jayellebee's Blog

November 10, 2013

Confection Confessions

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 4:35 pm
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My name is Joanne and I’m a chocolaholic. There is no such thing as a DWC (Driving While Chocolated). Nor are there twelve step programs for us addicts of all things derived from the cocoa bean. But trust me, the physical craving, the need for chocolate is not to be ignored. My family and friends know about my weakness, and not only accept me, but actually enable me.

My daughter-in-law invited me to join her at a fund raiser supporting the Tahoe Safe Alliance, a non-profit “dedicated to ending the incidence and trauma of … domestic violence, sexual violence [and] child abuse in the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee communities,” and Project MANA, a hunger relief agency. The lure of the 25th annual “Chocolate, Wine and Roses Festival” hooked my attention and reeled me in.

The silver anniversary of this delicious event brought out North Shore’s glitterati. Men sported silver slacks, jackets tailored from recycled disco balls and reflective foil hats appropriate for New Year’s Eve. Women’s sparkling garments ranged from micro-mini skirts to floor-length evening gowns. The “people watching” was almost as delicious as the main attraction.

Hyatt_Lake_Tahoe_Aerial_South_ViewEntering the Hyatt Regency’s ballroom, my resolve to limit consumption melted like Belgian milk chocolate left in the car on a hot summer’s day. Chocolate called to me from every direction. The price of admission provided access to the A Game sweets of ten chocolatiers competing for “Most Decadent,” “Most Original Taste,” “Creative Use of Ingredients,” “Best Tabletop Presentation,” and the revered “People’s Choice” awards.

The winners were determined by a democratic process with a Nevada slant. Remember, this gala took place in a Silverpoker chips State hotel which has its own in-house casino. So, each attendee was given three special poker chips in a dainty silver bag. Every table top display included a receptacle into which the chips could be deposited – not unlike a ballot box at your neighborhood polling place.

I should mention fifteen wineries were also on site offering tastes of their finest libations, but that part of the evening held little interest for me. I wasn’t about to waste my appetite or my votes on wine.

My grandfather would have called me “a one-eyed dog in a butcher shop” that evening. I didn’t know where to look first. But I’ve always taken voting very seriously and felt duty-bound to taste every nominated confection possible before casting my poker chips.

blog pix 000 jpgTruffles with a cherry center. Caramels robed in milk or dark chocolate. Pecan turtles. English toffee. Chocolate-covered marshmallows. Chocolate mousse. Cashew chews. Petits fours with chocolate ornamentation. Raspberry topped whipped chocolate. Even chocolate sushi. And those are just the offerings I remember.

The unexpected happened after a mere two hours of grazing, comparing and evaluating. I realized I didn’t want any more chocolate! I’d had my fill. I was sated. What a unique sensation. Even more surprising, the table set with raw vegetables, creamy dips, cheese and crackers beckoned me. Who would’ve thunk?

A heavy weight bearing down on my belly awakened me about three in the morning. My mouth was dry. My head ached. I was wide awake. A sugar and caffeine overdose squeezed my gut like a vice grip. No doubt about it. I had a full-blown chocolate hangover.

”Oh,” I moaned, and then promised the unsympathetic ceiling, “I’ll never eat chocolate again.”

The discomfort accompanied me on the drive home. Such a fun evening – such a high price to pay!

“Never again,” I vowed. “I shall never fall victim to the demon chocolate again.”

Walking into the house, I spied the bowl of leftover Halloween candy on the kitchen counter. Hershey’s Kisses in fall-colored foil wrappers. They didn’t even look good.

I ate them. But I didn’t enjoy them.

September 15, 2012

Bittersweet

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 11:07 pm
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There are all kinds of chocolate: dark, white, milk, bittersweet.  Decadent temptations for everyone and every occasion.  My personal favorite, milk chocolate, suits my disposition.  I’m happiest when life is sweet, delicate scents hang in the air, tasks respond to a soft touch and minimal fuss.  Mom shared my passion and always kept a stash of chocolate at the ready.

Our family lost Mom a little over two years ago.  Her sudden passing left us with broken hearts and a short time frame to empty her apartment of the routine flotsam and jetsam one acquires over a lifetime.  But in addition, there were forty-some-odd scrapbooks commemorating trips she and Dad had enjoyed in their retirement.

