The Topic At Hand: How Do You Like Your Eggs?

To my mind, the Kinder Surprise egg, that seamed chocolate ovoid in a shiny foil wrapper, is a perfect symbol for certain differences between the United States and Europe. I say this, perhaps, because I was in Europe when I first came across Kinder eggs—in Athens, taking a semester abroad. At a cluttered little kiosk, one of the type ubiquitous in the city, where I would grab a can of iced coffee before class, I noticed another student who often bought an egg-shaped something wrapped in orange and white foil. Eventually I asked her about it, and she replied with a knowing smile: “Kinder egg. My boyfriend collects the toys, and you can’t get them in the US.”

Later, in class, she showed me what she meant. She peeled back the wrapper to reveal a light brown chocolate egg. She shook it, and I could hear a dull rattling sound coming from inside. We divvied up the shell, and I saw the interior was lined with white chocolate. This probably accounted for the shell’s creamy taste, lighter and sweeter than what I expected from American chocolate. This left a yellow plastic pod, within which lay the eponymous Surprise: a small toy. I’ve since forgotten what it was.

Graham Kinder Eggs A

That fleeting introduction was enough; if you combine domestic unavailability, plastic trinkets and chocolate, I’m captivated. I can’t say that, once I got back to the States, I went on a great candy crusade to find Kinder eggs, but I would browse in candy stores when I thought of it. I eventually found my way to Economy Candy, on Rivington Street in New York’s Lower East Side, where they can be purchased in great numbers. (As it turns out, Kinder eggs can’t be legally imported into the United States, but that’s neither here nor there.) After consuming perhaps a few too many, I began to reflect on the undeniable significance of the Kinder egg.

Let’s start with this salient fact; Kinder eggs are eggs. I’ve eaten my fair share of American candy, and I believe that we, as a people, are fairly literal-minded when it comes to our confectioneries. We like our pure chocolate mostly in bars or sticks, occasionally in kiss form. Anything fancier than that requires some kind of filling, such as mint or cookie or peanut butter. The egg shape pops up on the American candy radar only around Easter–and even then pure chocolate eggs are somewhat rare. More likely we’re talking about malted chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with jelly beans, or chocolate eggs filled with a frothy creme. Kinder eggs, are, by contrast, available year-round and aren’t linked with any particular holiday. Europeans, it would seem, need no cognitive framework for their candy.

The wrapper, too, bespeaks a foreign origin; the type of egg I’ve been able to buy comes in a wrapper covered all over with choking hazard warnings in a variety of languages, including Greek and Russian. It’s impressive, really, how many languages are crammed onto it. There’s even an illustration of a sad-looking cartoon infant with a slash through it, in case you read none of the languages on the packaging, or perhaps are illiterate.

Then, of course, there are the toys. As much as I love chocolate, I must admit that I find far more pleasure contemplating the Kinder toys than I do eating the candy that surrounds them. They are roughly on par with the Happy Meal-type toys that I remember from the 80s, although Kinder must be given credit; unlike Happy Meal toys, they aren’t corporate tie-ins. From what I can glean from the entirely language-free slips of paper that come with each toy, there are a several series of toys, each with a different theme. For example, three recently-bought Kinder eggs (for research purposes, of course) yielded two athletic “cool” kids on skateboards and a mustachioed pirate gorilla clutching a barrel that hides a treasure map. These aren’t promoting the latest soulless blockbuster movie—they’re encouraging kids to be active and to use their imagination. (OK, and to eat chocolate.)

It occurred to me that the closest American analogue to the Kinder egg would be Crackerjack, which I remember fondly from its association with baseball and childhood. Accordingly, I purchased a few small packages with the intention of comparing the prizes inside with the Kinder toys. As it turns out, there’s no comparison. Kinder toys are brightly colored plastic figurines with moving parts or wheels. Crackerjack “prizes” are pieces of paper: literally nothing more. Here, for example, is the aforementioned pirate gorilla next to what I found in one of the packets of Crackerjack. It’s a piece of paper with a picture of a cow on it. That’s it. According to the instructions, you’re supposed to hold the paper between two fingers and squeeze it. This will open up a slit where the cow’s mouth is, and it will appear to talk. Would any child consider that a worthwhile prize?


