"But, oh my dear [chocolate], our love is here to stay, together we're going a long, long way..."

Readers, I intended to write an entry extolling the virtues of dark chocolate, really I did.

I was going to mention how I contemplated pairing my morning cup of coffee with a square of dark chocolate (which I suppose I've just gone ahead and mentioned regardless), and how being an adult is sometimes marvelous, particularly when you live by your lonesome, as it means few obstacles stand in the way of your eating chocolate before breakfast.

I was doing well in terms of fanciful thinking: there was my short-lived romance with Ruth Reichl and my living vicariously through her via Garlic and Sapphires. I danced for a while with a Mark Bittman title. In the last few days alone, I yearned to be a restaurant critic for The New York Times, a cultural anthropologist, Amanda Hesser, and a journalist.

I'm still fairly determined to take cooking classes eventually, or, on the rare occasion I indulge my fantasies, attend culinary school by taking night and weekend classes and eventually go on exchange in Italy. You might think such fancies would interfere with my thoughts on chocolate, but readers, they did not. And then I made the mistake of getting into this, and, well, all bets were off. In my hands was a book about a very serious matter, and poof, out went all thoughts of a fluffy love poem devoted to deliciousness. Consider yourselves saved -- imagine an entire entry devoted to lines like, I go loco over cocoa. I can't.

I digress. I intended to write about chocolate, you see, but reading a somewhat historical account of marriage as institution over the last couple of days got me thinking again about the restorative properties of food, and how food and eating might serve as a sort of litmus test for our relationships, romantic and otherwise.

I admit fully that I really know nothing about food and cooking, that there is really so much to know, but I think that's okay. As Ruth Reichl points out in Garlic and Sapphires, ethnic food -- apart from your typical Americanized, greasy Chinese food -- didn't really gain any notoriety until the late 90's, so I don't feel so guilty that, apart from the odd Ethiopian stew or Indian lentil dish, I don't dabble so much in ethnic cuisine. It's okay that, relatively speaking, I've yet to dabble in much of anything. I like food, and I like eating. I like people, and I like their stories. I like it best when I'm let in on a cherished family recipe. That's really the essence of this site.

I don't have any of those to offer myself, I'm sorry to say, but here, sipping on hot tea and contemplating in great wonderment what it means to be human, I can't help but think what my own family has passed on to me: the belief that cooking is a very beautiful passion indeed; that making a meal for someone else constitutes an enormous act of love; and that through good, whole food, we can restore our health.

Yes, this entry has little to do with chocolate, but it does have something to do with adulthood, and with taking -- ohh, that wretched phrase that tempts adults to crawl back into the shell of childhood! -- taking responsibility. In Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses how a couple who entered into a pragmatic marriage came to love one another, slowly and surely, over the years, and how in the end, when his wife no longer knew herself as her mind continued to deteriorate from Alzheimer's, the husband dressed her nicely and took her to church every Sunday because he knew she would've liked it and appreciated it had she been cognisant. He fed her, he bathed her, and he took care of her.

I remembered a moment when I worked at a restaurant a couple years ago. A husband was helping his wife to eat because she was disabled and could not do it herself. That's love, really -- the underbelly of infatuation, the act that can't be proven with promises but must instead be demonstrated over the years, chosen repeatedly over time. What a scary, amazing thought. Whether it's re-heating a pot of spicy chili over a hot burner on a cool January night, baking up an enchilada casserole for my family, or preparing roast sweet potatoes in a brown butter vinaigrette, that's my way of saying, I choose to love you again today.

In the name of love and assistance, I'm giving you my recipe for homemade Larabars. There's dozens of these floating around the Internet, but this is the one I've been using. When I first got sick and became someone with inconvenient dietary restrictions, I started buying Larabars. They're portable, they're healthy, they're delicious, they're filling -- I could go on all day about the amazing thing that is a Larabar. Fortunately, the recipe is easy and the bars keep for a good long while so long as they're refrigerated. It's the single person's way of saying to themselves, okay, I guess I'll love you again today, even if you leave the bowl of the food processor in the sink all night because you're super lazy and awfully forgetful.

PS. They contain chocolate.

Chocolate Ginger Date (Lara)bars

Adapted from Clothilde Dusoulier at Chocolate and Zucchini, and Samantha Menzies at Bikini Birthday

Yields about 9 bite-sized bars

Heaping 1/2 cup of pitted dates, roughly chopped (about 200g)
1/4 cup walnuts
10g dark chocolate (I used 2 squares of Lindt's 85% cocoa)
2 tbsp crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Scant 1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are all very finely chopped and clump together. At this point, you can roll the mixture into balls, bars, or do as I did -- flatten the mixture using a spatula, and slice into bites.

*The title of this entry comes from "Love is Here to Stay", lyrics and music written by Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin, respectively.


Samantha Angela said...

Thanks for the link back, Sarah.

Have you finished Committed? I've been wanting to read that myself.

Kathleen Quiring said...

Yumyumyumyum this sounds delicious. I love chocolate that is at least 85% cocoa. Once again, I have actually never heard of Larabars but now I want to give this a try. I also am starting to think I should get my hands on Committed, given my interest in the topic of marriage.

You're such a great writer, Sarah -- your posts are such a treat!

S. said...

Samantha - I'm about halfway through so far. I have yet to read Eat, Pray, Love (I'm 400 out of 585 on the wait list), but her writing style is pretty casual and easy to read. I'm liking it so far, even though she undermines herself constantly by reminding her readers that she's not an anthropologist, thereby doing a huge disservice to her research and to the book. I'll let you know what I think.

Kathleen - Aww, thank you! I'm glad you enjoy them.

I think you would find Committed pretty interesting. She has a really lovely perspective.

Andrea K. said...

A few things--I also love Larabars and this recipe looks delicious so I'll have to try it. Committed is on my list of things to read and having just gotten married I've been extremely interested in the institution of marriage recently (have you read The Meaning of Wife? It's pretty interesting). And I absolutely loved this discussion of food as love--it covers a lot of things that I've been thinking about myself recently. I'm headed to Italy to stay on some organic farms this fall on my honeymoon and I have similar dreams of cooking school, being a journalist, etc. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my wild hopes for a future full of good stories and good meals. Keep up the great work on your blog.


S. said...

Hi Andrea! Thank you! I have not read The Meaning of Wife, but I'll add it to the list. You're definitely not alone in wanting a future filled with good stories and good meals. I think maybe, for me at least, it's more about the fact that I love to write, and the best stories, in my opinion, spawn from fantastic conversations over truly memorable meals. I can also appreciate that food is so much about place and people, too, and I'm always very interested in learning more about both.

P.S. Can I go on your honeymoon? Spending time on an organic farm in Italy sounds amazing. I request that you report back about your adventures.

Jess said...

What a lovely post. I just found your blog through a comment on delicious dishings. So nice to find a new food blogger like you!

For the past year I've been dabbling in the idea of collecting family stories around food and publishing them in a book. I started writing down some of my own so that I don't lose them when the older matriarchs of my family pass away. Food is such an important part of our culture and I feel like that rich culture is being hijacked by Mcdonald's and the like.

S. said...

Thank you!

I love the idea of collecting family recipes. It's akin to collecting photographs, really.

I worry too about our culture being hijacked. Sitting down to a real meal is so vital to our growth and development that I wonder how much I'd be losing out on if those sit-down meals/stories were ever comprimised.

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