Happy Easter! This week, I’ve been away in the Lake District, at a poetry retreat run by the brilliant Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley. I had a fabulous time, and will be recounting the experience in more detail soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d have a chocolate-themed post in keeping with the season.
A Chocolat themed one, to be precise, in honour of the great Joanne Harris, whose prose is so poetic that I could read it for hours. I think I first encountered Harris when I was about sixteen or so. My English teacher at school had given us a passage from Blackberry Wine to show us interesting uses of narrative voice (Blackberry Wine is narrated by a bottle of wine) and a few months later I remember seeing Chocolat in W.H. Smiths, and thinking that a novel about witching and chocolate sounded like a perfect way to spend the summer. It didn’t take me the summer to read it, but I did read all of Harris’s other fiction over the following months. I became slightly addicted. I loved the sensory quality of her prose, the way that you could taste and smell the chocolate and scenery. I recently also found out that Harris has synaesthesia – she can smell colours. Apparently, red smells like chocolate – and this may well account for why I find her descriptions so vivid. My sixteen year old self thought that Vianne Rocher, the heroine of Chocolat, was perfect- and I still occasionally fantasise about being her. I loved the way that she was daring and sensitive, how she could make this magical substance sing for her, and how many stories and pieces of folklore she knew. I liked too the way that Harris focalised Monsieur le Cure, the apparent villain to Vianne’s heroine- a character who is eventually redeemable. And the hero? Well, Roux is an attractive red-headed river gypsy. What’s not to like?
Harris has recently teamed up with Fran Warde to produce a recipe book called The Little Book of Chocolat. Since according to Vianne, Easter is the time when church bells fly from villages all over the country to collect chocolate blessings from Rome, I thought it might be nice to make some chocolate truffles from her kitchen.
The recipe I chose was dark chocolate chestnut truffles. They were easy to make and they turned out rich and velvety. I got my hands dirty.