from Enid Futterman's:
"BITTERSWEET JOURNEY: A Modestly Erotic Novel of Love, Longing,
High in the sulfurous air, waiting for the bubbles
to break through the surface of the moonscape, Charlotte felt
even queasier. Here was the equivalent of the shakey ground she
had always stood on, bubbling to the surface, glistening and threatening.
She drove like a lunatic, all the way down the
fiery mountain and beyond, not stopping until she came to a field
of amazing trees, laden with deep-purple and burnt-orange pods,
as big as gourds. It was a wonderland--natural and fantastic.
"Strange fruit," she whispered to the
"Cacao," said a voice behind her. She
turned around to find a man standing there, smiling at her astonishment.
"Chocolate," he said, translating. It
wasn't a language problem. "It can't be."
He took a flat, round, quarter-size piece out
of his pocket.
"Cacao doesn't grow here."
"Nothing grew here once. But I'm impressed
that you know enough to get it wrong. No one in the civilized
world knows anything about cacao."
For nearly five centuries, a line had divided
crown from colony, oppressor from oppressed, culture from nature,
chocolate from cacao, and this man had erased it. "Hawaiian
Vintage Chocolate," he said, offering it to her.
"Born and made in the U.S.A." "Vintage?"
She was still not used to hearing the words "Hawaiian"
and "chocolate" in the same sentence.
"Chocolate is the wine of the Americas."
"I'm off the stuff."
"All you need is one." Was he pushing...or
"One pistole." She hesitated. "Come
on. It took eight years. I traveled the world in search of beans.
Java for Criollo. And Venezuela. Trinidad for Trinitario. Beans
that grow wild in the rain forest, and Gran di Floria, the godfather
bean...one botanical step before Theobroma cacao." He grinned.
"Food of the gods."
"The Aztecs", but Mayans worshiped them
first. Maybe even Toltecs. Cacao was a gift from Quetzalcoatl,
god of knowledge and culture ... especially agriculture. In Hawaii,
he's Lono; in Greece, Dionysus."
"Dionysus, not Bacchus. One glass of wine,
not a bottle. A piece of chocolate, not a box."
"it isn't that simple."
"It's the most complex plant on the planet;
this plant, even more so. It's a new bean, crossbred from all
the others, growing in who knows how many layers of volcanic soil."
He took a breath. "But it is a plant. Elemental. Organic."
"Organically... and lovingly."
"What about pests?"
"I didn't say that. Come with me."
She went. She was smitten, with him, with Hawaii,
"After the harvest ... and before the drying..."
He picked a purple pod and hacked it open with a machete. Inside,
it was lavender-white, almost iridescent, and sticky. Pulp. It
looked less like chocolate than anything she'd ever seen.
"This is it," he said removing a bean
from inside the pulp, like an embryo from a sac. "But that's
part of it. Taste it."
It was juicy, and fruity; it was fruit. After
a beat, and with a slightly theatrical flourish, Jim opened a
large wooden box, unleashing a smell so sweet and pungent she
turned away. When she turned back, embarrassed, she saw it - a
steaming, insect-filled ooze, a living, breathing, horror-movie
"I think so." Charlotte laughed. He
made her laugh.
"What is it?"
"It's fermenting. When you make a new batch,
you use a piece of wood from the old one, like yogurt ... or sourdough
starter. The wood attracts insects, which attract a hundred and
thirty-two bacteria and yeasts."
"I'm not good at this."
"It doesn't have teeth."
"Is it sanitary?"
"If it was sanitary, it wouldn't ferment.
Bend your arm, and dip your elbow in it. Just a few inches. I
want you to feel it." Why did he want her to feel it? What
did he want her to feel? "Come on." It was hot. It was
alive - the slimiest thing she had ever felt on her skin, and
some slimy part of her loved it.
"This is where chocolate's flavor is formed
- its roundness and depth. It's the primal, low-tech stuff. What
happens in the factory... the roasting, grinding, pressing, refining,
conching, tempering... all about texture."
"It doesn't come off."
"It's a souvenir." But he grabbed a
wet towel from the side of the box and wiped her arm with it in
a way she could only describe as ambiguous. "It's mostly
cocoa butter." The skin on her arm was left clean, but slightly
slippery, and as soft as the skin on her breasts. The slimy part
of her wanted to bathe in that box.
She told him. He laughed. His laugh was attractive,
but what made him irresistible was what he knew.
"I'll take the chocolate," she said,
with a half-smile.
"Kona 'Ninety-four. Hodges Estate."
"It's a different food," she said, as
it assumed the shape of her tongue.
"Yes." "Can you taste the flowers?"
"Everything is in it. The bean. The weather.
The soil. The bacteria. And the past."
She was staring into the mouth of another crater,
about to jump off the edge, when the sun lit on something gold.
A ring. A wedding ring. How could she not have seen a wedding
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