I love American culture, brands, and nostalgia. I drive a Chevrolet, wash my clothes in Tide, and I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands. Well, my Nintendo Light Gun, that is. However, when it comes to chocolate and the Beatles original LP releases, everyone knows the British versions are far superior. Well, except for Rubber Soul. The American version of that is definitely better.
My favorite overseas chocolate is Kinder Eggs. I’m kind of obsessed with them. As Snooki from Jersey Shore might say, Kinder Eggs is my thing.
When I was a kid, a relative who traveled overseas brought me back an egg carton full of these chocolate eggs from Germany. I was shocked to learn each country made chocolate differently and that European chocolate was more milky and smooth than the Hershey chocolate I grew up with. While American candy bars are mostly sugar and soy lecithin, the European ones’ main ingredients are cocoa and butter. Then I discovered these exotic chocolate eggs also came with toys.
Over time, childhood became a blur of colors and smells and shirts I didn’t want to wear, but the chocolate eggs with the toys inside always stood out in my memory. They were the mythical candy from a faraway place like Germany, a land where I imagined the children all had block-shaped heads and wore funny little hats folded from newspaper.
As you can see in the photo above, Kinder Eggs are chocolate hollow eggs that come with surprise toys inside. Kinder is German for children, but the unique and quirky toys inside the eggs are often collected by adults.
These are the sorts of toys you might find inside the eggs:
I want that red monkey.
Technically, Kinder Eggs are banned in the US because of the hazard of children choking on the toys, although you can occasionally find them in the specialty shops being sold as contraband. Each year around Easter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issues breathless warnings that retailers are breaking the law by selling the eggs.
Whenever I meet a person from Europe, I always ask them about Kinder Eggs and Michael Jackson. Don’t all European people love Michael Jackson? The answer I’ve learned, is no. They also don’t get my fixation on Kinder Eggs, which to them are as common as Hershey Bars. They smirk at the thought of children possibly eating the toys. I can explain it. American kids inhale food whole, like dogs. They’ll eat anything, even non-edible items—the scraps of tin foil and strips of paper, too eager and inpatient to fully unwrap the chocolate bar.
In the 1990s, Nestle teamed up with Disney to put out chocolate balls that contained small Disney figurines inside. They were known as Nestle Magic Balls. However, in 1997, they were massively recalled due to fears that the toys would get lodged in kids’ throats across America. The balls were later issued as Wonder Balls, which replaced the toys with a Smarties-like candy inside. But now those are nothing but a footnote in the complete history of toys inside of eggs.
And so I have gone through life, checking for contraband Kinder Eggs in the British section of candy stores and begging friends who travel overseas to bring them back.
So I understandably gasped when I was in the Easter section of the grocery store the other day and saw these:
I searched the label of the Choco-Treasure Eggs, looking for some sign of the word Kinder. Could it be? Alas, these are not related. They’re made in China and distributed in Jersey City, New Jersey. China and Jersey City sounds like a bad team, and you will know this if you’ve ever bought anything from a Dollar Tree. Still, there was no doubt that the wrapper was purposely copying the Kinder Eggs wrapper, from the multi-colored lettering to the same type of thin foil.
And inside each egg was a TOY surprise.
This had to be illegal. I nearly bought the entire case of twenty four, paranoid that at any moment the CPSC was going to raid the joint and drop kick me to ground for holding one in my hand. But then I took a deep breath and only bought five. I rushed out to my car, feeling like the little girl that plays the little boy Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That is a girl, right?
I ate the chocolate. It was definitely not German chocolate, that’s for sure. It wasn’t even American chocolate. It was bitter and off-tasting. Ear-waxy. It was Chinese chocolate, and chocolate made in China has been recalled in the past due to containing fun chemicals such as formaldehyde and melanine.
But at least there was still a toy inside.
What was it?
A red monkey figure?
It was a puzzle. My enthusiasm dropped ten percent. Puzzles are the WORST. It’s like when you’re playing in the arcade for tickets, and you earn what you think is a good amount for a solid prize, and then you get to the prize counter. Your only choices are a puzzle where the pieces are cut so crappy, they won’t even lock together. That, or a stale candy necklace.
I still had high hopes for the other eggs. This happens to everyone. One bad egg don’t spoil the whole bunch.
I unwrapped another egg.
Another one. A fucking puzzle. Of course.
These were not Kinder Eggs. I had been foolish to think they were. These were nothing but a crappy and illegal rip-off eggs hailing from China.
And yet, with my eternal optimism, I unwrapped the third egg.
It was a stupid fish, but I was so relieved it wasn’t a puzzle that I could have screamed. At least he was an excellent pocket thing. I slipped him in my pocket.
I moved on to egg number four with a bit more confidence.
Girly stickers. Bleh. What are these? Lisa Frank leftovers from 1993? Rejected Paas characters? NEXT.
I had just one egg left to redeem everything. To redeem my entire childhood, in fact. To correct the injustices of life, and that time I never got that motorized car that cost five hundred dollars. Or perhaps–it was only to justify the five dollars I wasted on bad chocolate with crappy toys. I can be dramatic.
I unwrapped egg number five.
A third puzzle. I put together it in a record thirteen seconds. Sigh. I just wonder how much formaldehyde I ingested.
My search will go on, to redeem myself. At least I’ve got one fish in my pocket. And what it all comes down to is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine.