part i.

Picture, if you will, a faraway land so exceptional, so idyllic, so overflowing with beauty, any who journeyed there might be persuaded they stood upon entirely sacred ground.

And picture, in this faraway land, a famous chocolatero—a dashing adventurer, a devoted epicure, a distinguished statesman—who explored the world on horseback in search of fine-flavor cacao.

Picture a landscape of sultry, deep-jungle conditions, with coconut palms, banana plants, and avocado trees shading acre after acre after acre of cacao trees. Through this landscape, the chocolatero rode, the sun’s rays shining upon his horse’s chocolate-brown mane—which was long, lustrous, and woven with yellow buttercups.

Elsewhere, in another part of the vast, varied, and vibrant world, waves shimmered against a sandy shore, palm trees swayed in the temperate ocean breeze, and gulls coasted at cloud-height in a display of pure freedom.

There, in this other part of the vast, varied, and vibrant world, lived a young woman. And if any who chanced upon her looked carefully—at just the right moment of the day—the sunlight reflected a delicate dusting of gold in her large, green eyes.

To those who knew her it was clear: this young woman was driven to immerse herself in all the sensuousness of the vast, varied, and vibrant world. Yet nothing so enchanted the young woman as chocolate, that most ancient and beloved of foods.

The young woman luxuriated in dark, milk, and white chocolate. Within the dark realm, sweet, semisweet, and bittersweet chocolate were equal infatuations. Even unsweetened chocolate summoned rapture; this was because unsweetened chocolate—in its purest, most concentrated form—brought forth sumptuous nuance within the young woman’s hand-made desserts and savories.

But there was one thing, more than any other thing, that made this young woman’s gold-flecked eyes fill with delight—that was making chocolate.

So in the small space of her kitchen—and in the inner-most reaches of her imagination—this young woman set about making chocolate. The slow transformation of cacao into chocolate elicited a kaleidoscope of flavors. It was a process so fragrant, so magical, so evocative . . .

. . . So much so, that the first time this young woman made chocolate, she exclaimed, Ohhh . . . it’s like love at first sight, for the young woman felt the most beautiful spirit awaken inside of her.

Indeed, chocolate fueled a passion for which her appetite was insatiable. If the young woman could make as much chocolate as her heart desired, not only could she indulge-in as much chocolate as her heart desired, but she could also share with others as much chocolate as her heart desired—every day of every month of every year into eternity.

Yes, the young woman affirmed, I will do precisely this! And with cacao that is cultivated by hand and gently-fermented, then dried in the light of the sun!

Hmmm . . . but how to source such cacao? The young woman contemplated this matter as she prepared herself a hot fudge sundae—the young woman always ate vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge and freshly-whipped cream when she faced a matter in need of contemplation. Three scoops, she devoured with gusto, for the young woman so enchanted by chocolate also derived a certain gratification from things which came in threes.

part ii.

And indeed, by the time the last traces of ice cream had vanished from her bowl, the young woman had developed a plan: she would set out to research the history of all things chocolate.

Without delay, she delved into a three volume text on fine-flavor cacao. Feasting her eyes upon every word, the young woman came to read of a famous chocolatero.

Ahhh . . . she thought, dog-earring the page on which this chocolatero was mentioned. Her mind filled with infinite possibilities. And with that, the young woman fell into a perfectly-luscious reverie.

This chocolatero had chocolate-brown hair that was deep, dark, and handsomely-untamed.

This chocolatero had chocolate-brown eyes that were deep, dark, and charmingly-magnetic.

This chocolatero prepared three-tiered chocolate cakes that were deep, dark, and scrumptiously-layered with French chocolate buttercream! Could it be that he, too, had an affinity for odd numbers, especially the number three?

No doubt, the chocolatero was a man of great panache.

Lore had it, the chocolatero was fluent in three languages: English, French, and Spanish. Not only this, but he could banter jovially in Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Hawaiian! What’s more, the chocolatero was exceedingly well-versed in the languages of music, of flowers, and of love.

But the story didn’t end there. Lore had it, the chocolatero could leap from the ground into the saddle of his horse, swing one leg over, and ride away whilst whistling a jaunty tune!

And lore had it, a mysterious bird, known to accompany the chocolatero’s own penchant for song, traveled on the chocolatero’s shoulder everywhere he went— even when the chocolatero paused to waltz a classic three-step sequence.

