It’s the second week of October , temperatures are dropping, We start getting those glorious days of pretend sunshine that deceive only the Austrian tourists on their autumn brake. The humidity is high and works its way into your bones, but the air is so clear you can see the all the way to the Apennine mountain region to the south and the snow tops of the dolomite region to the north.
Our beautiful Meadville town of Soave, is almost ready to fold in on itself for the winter. The harvest is about to be declared a great success and the spirits are high. We get one last autumn fair which you can already smell coming down the winding road into town. The streets are lined up with wooden stands of chocolate artisans, It’s intoxicating . some are chipping away on great brown blocks, some filling paper bags with various chocolate delights and everyone’s smiling, the happiest of all are the youngest and the oldest , not a single calorie thought is interfering with their joy.
Chocolate is a commodity that has been abused by the western world, and lately you can feel the results in the Prices. In past years, we used to come home from the fair with chocolate treats for the girls, this year we just settled for photos.
When my daughter Tamara was two years old, she and her sister were invited to a birthday party of one of the girls in their preschool (it was a Steiner Waldorf School , so age groups were mixed). The birthday girl was from a family of means and the party was held in a beautiful private garden with a huge wooden play area. The kids were climbing and running and generally having a great time, while the mothers were standing around, drinking select wines and chatting in their expensive outfits (this is the Veronese elate society – they can afford the best and they like to showcase it). My two year old was nowhere around the play ground. She was stalking the buffed area, following the waiters with her big eyes, waiting for the moment that she’d been anticipating the entire week – the birthday cake.
Tamara was never a great eater (still isn’t), but get between her and a birthday cake and you’ll find you’re missing a few fingers.
The moment has arrived. We all gathered at the big gazebo, the lights were spent, the birthday song was sang and in came, rolling on a large tray, the most exquisite cake I have ever seen. The crowd inhaled a collective sigh of pleasure and the host picked up the knife, when a ear-piercing wail, rising from the depth of a heartbroken child tore the silence: “THAT’S NOT A BIRTHDAY CAKE”
You see, the fruit marzipan, the beautiful sugar sculpted children, the cream peeks and the delicate colorful designs, did not change the fact that this was not a chocolate cake!
A few of the younger children happily identified a potential group mutiny and joined in the rumpus, the birthday girl started screaming that this was in fact a birthday cake and to prove her point, she grabbed two fists full of it and waved them in the air. waiters were running around trying to salvage the masterpiece and calm the crowd down and the hostess was on her knees apologizing to my grief-stricken daughter, offering her substitute sweets to no avail.
14 years have passed and in our house, a birthday cake still means only one thing: It’s chocolate, or you know where the door is!
This week’s lesson will be all about that beautiful brown stuff that has such a mystical power over us. It will also mean that I’ll abuse yet again my teacher’s status and sneak in some sad and painful facts and statistics about the children ages 5 – 17 who are forced to work on cocoa farms in across the Ivory coast and Ghana, who pay the real price for this passion of ours, and how we can actually do something about it by buying only the chocolate that clearly states that it is ‘fair trade certified’.
Have a wonderful week, be happy, be safe, read a book!