A Poet Laura Mardi Gras, Saved By Generosity
My husband did some of his graduate work in a city not far from New Orleans and, while there, fell in love with the food and culture of that region. It has become our tradition every year at Mardi Gras to have our own little celebration here in West Virginia. We cook all day, simmering big pots of gumbo, étouffée, and red beans and rice. We mail order olive salad from the Central Grocery in the French Quarter and assemble our own muffuletta sandwiches (my favorite). We have even been known to ship in fresh crawfish for a boil. On Fat Tuesday the kitchen is perfumed with a mix of the Cajun holy trinity, hot pepper, and caramelized sugar. It’s one of our favorite times of year.
This year, Mardi Gras in New Orleans was canceled due to the pandemic (did you hear about Yardi Gras?) and we, along with millions of others, spent the day huddled around our fireplace, no electricity. The ice storm that paralyzed so much of the country with power outages also paralyzed our Mardi Gras plans. No electricity meant no heat, no cooking, no music, no livestream of Bourbon Street on the tele. Instead of feasting we spent Fat Tuesday around the hearth, stoking hot coals and piling the contents of our icebox in the snow on our back deck. Just another chapter in the continuation of the disappointing saga of 2020-2021. We tried to be grateful for our small fire, for food in our bellies—even if it was mainly cold, raw vegetables. Still, there was disappointment.
Then the day was redeemed by my chocolate patron.
I was only joking (well, sort of) in my inaugural Poet Laura post when I said I hoped the position came with a year’s supply of chocolate. One requirement of the job is to eat chocolate and write chocolate poems, after all. Alas, a chocolate stipend was not in the contract. Fortunately, artists have always had their patrons. Even Horace and Virgil had Gaius Maecenas. Why not a chocolate patron?
Enter Monica Sharman. Monica is a longtime writerly friend and poetry lover. What’s more, Monica works as a chocolatier’s apprentice at Cacao Chemistry, a fine chocolatier in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Not too long after reading my shameless pitch for a sweet chocolaty bonus, she gifted me with a generous shopping spree at her place of employ. I had so much fun poring over their menu and filling my cart with a wide variety of truffles, barks, and candy bars.
When the postman rang our bell on that cheerless Fat Tuesday, chocolate was far from my mind. I was distracted by the bitter cold, worry about elderly family members, and making sure the wood pile was replenished. How wonderful to sit wrapped in a fleece and lick melty chocolate from my fingerless-gloved fingers. How fun to read the descriptions of the secrets hidden within the truffles, to my husband by the light of the fire. How decadent it felt to create a chocolate charcuterie as snow continued to pile down outside the window.
Mardi Gras has never been so sweet.
A sonnet in honor of my chocolate patron:
Chocolate Saves Mardi Gras
He likes milk chocolate; I like the dark
I like it bitter; he likes it sweet
He likes the truffles; I like the bark—
Even better when you add a little heat
Passion fruit puree melts in my mouth
Dark, with English sea salt, if you please
Pecan marzipan takes me straight down south
Strawberries and cream, such a tease
Vanilla ganache with a white chocolate shell
Madagascar dark, raspberry, hazelnut
Whiskey cherry cordial, cabernet caramel
No guilt here, it’s good for the gut
Sweets nibbled by the fire ward off the ice beast
Fat Tuesday this year was a bittersweet feast.
Post feature photo by cattan2011, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post and Cacao Chemistry chocolate photos by Laura Boggess.
A Novella From Laura Boggess
Lyrical and whimsical writer Laura Boggess brings us an inspiring story of one woman’s quest to put her life back together. Poetry plays a part. But not before a book gets delivered to the wrong house on a windy, impossible day.