Back in September I ran a bunch of workshops on how to make a chocolate robot. It was part of Cornucopia Leeds (and was reviewed), a food festival held in the bottom of the corn exchange which had all kinds of events going on with local indie food bods which was very cool indeed and a lot of fun to be a part of. It was also tied in with Playful Leeds’ March of the Robots, a year long event which involved robots and education and learning through play and Child Friendly Leeds; basically, if it had anything to do with robots, Emma wanted it tied in with MotR. I was quite happy to tie it in with my year of doing daft things whilst being 40. This certainly fit the “daft plan” requirement.
Anyway, what was made (which I’m calling “chocbot”) was actually the Plan B. The Plan A was to have a bunch of silicone moulds – robot moulds – which would have melted chocolate poured into and then they’d set in under 20 minutes, because really this was a workshop on how to correctly temper chocolate which just happened to involve robots. Unfortunately the moulds – which were coming from Hong Kong – didn’t show up in time, so the day before, after having been awake for about 32 hours, I was running around trying to come up with a new plan which would be fun. A trip to a supermarket’s sweets aisle provided me with enough inspiration to get over the “argh!” moments.
And here’s the thing: what I originally planned was a bit technical and overcomplicated for kids who would have been bored because they weren’t really doing much. The Plan B was considerably more fun, the people who made the chocbots loved them, they enjoyed the workshop and everybody – adults included – was so happy with the results they were showing off what they’d made to other people in the Cornex. And then eating them.
There we were; I had a template and some instructions, so the workshop could be rerun again at some point with a minimum of fuss. All I needed was chocolate and a run through the sweets aisle and I’d be fine.
Then Emma asked me if I could make a thousand robots.
I sat down and did the maths; a thousand chocbots would involve about 70 tubes of Smarties, 50 bags of mini Wispas, similar numbers of Munchies and PBCs. Minstels would come in at 25 bags, Matchmakers would be cheap – only 15 boxes. Probably. And about 2kg of chocolate. Also, if it was just me making it, probably about 50 hours. I don’t really get that amount of spare time, and certainly not in the three weeks I had to do it in. As luck would have it, though, the moulds that I’d ordered about six weeks earlier arrived; way after the event I hoped I’d have them for, but I wasn’t complaining because using them to make 1000 robots would be simple by comparison.
More maths. I had six moulds, each doing 12 ‘bots that weighed in at between 10 and 15g. 72 ‘bots per cycle, probably 10kg of chocolate would do it. I’m a bit of a fusspot when it comes to moulding chocolate so ordered a 39% single origin milk chocolate which was delicious. And got to work churning out little silvered robots.
I was also asked to do a chocbot workshop similar to the one done at Cornucopia; after much thought I ended up having to say no to this for all kinds of reasons, but that workshop went ahead anyway with Kay (Cheery Little Thing), Angie (Marvellous Tea Dance Company) and Em (Banh Mi Booth) stepping in to get a whole bunch of chocbots made with the help of some amazingly creative familes in a corner of Trinity Kitchen. Heroes, all.
In the meantime I was just churning out ‘bot after ‘bot after ‘bot. I had a system; melt, pour, leave, turn out, repeat until big box was full, then silver. This way I was able to work out exactly how many I’d made, and just how many I had still to go. What I didn’t do was work out how many I could still make. 10kg of chocolate may seem like a lot but in the end it worked out at just a little bit more than 10 complete runs, which I managed to do in about 10 hours.
…which worked out at 764 chocbots, in the end. It’s not a thousand, but it’s still a lot when you’re making them by hand. And I still feel pretty proud of that. Emma managed to give them all away at the final party, with a few left over for some incredibly kindhearted people.
The plan for MotR was to get 10,000 robots made. I reckon with the 764 little silvers, the 80 that was made at Trinity and the 36 we made at Cornucopia the contribution of the Chocbots helped that total along a bit, which is a pretty nifty thing indeed. But still… 10 kilos of chocolate sounds like a huge amount.
…and I look at that lot there, and realise that it really is.