’, as in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury; on fudge as a euphemism for fuck; and on taboo fudge ‘shit’

— in my 2/1/17 posting “fudge II”: more anal and fecal allusion

And that’s today’s news for Team Z, Team Savory, and Team Fuck.

2 Responses to “Z fudge”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    As I recall, Tony Rzepela gave various unhelpful replies to queries as to how his name was to be pronounced, mostly along the lines of suggesting that one could pronounce it however one chose. I never got around to asking, “well, how do you pronounce it?”

    Meanwhile, to honor the power of ZW, I will re-quote (I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here, not so long ago) the zw-rich German sentence I invented long ago, being something Mime could have said in Das Rheingold to elaborate on just how Alberich forced him to forge the Tarnhelm: “Zwar zwangen mich zweiundzwanzig zwickende Zwerge zwischen Zorn und Zweifel sum Zweck.”

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Perhaps you have mentioned it here before, but reprise performances are a fine thing, so from me, and on behalf of Mike Zwiefelhofer and his long-ago Bavarian onion-farmer ancestors: a round of applause!

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