Let Them Eat Chocolate

February 14, 2013 § Leave a comment


If you want to be loved, be lovable.
If you wish to be loved, show more of your faults than your virtues.
Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
Write me 500 words on whether or not the above quotes are in conflict.

Did you make valentines as a child, sitting at a table all weekend with construction paper and lace doilies, stickers and crayons? That early February snow-light, afternoons already longer, the smell of Elmer’s glue? Looking forward to hot chocolate, dinner, Saturday night TV (The Outer Limits, Gilligan’s Island)?

I had lots of creative activity as a girl—painting and poems and sewing projects, elaborate dioramas of dolls and toy animals—but making valentines was by far the most satisfying. We made them as a family. They were to be given away. I remember that feeling of being suffused with love, overflowing with it, when I handed the most embellished, the queen valentine, to my mother.

This year, my mother gave me a box of chocolate ladybugs, complete with rhyming couplet. And when I’m finished with the book I’m currently reading, The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, I’ll send it to her.

“In an early Colonial report on the ‘wild’ (that is, still unconquered) Chol Maya of the Chiapas forests, cited by Eric Thompson: ‘The form of the marriage is this; the bride gives the bridegroom a small stool painted in colors, and also gives five grains of cacao, and says to him “These I give thee as a sign I accept thee as my husband.” And he also gives her some new skirts and another five grains of cacao, saying the same things.’”

We exchange gold rings instead of cacao beans; which is the fertile and nourishing symbol? I’m not quite certain of the reason for the small stool painted in colors. The gift of skirts for the bride makes me think of the husband under her skirts, sitting on the stool, etc, but that sounds more Victorian porn than Mayan wedding night. Not that I’d know anything about it.

Think of all the moments you have treated chocolate like a cheap commodity, something to consume in the form of powdered cake mix, Hershey bars, chewable chocolate-flavored vitamins. A Starbucks mocha is not far up the evolutionary ladder. Why then, should we not have a culture of penis growth supplements and vaginal cosmetic surgery? In my youth, a debased period but far superior to the present day, people licked chocolate syrup off one another’s genitals. Genitals untouched not only by the scalpel but the razor, I might add. I can’t say I actually did that myself. We did it with wine, Charles and I–not very good wine, either. It was messy.

Weddings weren’t the only rituals cacao was used for. The Spanish were astonished to discover that these “savages” had their own form of baptism.

“The ritual was in the charge of a gorgeously arrayed priest. The children gathered together inside a cord held by four elderly men representing the Chacs (rain gods), each standing in a corner of the room. Then the noble who was giving the ceremony took a bone and wet it in a vessel filled with water made of ‘certain flowers and of cacao pounded and dissolved in virgin water, which they call that brought from the hollows of trees of the rocks of the forest’; with this liquid he anointed the children on their foreheads, faces, and the spaces between their fingers and their toes, in complete silence.”

My mother did her best to approximate this: Easter Sunday overflowing with chocolate eggs and rabbits, much of it ending up smeared on our faces. Even she forgot the spaces between our fingers and toes.

For those of you with small children, unencumbered by Christianity, consider inventing your own baptismal ritual. Depending on where you live, rain gods may or may not be warranted.

In other news:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

(from Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold)

Let us be true to one another because the world offers no joy nor love nor light; we just made that stuff up ourselves. Mostly Matthew loved his talent, and his love, whoever she was, probably didn’t even like him.

But maybe she did. I’m surrounded by happy couples: both siblings, both nieces. And I love Charles too, though it’s a cracked happiness, one of those hearts with a zigzag lighting bolt going through, all sorts of things falling out the broken place. But I did buy him a box of Li-Lac truffles. He promised to wash the dishes sometime this week.

The Warning

For love—I would
split open your head and put
a candle in
behind the eyes.

Love is dead in us
if we forget
the virtues of an amulet
and quick surprise.

Robert Creeley


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