The young woman wondered about the bird.

Was it a falcon? Or a hawk? Or an eagle?

Or maybe, it was a swallow? Or a raven? Or a dove?

Or maybe, the bird possessed the ability to morph into any of these, depending on the quest at hand.

The young woman was filled with an overwhelming desire to discover the truth. Did the chocolatero really exist? Could the chocolatero bring to her cacao that was cultivated by hand and gently-fermented, then dried in the light of the sun? And did the chocolatero indeed recite tercets on the spot, as if he had been hit not by lightning, but with a jolt of poetic inspiration?

As the day rose forward to its sun-infused climax, and the glittering sea rolled on and on, the young woman found herself whim-struck: she would ask the gulls gathered along the shoreline to carry a message to the chocolatero!

So the young woman wrote a letter on paper that was soft, cotton, and deckle- edged, then folded it into thirds and sealed it with wax.

Day after day passed, and the world continued in its customary manner. Waves shimmered against a sandy shore, palm trees swayed in the temperate ocean breeze, and gulls coasted at cloud-height in a display of pure freedom.

Until late one afternoon, while the young woman gazed through her window toward the setting sun, she saw the figure of something coming towards her . . .

. . . Was it the chocolatero at last?

part iii.

Indeed it was, it truly was the chocolatero. He approached, his horse in a swift gallop, the distinctive silhouette of a bird poised atop his shoulder. But suddenly, something made the chocolatero pull back on the reins of his horse, coaxing the magnificent creature to come to a halt.

With full-hearted anticipation, the young woman watched, riveted, as the chocolatero dismounted his horse, then opened the door to her greenhouse.

There, the chocolatero was greeted by three cacao trees, all of which had grown in a luxuriant, lushly-foliaged, and laudable way, particularly given how far they were from the equatorial belt. He stepped closer to inspect them. Do I see what I think I see? the chocolatero marveled. In reply, his bird nodded toward the star-like blossoms that covered the trunk of each cacao tree. The chocolatero all but swooned.

Who has cultivated these cacao trees! These theobroma cacao! These foods of the gods! Could it be the author of the letter which has summoned me here?

The chocolatero was beside himself, so much so that he leapt onto his horse backwards! Still, in something of an awe-inducing feat, the chocolatero rode with flawless agility toward the young woman.

He stopped his horse in front of her and jumped off with ease. The bird, now perched on his wrist—and appearing even more fantastical than the young woman had imagined, with snow-white feathers tipped in chocolate-brown—let out a low whistle as the chocolatero bowed chivalrously.

Yet at that precise moment, the young woman’s attention was drawn to something else. What three words did she see revealed before her, embossed on the chocolatero’s chocolate-brown saddle? The young woman read, captivated.

Memento Audere Semper

Remember to always be daring, the young woman whispered aloud, the phrase reverberating to her very soul.

But before the young woman could utter another word, the chocolatero placed a parcel into her open palms.

As the young woman moved to unbind the parcel, it was as if she could already foresee its contents: cacao that was cultivated by hand and gently-fermented, then dried in the light of the sun!

The young woman and the chocolatero locked eyes. She looked on while he removed from his satchel one . . . two . . . three! pieces of chocolate, which he proceeded to consume in a slow, measured, deeply-savored manner.

When it was apparent that the final delectable morsel had dissolved completely upon his tongue, the chocolatero did indeed recite a tercet—one that, it was clear, he had composed on the spot for none other than the young woman herself.

Make chocolate to feed people’s souls.
Nourish them in whole—
So their music will flow.

In the blink of her eye, the world seemed suspended as the young woman came to a new realization.

This is my promise. This is my mantra. This is the song that beats at the core of my being.

The chocolatero nodded to the young woman, then bent to offer her three kisses: first on her right cheek, then on her left cheek, then again on her right cheek. With the waning daylight casting a twinkle in his eye, the chocolatero turned to mount his horse.

The young woman stood, transfixed, as the chocolatero guided his horse forward. His bird, balanced majestically alongside him, sang out with a flute-like trill which grew fainter and fainter until, at long last, the trio disappeared together into the gold-washed distance.

Straight away, the young woman felt a sense of boldness ignite. And with hand to heart, she made a vow. She would find a way to extend the immense pleasures of chocolate to their fullest, most artistic, most delicious expression . . .

. . . I triple-dog-dare myself, promised the young woman, quite daringly, indeed.