I love chocolate.
But it’s not simply the taste of chocolate that I love—it’s the way chocolate evokes a visceral connection to memories, to childhood, to experiences.
Sesame Street premiered when I was a toddler, and I spent my early childhood mesmerized—and humored—by Cookie Monster and his lack of restraint with chocolate chip cookies. I think “Me want cookie” was among my first sentences.
As a young girl, I often climbed onto the kitchen counters to rummage through the cupboards for any chocolate my mom might have stashed away from her four sweets-addicted children. I learned the hard way that baker’s chocolate is not the same thing as a candy bar. But I also learned that a few additional ingredients could transform bitter baker’s chocolate into the decadent brownies, cookies and cakes I craved.
My mother was a solid cook, but she didn’t go in for complicated dishes or methods. I inherited her affinity for basic recipes, using quality ingredients, perfected with practice. Although I never did learn to enjoy cooking, baking—and, later, candy-making—suited my fascination with science, my attention to detail and, of course, my obsession with chocolate.
In 2004, my husband, David Miller (aka Farmer Dave), and I began a vegetable farming operation in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The Midwest growing season doesn’t always harmonize with the farmers market selling season, and during vegetable-lean weeks, I filled our table with sweets, including the peanut butter scotcheroo recipe I learned in Mrs. Stevens’ 7th Grade Home Economics class.
A job loss in 2009 turned out to be a gift—a forced fork in the road, and, honestly, a reason to eat A LOT of chocolate. As my husband and I talked about what I could do next, my desire to spend time with my ailing parents was a top priority, so flexibility was key. “Well,” David said, “you like chocolate. Maybe you should do something with chocolate.”
Mount Vernon Confections was born.
I registered for the Professional Chocolatier Program through Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began learning about the science and art of chocolatiering. As my skills improved, I added chocolate truffles—including recipes using raspberries from our farm—to our farmers market table and quickly developed a following.
I purchased my first tempering machine (which allows me to turn melted chocolate into the glossy coating used to enrobe truffles) used, and it came with a stack of pig-shaped chocolate molds. As a joke, I filled a few with leftover chocolate to give to a hog farmer friend. They were an instant hit and launched my farm chocolates product line. The chocolate pigs, corn and barns were a fun reflection of our farming life and injected more humor into my daily work. Soon I developed handmade ice cream recipes to make use of more of Farmer Dave’s fruit.
In June 2017, MVC moved to a much larger location in the heart of uptown Mount Vernon, which gave us significantly more production space, room for eat-in seating, and expanded retail offerings.
I’m fortunate to be able to spend my days playing in chocolate and I often find myself smiling for no apparent reason. I look forward to sharing my love of chocolate with you!
– Mickey Miller