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Kathleen Gurbacki: Sweet treat proves to be my kryptonite

Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, ivory chocolate – whichever you choose, it’s a sweet treat. Dark chocolate has been proven to be heart-healthy. What better reason to indulge? That is, unless you are allergic to chocolate as I am.

I was about 7 years old when I had my first experience. My face blew up to twice its size and I looked like a creature from outer space. A trip to the emergency room confirmed an allergic reaction, but the cause was yet to be determined. After a treatment of Benadryl, the waiting game began. My parents and I had to find out what was causing this.

After several weeks, chocolate was identified as the culprit. For a 7-year-old, this news couldn’t be any worse. Why not spinach or broccoli?

As a kid, I would cheat. I would eat chocolate until I could feel that tingle on my lips and then I knew I had to stop before it got worse.

As I grew older, it seemed that I could cheat for longer periods of time. I actually thought the worst was over. When my husband and I were dating, he bought me those 25-pound chocolate novelties that appear during those special chocolate holidays. We both indulged on those for a long time.

We dated during the jitterbug years and chocolate milkshakes were a regular choice of beverage for us. We often stopped at Lady Helen’s or the Garden of Sweets on Buffalo’s East Side.

But, like anything that sounds too good to be true, it was. The allergy came back, and with a vengeance. I didn’t dare eat any chocolate. Not even a small chocolate chip.

After my husband and I retired, I still wanted to work a little, preferably in retail, since I am often told that I’m a “people person.” One day, while driving down Main Street in Williamsville, I came across a store sign that advertised for part-time help. It also happened to be one of our milkshake stops, so I asked Fred if he felt like having some ice cream.

We turned around, had some ice cream and I filled out an application. The job was for the chocolate shop at Alethea’s. At the interview, I was not shy about telling my future employer about my problem. He hesitated, but I think I persuaded him to hire me when I told him that I would be his best employee because I would not eat the inventory. Needless to say, I got the job.

As long as I did not eat the chocolate, I enjoyed my job. For seven years I was able to pull it off. Then, without eating any chocolate, the tingle in my lips started to come back. When I was alone in the shop, I worried that the creature from outer space would reappear again, and then what would I do? I finally gave notice.

I loved the ladies whom I had the pleasure to work with and knew I would miss them very much. I also would miss the regular customers, who I knew not by name, but by the favorite chocolates that they would buy.

Not working and being retired wasn’t too hard to get used to. With our daughter out of town, my husband and I now take more trips to see her, especially without a schedule to worry about.

She lives in Pennsylvania, about 300 miles away. It’s an easy day trip. Now here comes the punch line: She lives in Hershey. The town that Milton Hershey built. Chocolate Town, USA! I pack Benadryl.