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Fixated on Food

I know it’s that time of year and we are glad for some relief from everyday reality, trying to obliterate from our minds the news of Cannes and Berlin, the confusing horror of Aleppo and the election of Trump. So we all need some holiday spirit(s) to blur the grittiness and sorrows of these perplexing days. Although most people are looking forward to family gatherings, shiny decorations and window displays, it seems I’ve been deep into chocolate treats.  

Besides, Lindt chocolates have had an amazing sale, and I have overindulged in boxes and bears and balls. However I must admit that I had been scarfing up those delicious balls for sometime now. For my Toronto grandsons who like to be surprised with a tasty confection, I have explored chocolate dipped marshmallows, sprinkle- enhanced iced pretzels, macaroons the colour of candy floss, decorated cookies on sticks or even a reliable chocolate chip cookie or two, only rarely falling back on commercial offerings such as sun chips! in a pinch.

With the renovation of Pusateris nearby and being diverted to the Bayview Mall, I have been lured into Lindt’s chocolate dream factory .The purveyors of this delicious nibble are smart cookies. They ensnare you with one freebie, and once you sample, you are hooked , whether swallowing their freebie whole or savouring and sucking it slowly as the two parts divide into a tasteful duo in your appreciative mouth. The balls come in a variety of flavours from cacao to orange to strachetella, all with that same structure that like a truffle, encases that delightful secret: a centre core of smooth and rich delectable chocolate. One ball is rarely enough as the slow ooze, my preferred method, seduces you to maintain and prolong the delectable sensation that has your tastebuds begging for more.

Maybe it’s not such a great sale as the woman ahead of me spends $35 on those amazing balls in shiny wrappings. My bill this time is only $13.But like the siren call, these babies tantalize and hypnotize with their chant of chocolate so you might actually imagine yourself as a pasha on an island far, far away, fed off the exotic riches of the land and you are queen of all things good, deserving of the treats that have been so elegantly
crafted for your royal palate. But chocolate, good chocolate is so damn sinful. 

For many years I’ve been purchasing a chocolate Lindt Santa advent calendar for my grandkids. Hidden behind each day of the month of December, a variety of shapes and sizes will appear, from mini balls wrapped in glittering foil to minuscule scrumptious bears with red ribbons at the neck ( if you are lucky) to tiny perfect gold- wrapped chocolate bars. I rationalize that the calendar reinforces their math intelligence because the child must search for the right number before poking out his edible prize. To my grandson newly arrived from a Philadelphia, he proclaims, “ I like this game.’? The regulars insist on opening several , even beyond the inscribed date, ecstatic should they wind up with one of those tiny perfect bears, the little balls abandoned besides the rarer more detailed confection.

Although no longer children who openly drool, for some reason to binge during holidays , we have given ourselves permission to devour deserts, rewarding ourselves for surviving our workday endeavours. At my husband’s festive lunch party this past week, his assistant provided him with not  one but two homecooked apple pies, huge slices of apples in a nicely browned beige crust.He was so eager to taste his gift, he rushed home and immediately cut cleaved the pie in eights, scarfing up nearly a quarter of it. His weary work junior lamented that an hour of two of quiet would be her exquisite treat; my husband was pleased that he could offer her a spa certificate, not exactly eatable but truly delicious.

 In the final week before holidays, my mind has veered into baking my formidable chocolate chip cookies which I rationalize are healthy because they have oatmeal. However in these hectic days, I also find myself purchasing cupcakes at our favourite cupcake store Bakes and Goods. They use Belgium chocolate and also offer a proper, not overwhelming ratio of creamy buttery icing to lusciously light cake in numerous flavours such as cookies and cream or caramel drizzle or kiwi. Then there are the brownies from Pusateris that are really large and chewy and chocolately… But do not forget the superlative chocolate ring from Harbord bakery. And please,  I beg you not to be misled with the poppyseed that pretends to be chocolate but requires closer inspection or the time to discern the actual name of the item tenderly enclosed in clear plastic wrap. In deed, I think the chocolate ring serves as good breakfast eating because it doesn’t resemble a cake but has a sensible circle open in the middle. Wherein a health- minded soul could heap with berries, although strawberries with real whipped cream might be an enchanting way to commence the day. 
In deed, my breakfast on my birthday this week will be a platter full of dripping chocolate croissants from Douce France who actually import their dough from France and bake it here, recalling for our family a summer in Beaulieu sur Mer : where we trundled off to the local café to kickstart our vacation rambles in the south of France when our kids were little. Memories of Patachou now defunct, where my first grandson learned to love their impeccable chicken pot pie. My daughter correctly raves about Pain Perdu’s almond croissants too that mingle crunchy, sweet, flakey and soft. One whiff and we are back barefoot on the coastal beaches.True, all proper in this season of indulgence.

I remember my exquisite childhood birthday cakes, my mother used to bus down to St. Clair for at Patisserie Francaise years ago. For a special lunch, she would make party sandwiches on their pink and green bread, exciting the artist in me. Sadly, however, she insisted on using my birthday supper as an occasion to invite and cook for her relatives, some wrinkled and bespeckled ancient great aunts and uncles with weird sounding names like Meneel. I hated the intrusion of people I hardly knew who only arrived to devour my mother’s hard spent hours of cooking for them- or so it seemed to me. Worse yet, no one brought me a gift or even a bouquet of flowers for my mother. And when her gentle Auntie Bayla quietly asked for a second slice of my coveted treasure, I carved it so thinly that it would not stand upright and the airiness of the cake practically sent it heavenward without much volume to attach it to any party plate.I too shocked myself by the absurd spareness I had achieved

I think back to my bad eating habits, Hostess potato chips and a coke every day after school while I watched American Bandstand supine on the couch . My mother who was whisper thin encouraged us, my sister and me, and besides, the pharmacy next door to our store was a ready source of all things sweet and fattening. Every week in our home, there was a chocolate from Margo’s bakery, small size 90 cents, large $1.10. If not available, SaraLee stood in for a dinner closer for chocolate obsessed eaters.

But back to present day and my chocolate gene that has been satisfied way too often in the last few weeks as I have not ignored a nod, smirk or an invite from a shop or counter that displays and lures with the riches of the season. Macaroons, cupcakes, truffles, Buche Noel ( from Dufflet for my birthday) and now has expanded its variety from hazelnut and caramel to vanilla mousse. So delicious.I do not care a fig that it is a Christmas cake with all of its symbolism. But Dufflet as well must have realized the intrinsic worth of this piece because I’ve noticed miniature versions tempting shoppers before the grand date of the 25th. You can eat with your eyes, I’ve often , told my kids. But here, eyes and mouth grow large and gobble- slowly.

Sadly even as we indulge, the bad news will be there after the holidays and reverie has quietened down.We will have to contemplate not only extra pounds, clothes that do.not close around our midsections but an unstable world. At least the sweetness of moments of indulgence will endure and hold at bay unsavoury and unswallowable thoughts.

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