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Mr. Eccentric

Do you know Mr. Wonka? If not, I’m sure you have heard of him. Mr. Wonka? Willy Wonka?

He is the eccentric founder and proprietor of the Wonka Chocolate Factory, and I was first introduced to him when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Played by Gene Wilder, Mr. Wonka gave me a whole new desire, and frankly appreciation, for chocolate.

In 1971, Willy Wonka was portrayed by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Wilder's portrayal is considered widely beloved and one of his greatest roles. Johnny Depp's portrayal of the character in 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory polarized critics and audiences. Both Wilder and Depp received Golden Globe nominations for their performances. Wonka will next be portrayed by Timothée Chalamet in an origin prequel film titled Wonka, scheduled for release this year. (Source: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure what did it for me, it was either the edible landscape or the chocolate river. I’m leaning towards the river.

Here are a few interesting facts.

According to, Quaker Oats financed the movie because they wanted to promote a new line of chocolate bars they were about to launch. So, they named the candy The Wonka Bar and then chose to name the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Talk about brilliant marketing!

Gene Wilder had one very weird request to do the movie. He insisted in his first scene he be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault so that from that time on "no one will know if I'm lying or telling the truth." Otherwise, he would pass on the role. Clearly, we know how that turned out. As a result, some of the actor’s reactions were spontaneous, including “Veruca Salt’s” reaction to the somersault and, all the kids' reactions to entering the Chocolate Room for the very first time.

I loved that movie, and I so wanted that chocolate river. I dreamt about that chocolate river…leisurely doing the backstroke as I turned by head from time to time to slurp in a mouthful of liquid chocolate. And then along came a newer version of the movie and my love of chocolate was awakened anew.

Who did not want to take a swim in that chocolate river or stand under the chocolate waterfall with your head tipped back and your mouth wide open? I suppose those who do not like chocolate, but I am clearly not one of those sad people.

One of my granddaughter's and I were cast in the local production of Willy Wonka several years ago. I played Mrs. Gloop, and she played a Oompa Loompa. She could have played a Whipple-Scrumpet.

What? You have never heard of a Whipple-Scrumpet? Well, Mr. Willy Wonka was first known as Mr. Ritchie, and the Oopma-Loompas were originally known as the Whipple-Scrumpets until the very last moment.

But here’s the thing. Did I mention looks can be deceiving? In the original movie the river was simply brown-colored water. For the 2005 remake the crew stepped it up a notch because the 1971 original looked too “distasteful”.

The chocolate river was made from 150,000 gallons of water, real chocolate, and cream. The filmmakers had to change the formula for the chocolate river because originally the concoction they were using turned blood red. Because of the cream, the mixture began to spoil, and by the end of filming, it smelled terrible.

Can you imagine how bad that must have been? An enchanting, colorful set design, a feast for your eyes, and yet your nose says: “NO”

Have you ever opened a carton of milk and put your nose to it for the ‘test’ only to recoil quickly, as your face begins to contort. Cleary, that milk has spoiled. Cream. Cottage Cheese, yogurt, fish, even cooked grains, can spoil quickly.

John 6:27 tells us, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” NKJV

The Message Bible puts it this way, ““Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

When I think of food that spoils, I also think of Manna.

“Manna, the heaven-sent food said to have sustained the Israelites for 40 years, has long captured the imagination of scholars, soldiers, and scientists alike. Many have mined biblical verses for clues about the Old Testament substance. Adding to the puzzle are the other descriptions of the food in the Bible: on hot days, manna melted in the sun. If not gathered quickly enough, it rotted and bred worms. In Exodus, it’s referred to as “like coriander seed, white,” with a taste “like wafers made with honey.” Numbers, on the other hand, likens the flavor to “fresh oil” and describes how the Israelites “ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it.”

“In the New Testament, manna is mentioned in both the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation. In a sermon delivered shortly after the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Jesus compares God’s gift of body-nourishing manna to his own ability to eternally nourish the soul: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” References to manna are also present in Islamic texts: one Hadith passage has the prophet Muhammad likening desert truffles to manna. (source:

Did you know Manna still falls?

There is a story out of Angola, Africa that goes something like this: In the past there was a famine in the area. The people had very little food and so they decided to fast and pray to God. After 3 days a young girl was out walking and found a bush that had small white, bread-like pieces laying under it on the ground. Two men suddenly appeared, and they told her to pick up a piece and eat it. She did, and it was yummy. She then gathered some and took it home. Her mother asked her what it was and told her to “throw it away, it could be poison”. The girl said, “I’ve already eaten it and it’s good. The men that I met told me to eat.” The family looked for the two men, who were nowhere to be found. I’m thinking they were angels.

The people picked up the manna and ate and were satisfied. The story goes on to say manna fell every day except Saturday.

The land no longer is suffering a famine, but the manna continues to fall every Wednesday and Friday, except when it rains.

One young man, who traveled to the region to see it with his own eyes, says he cannot describe it. He said his pastor preached about the manna and how when the Israelites first saw it, they asked, “What is it?” and he said, I have that same question. What is it? It’s a miracle.”

God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you…” Exodus 16:4

When God sent His son to earth, He rained bread from heaven.

John 6:33 says, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” ESV

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51 ESV

Are you hungry? Are you famished? Go to Jesus. It really is that simple.

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35 ESV

John 6:27 tells us not to waste our energy striving for perishable food. I think that verse goes together with Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In other words, trust God. Go to God. Stay with God. When you are hungry for the Word, turn to God. When you are dying of thirst, when you spirits are crushed and you just don’t want to go on, cry out to the Lord. He delivered the Israelites; He will deliver you.

by Jeanette Stark – Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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