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Paris Journal: Chocolate Truffles and Elvis

There are few things as delicious as a chocolate truffle — pictured below to the right of a French macaron (a subject for another day). Every chocolatier makes them differently, but as a rule they have a soft, sweet, as-chocolaty-as-possible center and a coating of 100%-pure cocoa powder. One’s pleasure is heightened by the transition from the bitter outer powder to the rich core, and what a payoff it can be. Almost head-spinning.

Hiramatsu Truffle.jpg

However, there are still culinary surprises left in this world, and our favorite Paris restaurant, Hiramatsu (recently discussed here), provides one. The Japanese chef there, working mostly in the French tradition, suffuses his take on the truffle with Assam tea, also known as English Breakfast tea. One tastes the tea flavor in parallel to the chocolate core; it adds a menthol-like freshness and a strong bouquet to the intoxicating chocolate.

All of this got me to thinking about the fusion of cultures: South American chocolate, in the hands of a Japanese chef, working in Paris, for international diners; and he adds Indian tea to a traditional French dish. That is one way that progress occurs in our world.

When I audited Professor Bill Cook’s English 43 course: Early Black American Literature, he strayed off-topic one day to observe with no little indignation that Elvis Presley’s hit “Hound Dog” was first sung by an African-American, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. Cook seemed angry that Elvis had enjoyed a great success with a song that Big Mama had introduced. However, the following year, we discussed the same song in a different class: visiting Professor Jonathan Karp’s Jewish Studies 80, Blacks and Jews in American Cultural History. Karp noted with some amusement that “Hound Dog” had been written for Big Mama by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two Jewish songwriters, originally from Baltimore and Long Island, who grew up in LA.

Hound Dog.jpg

Note: The chocolate truffles made at Alléchante Bakery at Main Street and Elm in Norwich, and also sold at the Market Table restaurant in Hanover, would do just fine against the competition in Paris.

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