I'm not a chocolatier. I have only the most rudimentary tempering skills, have never successfully filled a chocolate bon bon (not owning a mold may, in fact, figure in that). Nor have I ever been to the Netherlands.
But when walking the Brimfield Antique Show with my mother last summer, I was stopped in my tracks by a chocolate mold that depicted a character I recognized from a David Sedaris story, "6 to 8 Black Men" (I recommend that you listen to this link - don't bother watching it). Before I read Sedaris' story, I had never heard the tale of Sinterklaas and his sidekick, Zwarte Piet (Zwarten Pieten in the plural), who, on St Nicholas' Eve (December 5th), hand out toys to good kids and beat, and possibly kidnap (and take to Spain) the bad ones.
But here it was, right in front of me, a chocolate mold that not only depicted Sinterklaas, but also Swarte Piet. In all Swarte Piet's incredibly offensive glory.
To those of you without basic knowledge of Dutch or Flemish, Zwarte (or Swarte) Piet means "Black Pete". Black as in skin color, though some argue that because Pete is actually a chimney sweep, he's actually white, though his face is stained black from soot (and, therefore, actors who play him, or, rather, them, in videos really aren't in blackface. Riiiight. You be the judge. Do those guys look like chimney sweeps to you?). Pete supposedly comes from Spain - a Moorish slave, or according to legend, three young slaves, who were saved from execution by the benevolent St. Nicholas. And now, perhaps to their chagrin, they are forced to do St. Nicholas' bidding, from carrying presents to beating children. Luckily, they still get to spend most of the year in Spain, far away from the chill of Northern Europe.
So I found the mold, which, according to a friend at a nearby chocolate factory (yeah, I really know someone at a chocolate factory) is at least 40 years old. But not to worry - the chocolates are still being made and sold in the Netherlands.
I felt wrong making the Zwarte Piet chocolate:
This is definitely NOT a white chimney sweep covered in soot. Consider the mold retired.