A few years ago, my husband bought me a box of chocolates from Fortnum & Mason. It was a thing of beauty. Through the clear lid I saw an array of hand-crafted chocolate delights: tiny ribbons iced over oval fondants, pretty strawberry hearts, and those forbidding squares of coffee caramel. We hid the box from the children, ate a piece a night and it lasted for the whole of the holidays. This year, we thought to buy our aunts and uncles similarly delicious looking Fortnum’s boxes of chocolates.
It became an impossible task.
Never mind the dispiriting queue that began on Jermyn Street and sought only to remind shoppers they had fallen prey to the grim commercialisation of Christmas, but the boxes of chocolates were nowhere to be found. We wove past tins of biscuits, wooden boxes of Turkish delight and bulbous glasses of drunken peaches.
Of the chocolates: no sign.
There, suddenly by the tills did we spy a pretty display of chocolates – surely. Alas, they were marzipan fruits. A Japanese tourist was of the same mind and asked hopefully of the gentlemen proffering a tray of exquisite sweets, “Are these chocolates?”. “No, marzipan fruits… the chocolates are there…” “Where?” We all asked. He pointed to what was now obviously a large display of… turquoise boxes.
Not a chocolate however in sight.
He explained further, “Fortnum’s are putting an end to plastic in their packaging. We marzipan fruit makers are an independent company that supplies Fortnum’s. Next year, ours too shall be behind solid cardboard boxes.”
We thanked him and moved dispiritedly to the display. What lurked inside the opaque boxes was anyone’s guess. No tiny caramel hearts iced onto chocolate pots, no white and pink raspberry delights, no lightly dusted balls of truffle. Just bland cardboard boxes.
Of course, Fortnum & Mason doesn’t really care about the planet and the overuse of resources for, if it did, it would shut up shop immediately. There is nothing in the store that anyone actually needs; it is all luxurious flummery. Fortnum’s is just trying to make a futile, pointless gesture so it can crow somewhere, to someone who also doesn’t really care, about its transition to plastic-free packaging.
We bought some marzipan fruits, a jar of stilton and went home. I recommend that anyone of sense avoids the tourist trap of Fortnum’s and instead buys his or her beautifully packed chocolates this year from Chocolate Craft in Hampshire, where plastic lids reveal the exquisite chocolates in all their tempting glory.