Chocolates by Louis Simpson (Poem from Writer’s Almanac)

Once some people were visiting Chekhov.
While they made remarks about his genius
the Master fidgeted. Finally
he said, “Do you like chocolates?”

They were astonished, and silent.
He repeated the question,
whereupon one lady plucked up her courage
and murmured shyly, “Yes.”

“Tell me,” he said, leaning forward,
light glinting from his spectacles,
“what kind? The light, sweet chocolate
or the dark, bitter kind?”

The conversation became general.
They spoke of cherry centers,
of almonds and Brazil nuts.
Losing their inhibitions
they interrupted one another.
For people may not know what they think
about politics in the Balkans,
or the vexed question of men and women,

but everyone has a definite opinion
about the flavor of shredded coconut.
Finally someone spoke of chocolates filled with liqueur,
and everyone, even the author of Uncle Vanya,
was at a loss for words.

As they were leaving he stood by the door
and took their hands.
In the coach returning to Petersburg
they agreed that it had been a most
unusual conversation.

“Chocolates” by Louis Simpson from Collected Poems. © Paragon House, 1988. Reprinted with permission.

I started posting these poems as a way to include them in this collection of food, design and philosophy related thoughts. At this point there is quite a collection of poems. I’m struck by the diversity of emotions that food images conjure up. This poem perhaps shows that social and conversational connection of taste that brings us to share in each others thoughts online and in person best. Food talk is “most unusual” maybe because there is no prescribed method or sequence, no ultimate objective standard. If I say I don’t like the taste of macadamia nuts, there can only be explanation but no argument, opinions but no facts. I can say I don’t like them unless baked in white chocolate cookies. You don’t have to agree with me but you can’t disagree with my taste either. Fascinating don’t you think?

Thank you, Writer’s Almanac for sharing these poetic food moments.


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