May 24, 2015

There are very few things I love more than chocolate, so when we visited a chocolate factory yesterday, I was in heaven. We had heard about the Theo Chocolate Factory long before our trip. It specializes in organic, fair trade chocolate and has the same name as our son, so one of the reasons I jumped when I was invited to lecture in Seattle was that finally we could finally visit this righteous company (https://www.theochocolate.com). Before we left LA, we booked ourselves on one of their factory tours, and yesterday at 11am we turned up ready to learn and to sample. Our guide Danielle was exceptional, blending facts with fun as she explained to us the entire bean-to-bar process of chocolate making, the important ethical principles upon which the company is founded, and the techniques Theo Chocolate uses to make its most delicious bars. Our tour group spent over an hour with her, sampling many varieties of deliciousness and marveling at the complexities of transforming the bitter seeds from a pod from a tropical tree into the most wonderfully luxurious sweet foods available to humans. As if spending an hour savoring chocolate nuggets and breathing in chocolate fumes wasn’t treat enough, we were rewarded with a free chocolate bar each as we exited the factory. Of course, we couldn’t leave the store without buying a few more bars, and when we returned them to the hotel, I stashed our chocolate bar treasures in my suitcase, delighted at the thought of having a supply of delicious (and environmentally and socially responsible) chocolate to snack on for the next few weeks.

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Normally I’m not very good at sharing my chocolate. My husband David knows this well, because he sometimes asks me for a piece and though I usually give him some, I’m usually unable to hide my reluctance, especially when I only have a few pieces left. I’m not proud of this, but it’s a weakness of mine. Now, over the last couple of days, while we’ve been away, our next door neighbor Tony has been helping us out by feeding our two kitties and talking to them a little so they won’t feel abandoned. Tony and his partner Frank have always been friendly, generous neighbors (see February 26), particularly while we were rebuilding our house after the fire. Over the years, however, we have spent more time talking to Frank as he often works from home. Tony has recently retired from his work as an administrator in a medical department at UCLA and now that he is home more, we have been getting to know him better too. This weekend, not only has he been caring for the cats, but he also generously agreed to pick us up at Burbank Airport (because we flew out of LA’s other airport LAX and Ubered there, so have no car waiting for us when we land). For this almost heroic act, I thought “Uber Tony” deserved to be the recipient of my Giveaway today, but I can’t imagine there is anything we own that Tony would need or want. However, I was carrying something very precious in my suitcase that I wouldn’t part with for just anyone. Even though this is something I acquired only a day ago, I think it qualifies, and it’s a way of sharing a few bites of one of the most enjoyable hours of our trip to Seattle with our special neighbor and friend.

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