Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color


Giving up coffee was not a big deal—I was never a coffee drinker.

            My neurologist suggested that I avoid caffeine to prevent increased blood pressure, which could increase the risk of another brain bleed. I did love ice-café. I’m not referring to the iced coffee sold in the U.S. I’m talking about coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream plopped into it.

I also enjoyed the odd Irish coffee or the occasional White Russian. But giving those up was no significant loss. They’d been a rare indulgence in my previous life.

            Most of the tea I drank was herbal. Drinking tea that contained caffeine was also a rarity. Chocolate was a tad harder. I wasn’t a chocaholic; nor did I have a raging sweet tooth. But I did enjoy good quality chocolate. And chocolate mousse—mmmmm… and hot chocolate… and chocolate cake and brownies…

Perhaps going cold-turkey would be the best strategy–it worked. During the first few chocolate-free months, I felt a twinge of regret when a moist chocolate cake crossed my path, especially black forest cake, or when I was offered a slab of Belgian chocolate. But as the years passed, those twinges occurred less and less frequently. Until my latest trip to Israel.

My older brother, Jonathan, and I stayed at our younger sister’s, Rachel’s, place. As was customary in our family, shortly after our arrival, Jonathan and I rummaged in our luggage to produce presents. Jonathan pulled out a box of chocolates for Rachel and her family. I was not impressed.

The act of gifting boxes of chocolates in my family had a rough history. Whenever Bubbe, my maternal grandmother, received a box, she’d keep it for a special occasion or would re-gift it. Unfortunately, by the time she passed them on, they were covered with a thin layer of weird white stuff, which was not very appetizing. Consequently, we were suspicious of any gifts of chocolate.

Perhaps Rachel, being much younger than Jonathan and me, suffered less chocolate related trauma at Bubbe’s hands. Or maybe Rachel was just more polite than I was. She opened the box immediately. Staying well away from the kitchen, where she opened it, I heard her exclaim, “They’re so pretty!”

Seconds later, she emerged from the kitchen and approached me holding out the open box. Intrigued, I leaned over the box. I felt my eyes widen and my jaw slacken. Not only did they not show signs of age, but they were exquisitely decorated with geometric patterns and flowers. I’d never seen the like.

I noticed that one was missing. Rachel grinned. “And they taste amazing. The best chocolates I’ve ever had. Try one.”

She knew that I didn’t eat chocolate. Why would she try to tempt me? Unless… unless they were indeed amazing. I still hesitated.

“You should really try one.”

She wouldn’t have insisted if they were anything less than perfect. I drew a deep beath and reached for the box. One couldn’t cause any harm. My hand hovered over them. which one should I pick? It didn’t really matter—my taste for chocolate had faded over the years since my brain injury. Might as well take the prettiest. It was a square piece of dark chocolate, little flowers scattered across the top.  Were they hand painted? Or stamped?

As my teeth sank into it, the flavor burst in my mouth. I closed my eyes, focusing my entire being on the sweet creamy inside mitigating the hint of bitterness of the dark outside. I moaned as the chocolate melted in my mouth and my taste-buds danced in delight. I’d never held such a celebration of flavors in my mouth before. It was even better than my first taste of salted caramel ice cream or the filet de boeuf a la Wellington my niece had made a few years ago.

Without thinking, I reached for another. The temptation was too strong. They were so more-ish. Rachel laughed and picked another herself. Jonathan, hovering over her shoulder beamed.

That afternoon I checked out the EHChocolatier website. There were so many offerings. I finally decided on the Chef’s Choice Box of bonbons. One box for Dave and Shannon, Cindy’s and my housemates, the second for Daniel and his partner T, a third for Sarah and her family, another for a party Cindy and I were throwing shortly after we returned from Israel, and the fifth would be perfect as one of Cindy’s Hanukkah presents. Every time I produced a box, I explained, “They’re the best chocolates in the world.” Every time I indulged myself, I found myself closing my eyes and moaning.

It was three months since the last time I indulged myself. throughout those months, I managed to resist temptation. But then, I received a devastating email. EHChocolatier was closing its doors.

All thoughts of avoiding chocolate to cater to the bloody brain went out the window. Being a good girl is just too hard sometimes. I had to place an order, a large order. One box for my daughter, another for my son. Maybe one for Judy. Cindy, of course, will need one. And what about one for the annual writing retreat in September? Will I be able to refrain from finishing it off by then?

I ordered eight boxes, just in case.

Recently, I found a chocolatier based in New York: No Chewing Allowed…