Thursday, December 14, 2017

My beloved chocoholic

   
Deb Perelman: "The landscape of butter-free cookies is usually filled with stories of compromise." 
   
        Roughly a decade ago, I dined at Prune restaurant in New York City and what I remember most vividly was the craggy chunk of dark chocolate that arrived with the check. It looked like it had been hacked from a chocolate mine with a pick and it was absolutely delicious. I believe the waitress said it was Callebaut 60%, though now I can’t remember exactly. In any case, I went home and ordered an 11-pound slab of Callebaut 60%. That’s a gigantic piece of chocolate but I wanted to be able to hack off craggy chunks of my own. I’ve kept a gigantic slab of dark chocolate in my pantry ever since. I pulled it out last Saturday to make the olive oil shortbread with rosemary and chocolate chunks from Smitten Kitchen Every Day. What a great little cookie. You chop some dark chocolate and stir it into an easy shortbread dough made with olive oil rather than butter, along with some minced fresh rosemary. The shortbread is gritty, slightly salty, and wonderful. I know. Rosemary in dessert. Yuck. And olive oil too? It’s a hard sell. But it works.
That was Saturday. Around 1 a.m. on Sunday I was awakened by noise from upstairs. Thumping sounds, then tearing sounds, then dragging sounds. Then some more tearing sounds, then some crashing sounds. I went upstairs. The dog was racing around the living room and kitchen in the dark looking for stuff to chew and destroy. She was all amped up like I’d never seen her before. I figured I hadn’t exercised her enough the previous day. I talked to her for a few minutes, tried to settle her down, and went back to bed. More rampaging. Odd. I went up again and only then did I notice that the pantry door was open and when I looked inside I saw that the block of Callebaut chocolate had been dragged off its shelf and was lying on the floor, scored with toothmarks. I would estimate Gracie ate a hunk of dark chocolate about the size of a pork chop, one of those big, thick loin chops. 


It’s hard to kill a dog with chocolate — some milk chocolate chips or a piece of chocolate cake won’t do it. But free access to an 11-pound slab of dark Belgian chocolate? Chocolate is toxic to dogs and Gracie was very, very sick. According to the vet, the typical pulse of a dog her size is 100 BPM and Gracie’s was 250 BPM when we got to the pet hospital in the middle of the night. To protect her privacy and dignity, I will refrain from sharing the indelicate details of her detox, but I assure you, it was dramatic.  

It was pretty lonely.
Alone in the waiting room of the pet hospital at 3 a.m., slouched on the vinyl couch beside the Christmas tree, I found myself gazing back, as if through a very long tunnel, at a younger, peppier me sitting at the counter at Prune, all dressed up and enjoying an experience that would lead me here, to a pet hospital almost a decade later. I find those strange threads of connection between events mysterious and fascinating. I don’t know why, I guess because they give a glimpse of the chaotic way life actually unfolds.   
Lessons learned: Life is uncanny. Put your chocolate on the top shelf when you get a dog.
Gracie made a full recovery, thank heavens. 

On another subject, I went to my last-ever holiday concert for the high school band in which Owen has played trombone these last four years. It was poignant and beautiful in that high school band concert way. The gym repurposed as concert hall. All those kids in their formal wear, earnestly performing Handel’s “Messiah” pretty darn well. The jovial music director who somehow taught a bunch of teenagers to perform Handel’s “Messiah” pretty darn well. The middle-aged parents smiling peacefully, enjoying the rare moment when it would be truly shaming to look at their phones. The one small annoyance of the evening was that no one bought the cookies I brought to the bake sale. Fools!

21 comments:

  1. What a story! I would have LOVED to have bought your cookies! I made that shortbread for book club last month, and LOVED it. I will add a touch more rosemary next time...

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    Replies
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  2. I'm so glad Gracie is okay.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Whew, glad to hear the danger is past. School music events can be very emotional moments. So much energy and effort has gone into getting those young folks on the stage and able to produce that music. Good school music teachers/directors are a holy bunch.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm going to a five day long dance festival in West Virginia between Christmas and New Year's and everyone is supposed to bring a treat for the evening snack. I've been pondering over what to bring for weeks now, it's taking up so much of my mental energy that I should be using to smash the patriarchy instead. Lots of people bring their leftover Christmas cookies and it's always an amazing spread. What should I bake? Shortbread? Financiers? My first homemade fruitcake? {Jennifer!!! I finally made fruitcake! It's drinking its bourbon as we speak... I will probably serve a slice to my friends when they come for latkes on Sunday. It doesn't have glaceed cherries, but it does have orange peel, and dried pineapple, and dried California apricots and sour cherries. And lots and lots of bourbon!}

    Glad Gracie survived her encounter with Callebaut!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like a fruitcake I would actually eat -- I hate glaceed fruits but I do love dried fruits like pineapple and apricots. . . and bourbon! Which recipe did you use?

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    2. I used this one:
      https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/everyones-favorite-fruitcake-recipe
      and just substituted other things for the glaceed cherries. I also used bourbon instead of juice or water in the batter.

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    3. This sounds delicious. As someone who grew up looking forward to my mom's fruitcake every Christmas, I've made it my mission in adulthood to convert my fruitcake-hating friends. Mom's recipe is still my go-to, but I'm always interested in experimenting. (Her combination of fruits and nuts calls for figs and shredded coconut rather than dates and pineapple. Apricots aren't part of the original recipe, but I've added them before with good results.)

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  5. Glad to hear Gracie made a full recovery -- it's always terrifying when they eat inappropriate things! My dog got in the garbage a couple of years ago and devoured some lamb bones. She made trips to the vet for x-rays every day for a week until they safely passed through her system. I bought a garbage can with a locking lid pretty quick after that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am so glad to see a post from you, Jennifer. Glad Gracie survived her big adventure! Yes, life is fascinatingly surreal at times, isn't it? I have had to make a couple of visits to the pet ER, and it is always a strange experience. Ours is in a scary part of town, and you have to push a doorbell to get in, so standing there with a sick dog, ringing a doorbell, looking over your shoulder, and hoping for the best makes for an interesting middle of the night foray. I think those cookies sound wonderful, but my husband is opposed to rosemary (I know, what's wrong with him?!), so if I make them I would eat them all myself. Bad scenario. But I keep thinking about that block of 60% Callebut...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Forty-five years ago, my own little (Amazing) Gracie somehow climbed on top of the refrigerator, entranced by the irresistible fragrance of (slightly "enhanced") brownies. She didn't eat all of them, fortunately, and she never got physically sick, but forever after she would sometimes break into a crazy circling dervish, around and around and around.
    I don't remember it being widely known back then that chocolate was necessarily bad for dogs. I actually used to put small chocolate chips around the house for Scully, a later sweetheart, so that she could find them after I left for work, and feel loved. She lived to 17-1/2.
    Casey, sweet yellow Lab, one of the 3 greatest pups ever, once tore into a sealed shipping box containing wrapped boxes (at least 10-12) of Godiva chocolates. She didn't eat ALL of the candy, but she made inroads into most of the boxes. I'm not sure any were really salvaged (eager doggy licks, you know). She lived to at least 13.

    I understand why you were freaked out, but I think your sweet Gracie will be fine. The solution may be to keep your chocolate in tins (especially the good stuff!), on the highest shelf, in a cupboard maybe, behind locked doors. Or in drawers with child-locks.

    Dogs are like kids, pretty resilient, but they also have such a hold on your heart.

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  8. I just went to my Owen's first high school concert. Just another of those strange threads of connection in which my life with Owen follows behind yours! Glad to hear Gracie's OK.

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