Lake Effect, Spring 2005, Volume 9: from Falling with Style

Arthur Saltzman


from Falling with Style

Of all the perennials at the Illinois State Fair, Sam the Chocolate Man stands out most prominently in my mind. It isn't his girth, which even in the midst of scores of penned-up pigs and cattle competing for prizes on the basis of sheer poundage, is impressive. It isn't his paddling through his copper vat of inchoate fudge, over which he warbles like one of Macbeth's witches grown bloated over her own magical brew. It isn't even the fudge itself—“The Finest Fudge Anywhere:That's Sam's Guarantee”—a dollar clot of which goes down about as fast as a rat passed through a python, ruining dinners all over the Midwest no matter how many hours away those meals might be. No, it is the way Sam ladles and spreads the chocolate over the slab that, according to the banner above him, will one day serve as his tombstone.

We know that ancient civilizations sought chocolate as an aphrodisiac, but for Sam it serves as a memento mori, acknowledging a darker fate for the body, answering another appetite altogether. “The last dessert you'll ever want! The best you'll ever eat!” he cries. If we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make its run scrumptious. So for his profit and our delectation every summer, Sam the Chocolate Man demonstrates that death is always with us and, despite our bias to the contrary, sweet.