Chocolate fountains are truly amazing.
Did you know that the world’s tallest chocolate fountain is 27 feet (8.23 metres) tall and contains two tons of chocolate?
Or that the instructions that come with a chocolate fountain tell you not to place your entire head under the fountain (presumably this means part of your head is OK)?
The genius of this device is that it is so simple. A heated bowl at the bottom for melted chocolate, and an auger. An auger is about the simplest form of pump there is. You know how an electric drill digs stuff out of a wall or a piece of wood? Same principle, except you’re drilling for chocolate. Once the chocolate gets to the top of the fountain, it then trickles down to the bottom, coating any items of fruit that it encounters on the way. It is so incredibly simple that you can’t help thinking, “I could have come up with that!”. Except the mere mortals like us don’t have ideas like this.
For me, though, the most amazing thing is how difficult it is to find out anything about the origins of this machine. You would think that for an invention of such great significance to human advancement a quick Google would provide you with everything you need. Indeed, you can do this, and discover that the chocolate fountain was invented in 1991 by Ben Brisman for a Canadian company called Design and Realization.
Except that isn’t quite right, as you soon discover if you probe a bit further.
If the chocolate fountain was invented less than thirty years ago, the chances are that the inventor is still around. Why not look them up on LinkedIn? Or Facebook? I mean, how cool would that be, to have the inventor of the chocolate fountain as a friend on Facebook? Plus, what would they have been doing for the last thirty years? Sitting around eating chocolate-coated strawberries? I don’t think so! What else might they have invented in the intervening years?
Except the inventor is not present on any social media. There isn’t even an obituary.
Eventually, you discover that although the Canadian company Design and Realization popularised the chocolate fountain (and will very happily sell you one), and that indeed the inventor was Ben Brisman, he invented it in 1920.
Ben Brisman is not on Facebook.
Finding out anything about him online is an uphill struggle. There’s no biography, no Wikipedia entry, just a void.
There are no photos, either. You might have expected a Google image search to bring up a sepia-tinted picture of Mr Brisman. He should be standing in front of a chocolate shop in America – probably New York, as that’s where everything seems to happen – a straight-backed fellow with a moustache, wearing a bowler hat and carrying a walking cane.
Yet there is none of that.
When I consider that my single greatest personal contribution to the culinary art is to put tomato ketchup in a cream whipper (this works really well – try it sometime), it seems a tragedy that Ben Brisman is all but forgotten.
I am very much aware that we all have many things to worry about now, many important things. But what better time than this to indulge with a chocolate fountain? It is for times like this that they were created.
And after all, how else should you celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its invention?