Chocolate is a passion I stumbled into later in life. For most of my working life my career was in the jewelry industry. I worked at a large jewelry company called Kabana in Albuquerque, NM for 20 years and another 6 at a company in Hawaii- Steven Lee Designs. I was the production manager and Gemstone/Diamond buyer at Kabana and the General Mgr/Buyer at Steven Lee.
At Kabana ,we sourced our cut diamonds in Antwerp, Belgium and on those numerous trips to Europe I got very hooked on fine chocolate . In the diamond district was a beautiful chocolate shop, Del Rey. Every morning their window was filled with colorful, luscious fruit tarts and layered cakes. At 9 am, a line began to form, and when the tall, wooden double doors opened it was a mad dash to select the perfect cake or fill boxes from the stacks of freshly made chocolates. These chocolates were made with “fresh cream” a definition I didn’t grasp at first. My only experience with “cream centers” were the horrible things you got in a Whitman sampler when you learned to push your finger through the bottom before tasting something awful you’d regret putting in your mouth. So initially I stuck to the familiar nuts and caramels and other fillings I knew.
After one particularly long week of buying diamonds, at the end of the day a man presented me with a parcel of intriguing diamonds. They were small ones, maybe 2 pointers but extremely brilliant. I was told they were “Russian cut”. After a bit of sifting to assess the sizes in the parcel I haggled a bit with the price and we shook hands on the deal with the customary exclamation of “Mazel”. My week was finished and my thoughts now turned to Belgian ale and a nice dinner out in one of the numerous street cafes of Antwerp.
My broker was finishing up his invoice when the seller of the last parcel returned. He told us he’d made a mistake and undersold the parcel by a lot. He pleaded with us to return them so he wouldn’t lose his job when his boss found out the error. My broker reminded me that I had bought the parcel fair and square and was not under obligation to return them. He told me that there was a “diamond court” down the street and that they would hear my case that same day. I felt bad for the seller though, and decided that I’d return the stones. I’d bought everything I’d needed on that trip and the last purchase was just gravy.
Although my boss would have been thrilled with the price I’d paid for such beautiful stones, I couldn’t bring myself to take them home at the mercy of another’s bad mistake. The parcel was returned and the seller left quickly. Ten minutes later he returned with a gift. A tall gold box with a neatly tied ribbon. I opened the box and as I lifted the cover the aroma grabbed me like an old cartoon of an aroma in the shape of a swirly finger beckoning someone with an alluring smell.
These weren’t the type of chocolates I was used to. They smelled more deeply of chocolate and came in different molded shapes. They were dark and shiny. When you bit into them they melted sublimely and were deeply satisfying. Little did I know that the simple act of that chocolate thank- you would later change my course in life.
What about you? Did any particular incident in your life have a profound consequence that changed your direction?
Today’s excerpt from my book For the Love of Chocolate.