When I was a kid I used to read a magazine featuring a very knowledgeable raccoon named Ranger Rick (Smokey the Bear’s less authoritative, half-pint cousin). I don’t know if the magazine still exists, or if Ranger Rick still sports one of those Canadian Mounty hats, but I do know that the publication incited local curiosity – the idea that wildlife wasn’t just for the zoo. It existed in your own backyard.
Recently, I’ve put this nugget, nay – acorn – of woodland creature wisdom into practice since my weekend adventures can’t always involve pandan in Singapore or monkey temples in Bali. So, I donned my metaphorical ranger hat and traveled back home to see what I could find. I went to Cleveland.
Look past the urban detritus, the wildly racist, “Chief Wahoo” mascot, and the alarming lack of pedestrian traffic downtown, and there is a remarkable food city waiting to be explored. Singapore may have dumplings, but Cleveland has the Polish Boy (To the non-natives, a polish boy is a kielbasa in a bun, smothered with French fries, barbeque sauce, and coleslaw). And let’s not forget the pierogi, along with the other Slavic influences bestowed upon Lake Erie’s shore.
But, more than the Midwest’s ample supply of great fast food, I am always astounded by Cleveland’s chocolate selection. My visit overlapped the Easter holiday and the presence of local chocolate manufacturers was more notable than ever. Since I can remember, I’ve associated the holiday with chocolate rabbits from Suzan L., chocolate-covered strawberries from Malley’s, or Catherine’s chocolate-covered Oreos.
It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve stopped to admire how Clevelanders support their locally manufactured confections. In fact, if you take a drive down Route 90, you are likely to spot one of Malley’s candy-striped bumper stickers. The pastel pink and green “CHOC” sticker is easily spotted and sported by many.
There is also a distinct range of quality options. If Malley’s is the Cadbury bar of Cleveland, Mitchell’s is the Jacques Torres. While Malley’s might be considered the local, run-of-the mill chocolate bar, Mitchell’s Fine Candy offers hand-dipped works of art. Subtly flavored with Earl Grey, or with a hint of ginger, Mitchell’s has been providing Cleveland with the rare skill of artesian chocolate making since 1939.
So, there you have it, Ranger Rick. I did find a local adventure- a remarkable and unique selection of chocolate. And, with this mindset, I will continue to explore what is in my own backyard, whether it be in Cleveland, Boston or Bali.