In our town there’s a specialist chocolatier. The shop window is always full of the most exquisite and delicious looking chocolates of all sorts and sizes. If Heaven were made of chocolate then this shop would surely be it.
The chocolates are hand-made by the shop owner and his wife and three employees on the premises behind the shop. I remember once visiting their little workshop with a friend of mine, the shop-owner’s niece, and it was a marvelous experience seeing them make all these chocolates with so much care and passion.
Every so often they make different seasonal chocolates like rabbits and chocolate eggs at Easter, special selections on Mothers’ Day, or Christmas specialties.
One Christmas Eve we were in town late, just before going to Midnight Mass, and I decided to visit the shop to get something nice. I left the rest of the family to do some window-shopping and went there alone as a special surprise.
I’d intended to buy a chocolate Father Christmas just as they had in the picture in the shop window. Sadly all Fathers Christmas had been sold. Reindeers too! As well as Christmas tress or any Christmas decorations made of chocolate. In fact it is fair to say that the shop had sold out of any chocolate model relating to Christmas.
The shop assistant looked at me forlornly and suggested a selection from their wild animals’ series would make a good present. “They’ll look good in the Nativity scene beside the Christmas tree …” she said hopefully.
“Hardly …” I said somewhat dejected, “no one would believe that the three Wise Men came from the East on a turtle! It would have taken them ages to arrive. Or that shepherds watched their giraffes at night when the Angel appeared with Good News!”
“They are beautiful though …” she continued encouragingly.
“Yes … they are. But it’s not the same … a chocolate crocodile near the crib would frighten all the sheep away …”
I hesitated for a while. The animal models looked good enough to eat … in fact any chocolate is good enough to eat as far as I’m concerned, regardless of its shape. But this was not for me. This was a present and ideally I would have wanted a Father Christmas, or an Angel … a Christmas tree … it’s the festive shape of the chocolate that matters on this particular occasion. And a rhinoceros or a kangaroo is just not the right shape; even though it might taste just as good when you eat it.
After a lot of soul searching I decided to buy the giraffe. It was big and with such a long neck it meant there was even more chocolate for everyone to share.
“Could you gift wrap it please?” I asked.
As the shop assistant was wrapping my purchase I heard a little girl beside me say: “I want the giraffe … just like in the picture over there!”
“I’m sorry … the last giraffe has just been sold” replied the shop assistant to the girl’s mother.
I looked at their sad faces and knew how they felt.
Now … the right thing to do in such cases is to take my purchase and get out of the shop quickly before my conscience has had a chance to wake up.
But I’m stupid that way and somewhat slow … in my slowness I asked the assistant to sell the giraffe to the girl’s mother instead.
“We have some left-overs from our Halloween series” said the assistant to me after the other customers had gone, “I can let you have two for the price of one!”
That Christmas our Nativity scene was visited by Frankenstein’s monster and a zombie. And the sheep were not frightened at all.
Tasted good too!