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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at


Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Bluebird still doing chocolate the slow, hand-made way

By Diane Denning

March 19, 2009 | The smell of freshness pierces your nose as you step into the historic, little building at 75 W. Center St. The aroma of melting chocolate floats from the pot in the rolling room and resides in the brim of your nostrils causing you to lust after the creamy smell. Your eyes finally catch up to your nose and you realize you are standing directly in front of a vast display of chocolates.

The glass display case is filled with at least 40 types of chocolates: Lemon Cream, Billy Mint, Key Lime Truffle, Heavenly Hash, and creamy milk chocolate, rich dark chocolate and luscious white chocolate smothered over cashews, pecans and walnuts.

According to "The Bluebird Story," written by Guy Cardin and Woodrow W. Jeppesen, in 1914 O. Guy Cardin, M. N. Newburger, and Julius Bergsjo started a candy, ice cream, and soda fountain shop in Logan and named it the Bluebird. A few years later they added sandwiches, chili and other items to their candy shop, which stood at 12 W. Center St. Then, in 1923 they built the restaurant that still stands at 19 N. Main St.

According to Joanna Fraser, the Bluebird Candy Factory office manager, in the mid-1960s the back part of the restaurant was turned into a parking lot. The candy making part was moved into another building, just around the corner and down about a block from the restaurant, where the candy factory currently stands. The building was originally the Hotel Logan Building, but has been the home of Bluebird Candy Factory for the last 50 years.

When the Bluebird owners decided to sell, potential buyers didn't want to buy the restaurant and the candy factory, so they were sold separately. Dick Motta bought the candy shop and decided to keep making the candy the original way.

"The chocolates you buy at the Bluebird restaurant aren't original Bluebird candy," Fraser said. "We use the old recipes and do it by hand. The same way it has been done for years."

According to Hershey', chocolate is made from a cocoa bean found deep in the jungles around the world from Brazil to Indonesia to the Ivory Coast to Ghana. The beans grow on a tree called the cacao tree in pods and are hand harvested from the trees. Then, they are placed in big heaping piles to ferment. During fermentation the shells of the cocoa beans harden, the beans darken, and the cocoa flavor develops. After the beans are dry, they are transported to the chocolate companies around the world.

All of the chocolate treats sold as Bluebird candy are made right here in Logan. The chocolate arrives in big blocks of 10-pound bars. The workers take a hammer and beat the chocolate bar to break it up. Then, they dump the chocolate into a pot and let the chocolate melt.

"This is the way it used to be done, but very few places do it this way today," Fraser said. "We have a reputation for it."

The centers of the chocolate are also made by hand, cooled and cut into little squares. Flavors include orange cream, lemon cream, rum-flavored pecan centers, brown sugar and maple, and a variety of caramel and nuts. Once the chocolate has melted and been stirred, it is placed in another container where it cools until the temperature is comfortable to the touch.

"We have to get the chocolate cool," said Suzan Bryner, five-year chocolate dipper. "If it is too hot, it gets gray and speckled."

After the chocolate has cooled to the correct temperature, the dippers add a little bit of water to thicken it. Then they start dipping. Bryner said Bluebird chocolate doesn't have any wax in it, so the small amounts of water are necessary to thicken the chocolate. If the chocolate isn't thick enough, the mark on the top of the chocolate won't stay. Instead it will sink into the middle of the candy.

With a premade square center positioned on the tip of their fingers, the employees dip their hands in a puddle of liquid white, dark or milk chocolate directly in front of them on a large granite table.

The dippers move their fingers in a distinct pattern, getting the excess chocolate to drip smoothly through their fingers and back into the puddle of chocolate. Once the excess amount has dripped off, they place the chocolate on a piece of wax paper and with delicacy and exact preciseness. With a dainty touch of one finger in a distinct patter, the dippers create the circular, square or swoopy design which is different on the top of 36 different chocolates.

"The dippers do a very nice job, and they make it look so easy," Fraser said. "Dipping by hand is the most interesting part."

Fraser said it takes six weeks for a chocolate dipper to become familiar and efficient with the process of dipping chocolate. But the dippers feel it takes two to three years for them to feel completely comfortable with the technique of dipping and getting the design on the top right each time.

The finished chocolates are left out until they have hardened. Then, they are stored in boxes in the 68 degree storage room until they are either packed up and shipped somewhere around the world, or placed in the glass case to intrigue the buyer's of Cache Valley.

"We ship candy all over the United States," Fraser said. "We have even sent some to China."

The chocolate has to be airmailed, but people from all over the world have connections with this chocolate. Fraser said graduates of Utah State University remember the chocolate from when they were in school. Many repeat customers have made Bluebird chocolate part of their family traditions.

"We are making something fresh every day," Bryner said. "And it is good for up to six months."

Fraser said the chocolates will last longer if you don't put the chocolates in the fridge or the freezer. They will still taste delicious, but they will lose their pretty. Bryner said the dust from the cocoa starts to form on the outside edge making the chocolate to look old. They will last longer and keep their taste longer if you keep them in a room with temperature around the temperature of their storage room, 68 degrees.

According to, most chocolate bars are made by pouring the liquid chocolate paste into moulds. The moulding machines can fill more than 1,000 moulds per minute with delicious Hershey's chocolate. Hershey's chocolate kisses are made a little differently than the bars also according to Special machines drop a precise amount of chocolate onto a moving steel belt and then quickly cool it to form the famous Hershey's Kiss shape. Hershey makes more than 80 million Kiss-shaped products every day at its chocolate factories in Hershey and California.

Hershey's chocolate is made relying on machines to do the work. Bluebird chocolates rely on the nimble fingers of workers who have been there for years. One of the dippers has been working there for over 40 years and another one has been there for over 20.

"We can't compete with equipment," Fraser said. "But we like to think we are better."

The most popular chocolate made by Bluebird is one called the Victoria. It has a rum-flavored center with chopped pecans and is covered with milk chocolate. The rum gives the chocolate a kick as soon as you bite into the middle of the circular treat. Fraser added the rum "is just a flavoring." They get that asked that question often.

These hand-dipped chocolate have been around for years and aren't going to leave. It is what Bluebird chocolates are known for, it is their reputation. The smell of warm chocolate melting in a pot will always greet you when you open the door to the factory during normal business hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The smell invites you in and doesn't let you leave until you have tasted at least one of the many chocolates waiting in the glass case directly in front of you.

"It sure smells a lot better than a lot places to work," Fraser said.


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