In short, the Kinder Surprise egg shows up American candy culture on every front. For something mass produced, it’s creatively designed, encourages imaginative play in children, and is a pleasure for both the tactile and gustatory senses. Besides, only some place with far more lenient drug laws than America’s could come up with an advertisement like this.


First image from the German Wikipedia article on Kinder Eggs.

Second image by the author.

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8 responses to “Let Us Now Praise Chocolate Eggs”

  1. Michele says:

    Am I missing something on the FDA page you link to? What precisely are the grounds for banning the eggs?

    I, like you, find the toys more appealing than the otherwise indifferent chocolate. But I’ve always liked the milk-white “lining” inside the egg.

    If you appreciate the ingenuity of European candy design, you’ll like Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Again, utterly indifferent chocolate, but in a form that’s an absolute pleasure to contemplate and take apart.

  2. Fernando says:

    I am shocked and dismayed to see that terrible Cracker Jack surprise. I remember when they were legitimate toys.

    Even at this nostalgic remove, Cracker Jack was fairly unremarkable from an eating point of view. I remember *wanting* Cracker Jack, though – surely that must have been for the great toys that came with them. Pity about the cow.

  3. Rachel Hile says:

    OTOH, it’s not like there’s nothing to criticize about European (specifically English) candy. I submit a scene from Gravity’s Rainbow. When you see how long it is, you will be disgusted with my inability to cut it judiciously. But I hope that when you read it, you’ll find it as funny as I do and thus forgive me:

    The Disgusting English Candy Drill

    She brings out from behind its cretonne camouflage a great bowl of candies. “Now,” beaming at Slothrop. “Here: wine jellies. They’re prewar.”

    “Now I remember you—the one with the graft at the Ministry of Supply!” but he knows, from last time, that no gallantry can help him now. After that visit he wrote home to Nalline: “The English are kind of weird when it comes to the way things taste, Mom. They aren’t like us. It might be the climate. They go for things we would never dream of. Sometimes it is enough to turn your stomach, boy. The other day I had had one of these things they call ‘wine jellies.’ That’s their idea of candy, Mom! Figure out a way to feed some to that Hitler ‘n’ I betcha the war’d be over tomorrow!” Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects, nodding, he hopes amiably, at Mrs. Quoad. They have the names of different wines written on them in bas-relief.

    “Just a touch of menthol too,” Mrs. Quoad popping one into her mouth. “Delicious.”

    Slothrop finally chooses one that says Lafitte Rothschild and stuffs it on into his kisser. “Oh yeah. Yeah. Mmm. It’s great.”

    “If you really want something peculiar try the Bernkastler Doktor. Oh! Aren’t you the one who brought me those lovely American slimy elm things, maple-tasting with a touch of sassafras—”

    “Slippery elm. Jeepers I’m sorry, I ran out yesterday.”

    Darlene comes in with a steaming pot and three cups on a tray. “What’s that?” Slothrop a little quickly, here.

    “You don’t really want to know, Tyrone.”

    “Quite right,” after the first sip, wishing she’d used more lime juice or something to kill the basic taste, which is ghastly-bitter. These people are really insane. No sugar, natch. He reaches in the candy bowl, comes up with a black, ribbed licorice drop. It looks safe. But just as he’s biting in, Darlene gives him, and it, a peculiar look, great timing this girl, sez, “Oh, I thought we got rid of all those—” a blithe, Gilbert & Sullivan ingenue’s thewse—“years ago,” at which point Slothrop is encountering this dribbling liquid center, which tastes like mayonnaise and orange peels.

