Do you remember your first time? It probably happened in a car.
Maybe it was a moving car as you saw the epic profile of Manhattan coming into view for the first time? Or maybe it was in an airport just after touch down, or at a 7-Eleven?
I'm talking about your first bite of an American chocolate bar. If you grew up in Ireland that’s something you never forget.
First there's the cloying sweetness, then there's the surprising sourness. Then you notice the texture, which has no real texture at all.
American chocolate, the common store-bought stuff, provides you with one of the surest signs that you were born and raised somewhere else.
For the Irish it's not a moment of simple pleasure. It's a moment of blatant chemistry. Too much American chocolate tastes like it was made in a laboratory, and it tastes like it should have stayed there.
For the Irish in America, chocolate is the one of the first unforgettable signs that not everything about this remarkable country is as clear-cut as we were led to believe. It's often our first major disappointment. Is that all there is, our tastebuds say?
That's because food is culture. It's culture like a hurling match is culture, or a step dance, or a well-poured pint.
One of the first clues that you're a stranger in a strange land is delivered to you by your sense of taste. To be cut off from what you like to eat is a kind of cultural amputation.
So the howls of outrage and shock over the David versus Goliath chocolate war that erupted last week are genuine. Irish people are outraged by the heavy hand of commerce, which wants to cut off a cultural lifeline.
It's not just that our chocolate is unquestionably better – that's self-evident to most – it's that it seems to us to be an attack on something foundational: our past, our preferences, and our pleasures. If you're going to wage a war on all of those you can expect a major fight on your hands.
That's what erupted on Sunday when IrishCentral.com printed the details of the dustup. For Hershey, the U.S.-based company behind the shocking ban, this fight is apparently about protecting trade. But how much trade can a small mom and pop type market really disrupt?
What some observers suggest is that sooner or later everyday Americans might start to question if their chocolate is the best in the world or not? And if they start down that road where would it end?
Is their produce the best in the world or does Ireland have them beat there too (hint -- Ireland does).
And what about their politics and economy and tax system? Do Americans get value for money when it comes to their cell phone packages (hint -- they do not) or their broadband (it's years behind Europe) or their education costs (are you kidding)?
It seems that America's corporate leaders have a message for the competition – we will sue you out of existence. We will ban you before you take a foothold. Then we will run ads in the Super Bowl to remind you that we're number one and we'll prevent you from discovering if that's true or not.
Today it's Irish chocolate on the chopping block. Tomorrow it'll be another foreign threat.
If you can't beat them then I suppose you can instead just beat them out of existence courtesy of a sympathetic judge who will be happy to agree that people here can't tell the difference between day and night and need to be protected.
It's a fable for our times this chocolate war, in other words. We are told we live in a free market, but looks what happens when a massive mega-corporation sees a development it doesn't like. They lawyer-up and stamp out even the smallest hint of competition like an adolescent squashing a bug.
The truth is you get more for your money in the land of the free if you have more money to begin with. That's the big lesson hiding behind the little one that's upset us this week.
And I think we're upset because deep down we already know the truth. That candy got snatched long ago.