The world needs saving, and not by a conglomerate of handsome and beautiful super heroes as appealing as they are to behold. Have you ever noticed how much destruction goes into saving the planet whenever the super heroes marshal their powers to vanquish evil? Could this be the meaning of the phrase, “Omelets are not made without breaking eggs?” This quote is not original to your grandmother or some celebrity chef touting the casualties of broken eggs in the making of an omelet supreme, but to a French general, Francois de Charette, when put on trial for his war crimes during the French Revolution. Draw your own conclusion.
I prefer my heroes, or in this case, heroine, to come in smaller more petite packages like my mother, Bernie Wyckoff Arnold. Armed with only a mixing bowl, a whisk, some wooden spoons, and a curious mind, she saved the world one recipe at a time. This did not come easy. She confessed that her biggest fear in getting married was not what one might naturally believe, but her incompetency in the kitchen. “I couldn’t make a glass of tea,” she often said. The pressure was on to develop her culinary skills, and fast, for a new husband who had been raised by a mother and grandmother with mythic talents to turn a peasant meal into a kingly feast that brought all five senses into a sharp focus of delight.
Mom’s first job out of college and in her first year of marriage was with The Frank School of Music who published a special announcement of her employment: “We are proud to announce the engagement of Bernie Arnold as head of our Speech and Drama Department.” She had completed a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Lipscomb University and was working on an M.A. at Peabody at the time. She had judged many city and statewide speech and drama contests and performed numerous roles in her early career as an actor, but then I came along and spoiled everything. My three siblings followed in little over a decade, so Mom put aside her theatrical aspirations (she would from time-to-time co-star with my father in several productions when scheduling permitted), to become a full-time wrangler of four kids and a husband. In the early 1960’s she entered a Mrs. Nashville contest and won. She had barely caught her breath from her victory lap when the Nashville Tennessean offered her a job as the Food Editor in 1965. She served in that position for eight years and then jumped over to the Nashville Banner, and remained at that newspaper until she retired in 1992. For someone who could not make a glass of tea in 1948, she faked it until she made it, conducting hundreds of interviews, publishing thousands of articles and recipes, and winning awards along the way.
Our family had the benefit of Mom and Dad’s ability and curiosity to try many of the recipes she wrote about in her articles. We kids were the first to taste-test these experiments, and if we didn’t scrunch our faces in disgust or worse, these courses would be offered to the wider world. Rarely was a recipe served in its original state. There was always the Bud-and-Bernie spin added to every dish, and their meals became legendary. Their gift to the world at large was the inclusive and multiple invitations to enjoy food and fellowship at their table. What began with their childhood experiences of parents who were master chefs was perfected in Mom’s role as Food Editor for two daily newspapers and as a contributor to several magazines.
When it came to desserts, a jewel in Mom’s cookery crown was her chocolate sauce. If there was ever a squirt bottle of Hershey’s chocolate in the house, her kids would stampede the refrigerator. She grew tired of shouting, “Stop drinking from the bottle.” The entire household was chocoholics. Admit it. We all did it; at least the Arnold kids did it. We would stand in the open refrigerator door, upend the squirt bottle, and squeeze a shot of chocolate directly into our mouths. Oh, the joyful riot on our taste buds as the chocolate coated our tongues and throats. The retractable cap was always in the “up” position and bore a semi-hardened coating of chocolate around the rim mixed with Arnold lip DNA. Mom decided she could save her vocal cords with this useless reprimand if she only created her own chocolate sauce that could not be so easily accessed by her marauding children. So the experimenting began, and we were the willing guinea pigs. After only a few attempts in creating her own chocolate sauce the Hershey’s squirt bottle was “dead to us.”
The recipe was often requested by guests and always denied. One could taste but not touch. Some secrets must be kept. But Kay was “precious unto Mom’s sight,” and invited to observe the chocolate sauce-making process. The happy result was that the pupil began to put her own spin on the recipe; a lesson to us all for being curious and paying attention to the master. A little more of this; a little less of that, and she came up with a sauce that is, was, and evermore shall be, “too die for,” or at the very least, cause sighs and groans after each helping, or fights over a last bite, or turmoil among guests as to who might get to take home a jar. Ever the peacemaker, Kay never let a guest go home empty handed, and there was great rejoicing throughout the land.
Mom eventually admitted, with some minor bruising to her pride, that Kay’s concoction was an improvement to her own. And now the third generation has taken the chocolate sauce mantle and added her spin to this smooth and sweet delight. Our daughter, Lauren Zilen, has not only come up with her version, but has taken the extra step of setting up a Mother/Daughter business to bottle and sell the deliciousness. Southern Spooning Chocolate Sauce is the official name of the company they formed, and at this point in time, is sold exclusively through Niedlov’s Breadworks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a premiere bakery own and operated by Lauren and her husband, Erik.
The argument can be made for the convenience of a squirt bottle to dispense chocolate into your mouth, but it is a mixture of multiple ingredients required for a long shelf-life. The Southern Spooning Chocolate Sauce does not have a long shelf-life; not because of any degradation of the simple ingredients, but because of the unnaturally quick consumption once a jar is opened. Of those who have taken jars home after a meal at our house or recently been offered a jar for “testing” purposes, we have often been told by those who could not wait to use it as a topping on any imaginable treat, that they would stand in the open refrigerator door armed with a utensil or a couple of fingers and scoop large quantities of the chocolate goodness directly into their mouths. The human desire to taste something sublime never changes.
The world needs saving. Southern Spooning Chocolate Sauce might be the secret. One bite and eyes light up, countenances brighten, smiles return to faces, and temperaments transform from disagreeable to pleasing. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a chocolate sauce, but just try it. I dare you, yea verily, I double-dog dare you. If you take that dare you can purchase this chocolate elixir exclusively at Niedlov’s Breadworks located at 215 E. Main St. in Chattanooga, TN. You may also place a special order at their email: [email protected], and follow Southern Spooning Chocolate Sauce on Facebook and Instagram. Plans are in the making to expand the availability in other stores as well as online.
Go ahead, change your life, become a Spooner. And then share it with your family and friends and neighbors and co-workers, or someone who voted the other way. Enter ye into Spoonerland. All are welcome and the gates never close.
Cover Art: Le Cacao Poulain – The Chocolate Flood; 19th century French advertising poster by Leonetto Cappiello