Chocolate is good food.
The table is rectangle, a concrete composite scattered with glass bottle shards: orange, green, and white.
I’m sitting with my back to the wall in a coffee shop on Queen Anne with five other people, not including the barista. It’s blue out now, after a morning’s wait for the gray to burn off and the sun to take its place. My most recent cook book acquisition sits open in front of me, revealing photographs and culinary algorithms: Notes From the Larder, A Kitchen Diary with Recipes. I discovered Nigel Slater a month ago while taking a food photography workshop with Aran Goyoaga. Although to be honest, I had heard of him before. But leafing through his cook books in her airy studio on Western Avenue inspired me to ernestly discover what he was about in ways I hadn’t been inspired to before.
Nigel Slater is a British food writer – and an orphan, like me. His writing is lovely; he reminds me of one of my other favorite food writers, Molly Wizenberg. I wonder if his work hasn’t inspired her a lot. Food was not a memorable part of my childhood like it was for him and Molly. I want to blame it on the 70s, but that’s not fair. Alice Waters and Julia Childs were working their gastronomic magic, but my family wasn’t into that sort of thing. Everything I ate growing up was wilted, canned, and unconsidered.
In fact, I didn’t become interested in food in ernest until I was in my 40s for the most part, and to a lesser extent, until I met Will at age 34. I find it fascinating, now, on multiple levels. In simplicity: toasted walnuts on a rimmed sheet in my new oven, macerated in the Vitamix with oil, salt, water, and maple syrup from Will’s friend Charlie in Vermont, poured over charred green cabbage, to which Will remarked was one of the best things I’ve ever made. In therapy: I was grumpy when I started that walnut sauce, Bria sitting on the marbled breakfast counter across from me, alternately coloring and begging me for sesame seeds to add to her made up concoction of leftover walnuts and who-knows-what-else-that-funny-little-kid-put-in-there. But when I was done with that and the salted caramel sauce that came after, I felt nicer. There’s something healing about sharing a delicious, well-crafted thing with others. Cooking makes me a better human.
In mechanics: I love kitchen tools. My mixers, my bowls, my knives. All my countertop machines that help me shave, curl, mince, measure, melt and slice. I consider them my little friends, ready at a moment’s notice to help me cook dinner. And my spatulas. I have a collection of spatulas, mostly from Sur La Table, wooden, aluminum, plastic, and silicon. My favorite, though, are the white Rösle ones with the looped, stainless steel handles. Who knew that German design and engineering would make its way into my kitchen, too? Like shoes, I can never have too many spatulas.
What does this all have to do with chocolate, you might ask? Although most people don’t think of it this way due to its singular classification as a confection, chocolate is a food like all others when appreciated and viewed through the lenses of Nigel, Alice, and Julia. Derived from a plant; honest and simple; processed via beautiful tools into something emotional, pure, and delicious. Craft chocolate making is a natural extension of my evolution as a lover of good, slow food.