Tag Archives: chocolate

Si se Descubre un Incendio

16 Dec

bunuelosThere was a space heater at our feet, bouncing comfort off cool white tiles that met at right angles behind us. The scuffed and varnished table was long and reserved for a large party that would arrive later. We were wearing sweaters and scarves. Our shoulders hunched.

We’d been assigned these seats out of sympathy for our aging souls by a server who saw us shiver. What she didn’t know was that my beautiful friend had a lover waiting for him at home, and if there was an icy chill to our appearance, it was out of mutual sympathy for the cold reception I was receiving from the middlewest while in the middle of Spain.

I was in hot pursuit of a sweet encounter on my final night of vacation. I knew exactly what I wanted, because I’d tasted it my first night in Madrid. Never a dessert person, I’d relented and sampled a chocolate buñuelo, which changed my understanding of the laws of physics forever. Fools who eat deep-fried Oreos might pretend to know what I am about to describe. But I defy them to compare their county fair disaster to the depths of contentedness offered by a perfectly formed and lightly fried crust encompassing a warm and smooth milk-chocolate center. All prepared by a somewhat hostile chef-owner who wishes you’d ask for the check already, even though this is Spain and you’re supposed to finish dinner at breakfast.

“You’d think he would have been more polite, as our bill was quite substantial,” sighed my friend.

The chef was not alone in his barely restrained rage. The proprietress was also in a fit of pique that first night. I was sure she hated my voice and my English and my inability to speak Spanish. But my French friend’s third language helped us to order dinner, and I hoped his status as neighborhood resident would melt the cold chocolate beneath the bitter sprinkles of cocoa on this woman’s soul.

How wrong I was. Despite our poor reception, we decided to make a round-trip to the restaurant of angry owners after my week in a city constructed entirely of cobblestones and concrete. Not surprisingly, we were greeted with more subdued rage. Our server was kind enough, but again the proprietress made it plain that we were an imposition.

“I’m really sorry,” I intoned, tightening my scarf into a thicker knot above my rejected heart. “I hope this isn’t the result of your bringing me here, the ugly American. Please, come back with your Spanish lover and everything will be okay.”

I felt a rare silence waft toward me from the right angle to my sharp corner, and then I turned to watch a withering in my French English Spanish friend’s sky-blue eyes. “How could you say such a thing?” His eyebrows raised in sympathetic horror. “Just the fact that you would even think like that…”

His sentence was completed by our mutual recollection of the many conversations we’d had all week. Hearts like ours are generous with what they offer, but need a little encouragement when it comes to receiving love. Oh, and I am a lot like that hostile proprietress toward my own heart customer when I ask for another glass of wine. “You want what? You want more? You want to enjoy? You want to feel good? Harumph. Forget it, you ugly uglykins.”

I looked down at my hands, which were gripping each other in a tight bind in my lap. My trip to Spain was ending with the same taste of sweetness from the first night, but now colored with the bitter regret of longing and rejection. As the light crust broke beneath my bite, I thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s winsome conclusion to one of his short stories: “There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.”

Seasonal Shift

24 Sep

Success in love breeds chocolate consumption in others. Or so it seems in my small apartment. Today I learned about friends at opposite ends of the planet suddenly tumbling into love. So happy, so wonderfully happy. And I’m fine, I’m really, really fine. I see couples grocery shopping together and I still cringe, so clearly, I am not ready to be anybody’s anyone just yet. But still, there must be some part of my conscious that’s craving a little more sweetness, a little more savoring of cocoa on the palate. Because I never eat sugar and now I am like a Belgian wolf or something. Something wild and vaguely rabid that’s used to a vast supply of chocolate within close proximity.

Tonight after my wine tasting class, I bought wine, chocolate, and flowers for myself along with salad greens and my usual collection of meager sustenance provisions. I also bought those damn marcona almonds, which the deli boy and I decided were dangerous. He’d just slapped my parcel of peppered organic turkey on the counter and asked, “Anything else?” to my turned head.

I wound back around, “No, no, just those damn almonds behind me.”

“They’re truly addictive — that’s why I don’t even buy them.”

I locked eyes with him and held my Belgian wolf gaze, clucking my tongue like I never done did in dry old Salt Lake City. “I’m going for it,” nodding my head ‘no’ like I was powerless against almond forces. “Aiiyyyyy’m going for it.”

Passion. For food. Look, I am not overweight, and I’ve lost weight since I moved to Texas (hey, single, new in town with only a few friends, no restaurant meals — lose weight!). But let me tell you a secret. I love taste. Not wild tastes, not molecular gastronomy tastes, but just good tastes. Noticeable tastes. Savory tastes. Tastes that make you stop and pay attention. Even if it’s macaroni and cheese, I want it to declare itself so with pride.

In my wine class tonight, I promised myself I’ll one day get the palate and the olfactory senses required to discern baking spices and specific fruits “with a bit of dust on them”. But first I just want to learn how to define what it is that I like about wine. I’m tired of describing wines in vague terms to shop clerks and restaurant servers. I want to have just a few key phrases about what I like.

This evening as we made our way through a flight of whites and reds, the pretty girl sitting next to me reciprocated my attempts to befriend her by asking me if I had a favorite so far. Just the first one, I said, and even though I worried that it was only because it was the first one, I knew that I really liked it. “I should like the one we just had, too, because I usually like complexity. I say I like complexity because I think I want people to like that about me, too.”

She laughed.

The class went on and the last wine (which isn’t always a big ol’ finale or anything, it’s not like the teacher tries to sell the big, expensive wine at the end, he’s a nice guy) was my absolute favorite. And as we learned more about it, I dreaded the truth which was ultimately revealed. Yes, it was very expensive. Everything I like, everything I like in life, is expensive. Because I like complexity, I like distillation, I like things to be refined, and beautiful, and perfect.

Don’t worry, a new friend gave me a self-help book about how complex taste in partners can indicate a reluctance to commit. I’m on the case. But I’m keeping my food preferences, dammit.

Once I was safely home with my savory snacks, I confessed to a friend via text message that I’ve advanced to some sort of phase where I consume excessive amounts of chocolate. It’s not hormonal, I told her. “It’s just… well, I guess I’m just single.”

She countered with a glorious human universal. She too, she who has an infant and a doting partner who never lets her feel single, was craving chocolate that very moment. “It’s the seasonal shift,” she said.

Ohhhhh! It’s not me! It’s not loneliness banging down the walls of my carefully protected new self concept. It’s the cooling of summer’s heels. What a relief it is to realize I am not alone, I am just a part of the human race.

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