My parents had the travel bug – BAD!  Dad did his best to deplete the world supply of Kodacolor film, and Mom created an annotated scrapbook to preserve the photos every time they returned home.  Every time.  Two book cases displayed nothing but chronologically aligned binders containing not only the glossy photographs, but also coins, maps, menus, miniature flags, swizzle sticks, napkins….  You name it, Mom scrapbooked it.

     These books were a source of entertainment for Mom when she could no longer fly the friendly skies or sail the world’s oceans.  Nothing good on TV?  No problem.  A widow for seventeen years, she spent many pleasant hours reliving her trips, recalling escapades in foreign lands, remembering Dad’s “let’s try this, we may never get back here” attitude.

What to do?  These were not my trips.  Not my memories.  And I didn’t have two empty bookcases.  But I didn’t have the heart to deep-six the books without at least a cursory viewing, either.  Feeling like a thief in the night, I unearthed Mom’s chocolate hoard.  Wouldn’t you know?  Hard, bittersweet nuggets!  How appropriate.  I ate enough to qualify as lunch.

My niece and her two children arrived just as I set to work.  The kids, then aged five and eight, never experienced the joy of knowing their great-grandfather, but they knew “Grandma Jean” well and had no problem recognizing pictures of her.  I gave each of them an empty shoe box and these instructions:  Show me any picture you find of Grandma Jean with a man, and you can keep anything else you discover in the scrapbooks.  Their enthusiasm took the edge off what would have otherwise been a tearful exercise.

The four of us sat on the floor thumbing through pages.  Photos of Mom and Dad went into a sturdy box by my side while the kids liberated lapel pins, beads, mai tai umbrellas and other treasures.  Their frequent cries of excitement raised my spirits.  Their squabbling over trinkets ushered me back to happier days when my sons were little.  The box of rescued pictures overflowed by the end of the afternoon.

     Everything else thudded into a dumpster.  I have to admit, I was guilt-ridden.  But also pragmatic.  These books had served their purpose, it was time to move on.  The box of photos went into my storage room, from where it has nibbled at my conscience ever since.

Dad left this world much too young in 1993.  I have been able to think of him and smile for years now, the pain of loss dulled with time.  But my eyes still glisten when Mom pops into my thoughts.  And yet, today I was ready to revisit the box, determined to sort through and organize the pictures into a new, single-volume version of Mom’s scrapbooks.

Anyone who has ever taken a cruise knows about “formal night.”  Passengers dress to the nines – at least that was the way it was when my parents explored the world – to attend a reception and consume weak cocktails.  These events always involve a requisite photo with the captain.  Smiles abound.  I leafed through scores of similar pictures, pleased to see the name of the ship and the year of the cruise stamped on the edge of each.

But there were other, more personal, endearing glimpses into the past, too.  My parents smiled with The Great Wall of China behind them.  A large group of tourists, petite Mom front and center, posed in front of the Matterhorn – and not the one in Disneyland.  Close to the bottom of my trophy box, an unexpected picture made me laugh out loud.

Dad had a thing about Egypt’s Great Pyramid.  He wrote a paper about the amazing edifice, from an engineering perspective, while a student at Cal.  A personal visit ranked high on his bucket list.  That desire was quenched during a cruise down the Nile in 1979.  I remember asking him about the experience after he returned home.

“The ship’s cruise director,” Dad said, “warned anyone who wanted to ride a camel to the Great Pyramid not to pay the camel driver until he brought us back to the dock.”

“Why?” I asked.

“If the man was paid up-front, he was likely to take the camel back to find another patron while the first was still  inside the pyramid.  We’d end up paying twice – once to get to the pyramid and again to get back to the ship.”

     So there was Dad, looking up at me from inside the box.  He straddled a less-than-cooperative camel, laughing at the camera.   The camel driver running along beside.

“Every time the guy asked me to pay him,” Dad said, “I pretended I didn’t understand.  I’d shrug.  I’d look confused.  Then I’d point toward the pyramid and say, ‘Go, now?’   On the return trip, he was pretty upset with me and made the camel run.  I’ve never bounced so high on such a hard saddle.”

I remembered Dad telling the story, bouncing on his chair, re-creating the scene to the delight of my older two boys who were five and three.

“What did you think of the Great Pyramid?” I asked.

“It’s cramped, you have to walk stooped over, and hot inside,” Dad said.  “And it smells like some creep crept into the crypt and crapped.”

Yep, that was Dad.  Never a man to mince words, he always told it like it was.

I think I’ll go fix myself an ice cream sundae robed in thick, hot fudge with an extra sprinkle of nuts.  Somehow the treat seems appropriate.

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