Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Chocolate, More Challenges - Part II

If ever there were a picture that could tell a thousand words, this one would tell them all about my mother.
It is Easter 1952. My mother Vivian (middle), my Aunt Pat (right), their cousin Robert (middle), and their friend Ellen (left) sit gleefully displaying their holiday spoils. As Ellen tilts her head coyly at the camera, Pat holds a block of chocolate to her face completely oblivious to the camera. Robert, the youngest of them all, stairs distractedly into the distance as my mother, with a sweet-as-pumpkin-pie grin, squats prominently in front of her towering basket of goodies. She is an adorable creature to behold, with vibrant eyes, a darling hairdo, and an innocent smile. It is only once you glance down at her arm that you realize that, by this clever little culprit, you too have been deceived. Not only does Vivian have the largest Easter basket of all the children, containing the most chocolate, but as she poses sweetly for the family photo, she also happens to have her hand in innocent little Robert’s Easter basket. Not only was she greedy enough to steal from her baby cousin, she was also ballsy enough to do it in front of a camera. The thing that makes me smile, as well as shake my head with disapproval is that, most likely, she got away with it.

This picture appeared in my mind today as my now sixty-year-old mother tried to convince me to cheat Dave, her boyfriend, out of his portion of the Oliver Kita’s chocolates. “Come on,” she said, her eyes sparkling with glee as she spoke, “he’ll never notice.” “That’s not very nice,” I replied disapprovingly. “ I’m telling you the truth,” she protested “if we don’t say anything, he’ll never remember!” She was twirling her braid mischievously like a fox and trying hard to keep a straight face. I suppose some things just don’t change, and I guess no amount of chocolate, not even a fully stocked chocolate pantry (which my mother has at all times) will never be enough.

We had bought the chocolates the day before after she picked me up from the station. The snow had stopped by then, and the sun had done a good job of melting most of the ice, but there were reminders of the storm, large snowdrifts lined the roads, fallen tree branches were strewn about, and every so often we passed an abandoned car stuck in a ditch. As we made our way to the chocolate shop, my mother explained what had happened to her to make her so emotional. The car had been giving her problems on her drive and, as it turned out, the cause was a nest in the center of her engine complete with the now roasted mouse. Tears welled up in her eyes as she told the story. “ Well maybe some chocolate will calm you down,” I suggested ignorantly as we pulled into the parking lot.

As we walked through the front door of Oliver Kita’s chocolate shop, the earthy sweet aroma of chocolate pleasurably engulfed us. The intensity of the scent was like no other; it was dense and vibrant, a rich confectionery smog that filled every corner of the room. As we penetrated the chocolaty mist, it encircled us filling out mouths, noses, and caressing us from head to toe. As I acclimated to the riotous bouquet, the heavey smell of savory soil mellowed and mingled playfully with the sturdy and still lingering honeyed savor. It was a blissful rhapsody of the senses that left my mother and I lightheaded. We looked around the shop, classically decorated with pinkish orange walls and dark brown trim. The windows at the back of the shop looked out on the now icy exterior; its chilly tones of white and gray contrasted the warm and embracing interior and made us thankful to be inside. The colorfully painted chocolates were arranged neatly inside two brightly lit display cabinets, behind which Oliver’s chocolate studio was visible.

Oliver greeted us both warmly, vaguely remembering my mother from years past, and we began to chat. At this point my mother’s intoxication at the hands of this otherworldly perfume became evident. Every thought that entered her mind she immediately expelled in the form of jumbled up sentences. She was talking about chocolates, my chocolates, the fact that she likes chocolate, my food blog, and the fact that I was toying with the idea of starting an ice cream company with odd flavors. Having plummeted into a pool of bittersweet mania - she was now stuttering - I was worried that she might hyperventilate. ‘Just take a deep breath’ I though silently, hoping she would telepathically pick up the signal. I put my hand on her shoulder in an anchoring attempt, and we finally got to the job at hand, picking out chocolates.

Here is what we choose:
Mint &Lemon Balm
Shiki Matcha Crunch
Cherry Ancho
Caramel du Del
Palet d’Olivier
Palet d’Opium
Fig and Pistachio
Lavender Citronade

What is it about the aroma of chocolate that takes such strong hold, causing in us a state of bumbling dementia? Perhaps it is the intoxicating scent that drove my mother to steal chocolate from her young cousin, or to attempt to swindle her boyfriend out of his share of the goods. One thing is certain; if chocolate is a useful remedy for a great number of maladies, intoxication, giddiness, and an overwhelming need for more chocolate is not among them.

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