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Contemplation and Chocolate

by Jo Page on January 23, 2013


I am one of the 12 people in the United States who has not seen Forrest Gump so I don’t know the context in which he claims that “life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

And I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with that sentiment, either, because with a box of chocolates you can always do what I do, which is get out your handy-dandy Subway-styled paring knife and slice right into the middle of one of those mysterious little chocolates—et voila!—mystery no more. If it’s the raspberry caramel and you wanted the orange cream, just put the two halves back in the box and hope nobody yells at you for messing up the candy. (It’s not as if I took a bite out of it before putting it back.)

Life’s different because you really can’t tell what’s going to happen next. You might have on your to-do list “go to work, do laundry, go to yoga class, make risotto, pay bills,” but instead your day may consist of reading the paper, helping a friend take her dog to the vet, then staying late at the office before finally stopping off at Trader Joe’s for some chocolate stout. By that time, you have no interest in a yoga class or the laundry. Forget about bill-paying.

You don’t really know when way leads onto way where it’s going. For example, I started out to write a column on the inauguration which I almost didn’t watch because I’m not feeling particularly happy with our mean-spirited partisan politics and our complete inability to be rational about guns. But eventually I was persuaded to watch it. And I found the First Family charming, Myrlie Evers-Williams moving and the poem appropriately Whitman-esque (though I will never get either James Taylor or Kelly Clarkson).

But just as I was sitting down to expound on all that, I started feeling a little peckish and remembered that I had been given a box of chocolates some weeks ago. Normally I’m not a chocolate lover, but it is cold in my study, and sustaining myself with some coffee and sweets sounded like just the thing.

So I trotted down to the kitchen, fired up the Keurig and brought the box into my office only to discover: this is not just some box of chocolates. This is an odyssey into the world of candy. This box comes with an actual four-color brochure featuring illustrations and descriptions of each and every piece. You won’t encounter any unhappy surprises when you make your selection because you can match the piece to the image and learn all about it. And they each have such distinctive shapes and presentations—infinitely more sophisticated than the squares, rectangles and circles in a Russell Stover’s box.

For example, that milk chocolate piece that looks like a three-dimensional comma on steroids?  I consult my brochure to discover that it is a Praline Crescent and it is further described as “hazelnut and milk chocolate in milk chocolate” in both English and French. When that same comma comes cloaked in dark chocolate it is a Mandarin Orange Crescent. The green-foil wrapped disk is a Dark Mint Medallion, while the nut-flecked milk chocolate diamond is a Macadamia Mosaic. There is also a Dark and Milk Lion of Belgium, a Coconut Pyramid, a Dark Ganache Heart, a Midnight Swirl (Tourbillion Nocturne) and a Cinnamon Blush.

You know how people always say they want to get paid to name paint colors? I want a job naming Godiva chocolates. This is just too wonderful.

I mean, I have spent the last hour fingering every piece of chocolate in the box and matching it to its counterpart in the brochure. And I haven’t had a one of them. Even though I’ve got my yellow-handled Subway knife right here on my desk, I can’t bring myself to cut into them. For one thing, they’re too pretty. For another, I have no need to, what with that handy candy guide that comes inside the box. The mystery has been taken out of chocolate consumption.

Of course, it remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or not. After all, my coffee has grown as cold as my feet and I don’t really need the calories, anyway. So maybe I’ll stay here in my study as the sun sets and just imagine what one of those chocolates would have tasted like.