So I would once again tell them about visiting my friend Isa in France. At about 5 pm, when we were in initial preparation for dinner, her kids were hanging out in the kitchen. They started pulling grapes from the fruit basket and popping them in their mouths. Isa reprimanded them. "Stop eating all that fruit. You'll ruin your appetite. Here, have some chocolate instead." She handed them a tablette of dark chocolate. They each took a square or two.
At each telling, my kids would giggle anew with delight; and that anecdote became a staple in the family repertoire of Why We Like France: chocolate instead of fruit before dinner??!!
When I lived in Paris, I lost any sweet tooth I may have had. Lunches or dinners were rarely followed by dessert, but I almost always had a little espresso and a square of dark chocolate. I'm not much of a chocolate connoisseur, but I found that even the thin Nestle or Cote d'Or square were silky and had just enough bite to make them interesting.
Here in the US, it's been a challenge to find the proper chocolate replacement. Lindt hasn't done the trick. I can't remember all the varieties I've tried, but I have thrown out many big bars of unacceptable chocolate. It's as if the manufacturers think that it has to be bitter or sweet. Besides, the bars are all too thick for my taste.
Yesterday at the local gourmet foods grocery store, at long last I found Ghiradelli chocolate in individually-wrapped thin squares. Yesss! I was thinking. The perfect dessert. I was recapturing, I hoped, a bit of Parisian life.
Then, at the check-out. The courteous cashier rang up the salmon, the cous-cous, the wine, the grapes. She held the chocolate out to me. "Did you want to keep the candy in your handbag, ma'am?"
Update: this photo (via Nestle) is of the chocolate that kept me happy in Paris. Chocolate with bits of cocoa bean. That's not candy, it's cuisine!