Eating chocolate is often compared to generating the swoony feelings of being in love, but true chocolate aficionados deny this. Chocolate is better, they maintain. Stronger. The passions it generates are far more urgent.
Consider this: You stand before a candy store case of chocolates, and the array overwhelms you. Chocolate-covered marshmallows, chocolate-covered almonds, fruits, buttercream, caramel. You brace both hands against the counter, you sigh, you wish you could order one of everything, but that would turn your stomach into an exploded Bunsen burner.
You’ve got to choose. You cover your eyes, then spread your fingers for a small, judicious peek. In a whisper you request a square of mudslide fudge. Your first isometrically-controlled bite makes your knees buckle. Time stands still as your taste buds succumb to pure sensation. You can barely endure the ecstasy. You close your eyes, let out a moan. Suddenly you’re Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, only you’re not faking it.
Now here’s the question: Do you ever go through these exercises in sublimity with your significant other? Didn’t think so.
The real question, for scientists studying phenylethylamine rates and serotonin uptakes of chocolate ingestion, and comparing the data to feelings of romantic love, should be re-jiggered: Does being in love even come close to the joys of chocolate eating? And isn’t it like suggesting that the scent of orange blossoms from a faraway orchard is akin to floating — or even drowning — in a pool of orange juice?
Chocolate makes happy folk of us all, and that’s what the Featherstone Center of the Arts is merrily exploiting this weekend with its seventh annual Art of Chocolate Festival, for which artists, teachers, and the Island’s restaurateurs will supply deluxe chocolate goodies. For example, artist and ceramicist Washington Ledesma will bake his famous drunken cake, Else Membreno her white chocolate cheesecake, Kathy Rock biscotti, and Kathy Cowley of New Moon Magick her bestseller almond butter crunch.
Painter Donna Blackburn, whose art is inspired by the French Impressionists and who’ll be visiting France next May to return to the well, first will make her chocolate cupcakes encased in cheesecake frosting and chocolate shells. “I adore the Featherstone chocolate festival,” she said. “And I particularly love that woman who hovers over a cauldron, extracting each little perfect, finished piece, one at a time.” (This would probably be Brenda Mastromonaco, who performs her chocolate art in the window of Good Ship Lollipop on Circuit avenue, and who learned at the feet of Oak Bluffs master chocolatiers, the Hilliards, whose famous candy boutique resided at the very same address.
So many Islanders have chocolate love stories. Mike Cassidy of Edgartown recently mused about his Boy Scout days, some 45 years ago, selling one-pound bars of pure chocolate. “One time I saved my take and used it to buy the last bar. I snuck it under the covers with me that night and began eating. About a third of the way through, I passed out. When I woke up in the morning, the final two-thirds of the bar had melted under my blanket and it was a complete mess!”
My sister remembers her college weekends in Eugene, Oregon, when she’d attend a party, ignoring the beer kegs and the tortillas and salsa. “I’d be talking to someone very charmingly, and all I’d be thinking was, ‘Can I manipulate this person into driving me to a convenience store for M& Ms?’”
Clearly these tales of madness and addiction far exceed anything we’ve ever encountered over a mere love affair. And chocolate consumption is purely legal. You can indulge day or night, with strangers or friends, without betraying anyone or any thing other than your bathroom scale. Is it any wonder the Aztecs considered chocolate the food of the gods?
Some cities have taken a love of chocolate to whole new heights. In La Villajoyosa (Joyous Town), in Spain, everything is coming up chocolate, even churros dipped in melted chocolate and the proliferation of Valor, considered by Villajoyosa connoisseurs the finest chocolate in the world. San Francisco is famously home to Ghirardelli chocolates, and the small nation of Belgium contains 12 chocolate factories, 16 museums of chocolate, and over 2,100 chocolate shops countrywide. Switzerland boasts the highest chocolate consumption rate in the world, and this small country of clock-makers, bankers and chocolate nibblers ranks in the top 5 for personal happiness. Duh.
So this weekend Featherstone will be doing its best to get Island happiness pumped up. Oh, and did we mention festivities will be kicked off with chocolate martinis?
The edible art will be on display starting today, Friday, Oct. 8, with the preview gala from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Virginia Besse Gallery and on the tented deck. Tickets will be by $50 donation, a small price to pay for unlimited chocolate consumption. Festivities continue by general admission on Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. It’s a perfect opportunity to meet the artists/chocolatiers, enjoy the gorgeous Featherstone surroundings, and to stuff oneself silly with the likes of Marston Clough’s truffles and Nancy Blank’s chocolate “acorns.” And anybody who can attend both events and not end up in the ER with the stomachache to end all stomachaches, deserves a prize of Slice of Life chef Pete Smith’s chocolate mousse.
Should you possibly require more information or incentive, call Featherstone Center for the Arts at 508-893-1850.