Sunday, July 29, 2012


I am thinking about endings as I stand here in 2012 making myself some very fancy French cocoa that had an expiration date of "best by May 16, 2005." I have been known to do stuff like that, especially when the expiration date police are not watching.

This particular brand of cocoa, a requested birthday present of some eight years ago called La Parisiennne, is described as "silky swirls of cream gliding, intoxicating and arousing." According to the blurb on the fading package, the maker of this sensual product product trained at the Cordon Bleu where her responsibilities while working at the Hotel Crillon in Paris included making this ambrosial drink. And here she is having created in the spirit of this memory, "a Parisian style of chocolat chaud for those who want to bring a taste of Paris home."

Well here I am in my kitchen channeling my inner Proust, and something has made me reach for this box that has about two more servings of this transformative product.

One thing about which I had no doubt was the pot in which I was going to prepare this delicacy. I received two Cordon Bleu pots of incomparable quality as an inspired wedding present way back in 1970 from my beloved piano teacher, Mr. Borenstein, with whom I had spent most of my childhood and beyond. Like my memory of Morris and Emily Borenstein, they have stood the test of time. Morris' wife, Emily, the multitalented pianist, poet, teacher, and all-around genius mother of a good friend wrote the unforgettable note that accompanied them:"May your future be as bright and shiny as these pots."

Well, the 1970 pots are no longer so shiny, but they still work brilliantly and one of them just proved that it can still make a mean chocolat chaud worthy of all the hype on the box. It is so rich and delicious that I even I, chocolat-o-mâne that I am, cannot finish it in one sitting.

Mr. Borenstein died a few years ago at 91, his mind still sharp enough to be a master bridge player, and it is hard to believe that he is gone. He imprinted generations of pianists, four in my own family, with a lifelong love of music, and his spirit is always with me.

My 87-year-old mom and I talked to Emily a few times over email and on the phone from the nursing home where she moved once her own health problems became too severe to manage. We received word that she died last week, and my sister drove some distance to represent our family at the service in her honor.

Every time I spoke with her I reminded her about these pots which I will continue to cherish to the end of my own days. Maybe some day they will become a legacy for my musical son and daughter-in-law.

As for the "Couture Cocoa," I am looking forward to drinking the second half of it soon. To tell the truth, I can't remember what it tasted like when I first got it back in 1984, but even eight years after the fact, it remains intensely memorable.

Sometimes the expiration police are wrong.

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