    “You’ve taken the last of my Marmalade Surprises!” cries Mrs. Quoad, having now with conjuror’s speed produced an egg-shaped confection of pastel green, studded all over with lavender nonpareils. “Just for that I shan’t let you have any of these marvelous rhubarb creams.” Into her mouth it goes, the whole thing.

    “Serves me right,” Slothrop, wondering just what he means by this, sipping herb tea to remove the taste of the mayonnaise candy—oops but that’s a mistake, right, here’s his mouth filling once again with horrible alkaloid desolation, all the way back to the soft palate where it digs in. Darlene, pure Nightingale compassion, is handing him a hard red candy, molded like a stylized raspberry… mm, which oddly enough even tastes like a raspberry, though it can’t begin to take away that bitterness. Impatiently, he bites into it, and in the act knows, fucking idiot, he’s been had once more, there comes pouring out onto his tongue the most godawful crystalline concentration of Jeez it must be pure nitric acid, “Oh mercy that’s really sour,” hardly able to get the words out he’s so puckered up, exactly the sort of thing Hop Harrigan used to pull to get Tank Tinker to quit playing his ocarina, a shabby trick then and twice as reprehensible coming from an old lady who’s supposed to be one of our Allies, shit he can’t even see it’s up his nose and whatever it is won’t dissolve, just goes on torturing his shriveling tongue and crunches like ground glass among his molars. Mrs. Quoad is meantime busy savoring, bite by dainty bite, a cherry-quinine petit four. She beams at the young people across the candy bowl. Slothrop, forgetting, reaches again for his tea. There is no graceful way out of this now. Darlene has brought a couple-three more candy jars down off of the shelf, and now he goes plunging, like a journey to the center of some small, hostile planet, into an enormous bonbon chomp through the mantle of chocolate to a strongly eucalyptus-flavored fondant, finally into a core of some very tough grape gum arabic. He fingernails a piece of this out from between his teeth and stares at it for a while. It is purple in color.

    “Now you’re getting the idea!” Mrs. Quoad waving at him a marbled conglomerate of ginger root, butterscotch, and aniseed, “you see, you also have to enjoy the way it looks. Why are Americans so impulsive?”

    “Well,” mumbling, “usually we don’t get any more complicated than Hershey bars, see….”

    “Oh, try this,” hollers Darlene, clutching her throat and swaying against him.

    “Gosh, it must really be something,” doubtfully taking this nastylooking brownish novelty, an exact quarter-scale replica of a Mills-type hand grenade, lever, pin and everything, one of a series of patriotic candies put out before sugar was quite so scarce, also including, he notices, peering into the jar, a .455 Webley cartridge of green and pink striped taffy, a six-ton earthquake bomb of some silver-flecked blue gelatin, and a licorice bazooka.

    “Go on then,” Darlene actually taking his hand with the candy in it and trying to shove it into his mouth.

    “Was just, you know, looking at it, the way Mrs. Quoad suggested.”

    “And no fair squeezing it, Tyrone.”

    Under its tamarind glaze, the Mills bomb turns out to be luscious pepsin-flavored nougat, chock-full of tangy candied cubeb berries, and a chewy camphor-gum center. It is unspeakably awful. Slothrop’s head begins to reel with camphor fumes, his eyes are running, his tongue’s a hopeless holocaust. Cubeb? He used to smoke that stuff. “Poisoned…” he is able to croak.

    “Show a little backbone,” advises Mrs. Quoad.

    “Yes,” Darlene through tongue-softened sheets of caramel, “don’t you know there’s a war on? Here now love, open your mouth.”

    Through the tears he can’t see it too well, but he can hear Mrs. Quoad across the table going “Yum, yum, yum,” and Darlene giggling. It is enormous and soft, like a marshmallow, but somehow—unless something is now going seriously wrong with his brain—it tastes like: gin. “Wha’s ‘is,” he inquires thickly.

    “A gin marshmallow,” sez Mrs. Quoad.


    “Oh that’s nothing, have one of these—” his teeth, in some perverse reflex, crunching now through a hard sour gooseberry shell into a wet spurting unpleasantness of, he hopes it’s tapioca, little glutinous chunks of something all saturated with powdered cloves.

    “More tea?” Darlene suggests. Slothrop is coughing violently, having inhaled some of that clove filling.

    “Nasty cough,” Mrs. Quoad offering a tin of that least believable of English coughdrops, the Meggezone. “Darlene, the tea is lovely, I can feel my scurvy going away, really I can.”

    The Meggezone is like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp. Menthol icicles immediately begin to grow from the roof of Slothrop’s mouth. Polar bears seek toenail-holds up the freezing frosty-grape alveolar clusters in his lungs. It hurts his teeth too much to breathe, even through his nose, even, necktie loosened, with his nose down inside the neck of his olive-drab T-shirt. Benzoin vapors seep into his brain. His head floats in a halo of ice.

    Even an hour later, the Meggezone still lingers, a mint ghost in the air. Slothrop lies with Darlene, the Disgusting English Candy Drill a thing of the past, his groin now against her warm bottom. The one candy he did not get to taste—one Mrs. Quoad withheld—was the Fire of Paradise, that famous confection of high price and protean taste—“salted plum” to one, “artificial cherry” to another… “sugared violets”… “Worcestershire sauce”… “spiced treacle”… any number of like descriptions, positive, terse—never exceeding two words in length—resembling the descriptions of poison and debilitating gases found in training manuals, “sweet-and-sour eggplant” being perhaps the lengthiest to date.

  4. liza says:

    I immediately want to get some! Not to eat them, although I am sure they are yummy…but for those toys.

    And that ad is incredibly creepy. If I were a child, I would be scared…on the other hand, it certainly is attention grabbing, and that’s the point.

    Thanks, this was fascinating.

  5. Rachel Hile says:

    Liza, I agree that’s a creepy ad. I showed it to my children last night, and this morning my son commented that the creepy egg guy had showed up in his (fortunately not-scary) dream.

  6. Ted Graham says:


    I believe the relevant part is paragraph d, either section 1 or 3:

    If it is confectionery, and—

    (1) has partially or completely imbedded therein any nonnutritive object, except that this subparagraph shall not apply in the case of any nonnutritive object if, in the judgment of the Secretary as provided by regulations, such object is of practical functional value to the confectionery product and would not render the product injurious or hazardous to health;

    (3) bears or contains any nonnutritive substance, except that this subparagraph shall not apply to a safe nonnutritive substance which is in or on confectionery by reason of its use for some practical functional purpose in the manufacture, packaging, or storage of such confectionery if the use of the substance does not promote deception of the consumer or otherwise result in adulteration or misbranding in violation of any provision of this Act, except that the Secretary may, for the purpose of avoiding or resolving uncertainty as to the application of this subparagraph, issue regulations allowing or prohibiting the use of particular nonnutritive substances.

  7. So what does that mean is happening, then, (I wonder) in terms of Kinder eggs sold in the US?

    Are they smuggled in, or is their illegality not really an issue… or maybe it just isn’t an issue to one particular New York checkpoint?

    I actually found some at a bodega in Park Slope, Brooklyn the other day. Delicious. My toy came in three tiny pieces, with moving parts, and I still haven’t found the time to assemble it yet.

    I think that the piece of paper with a picture of a cow on it would be a more eco-friendly alternative to giving a naughty kid coal for Christmas.

    It’s also interesting – is it not – that we’re talking about eggs where the shell gets eaten, but the inside does not get eaten. I mean, that’s the opposite of what happens to real eggs. Some deep truth there, perhaps.

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The Author

Ted Graham

Ted Graham is a graduate student in Classical Studies at Duke University. He holds degrees in Classics and Comparative Literature from Boston University and University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. His interests include, but are not limited to, ancient Greek drama, 17th century Europe, indie films, Ethiopian jazz, old sitcoms, strong coffee, and the Oxford comma.

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