St Valentine wants Chocolate400
The Via Flaminia is a road ignored in modern times, too small and too country for the trucks and the trainers and the iphones of today. Inconvenient for modernity meant perfectly convenient for this story’s possibility, for how could an ancient saint return unnoticed on a busy bypass?
Laid to rest along here on the 14th of February centuries ago, St Valentine was being given another chance. Perhaps it was felt somewhere in the chaos of the universe, that there was not enough love present any more. An injection of the symbol of love, oozing through the veins of history, until it leapt, like Aphrodite from the sea, into the thicket of humanity to change our ways.
It had been concluded previously that music was the food of love, but perhaps it was time to re-analyse that dictum. This was the precise thought St Valentine had as his newly- formed figure advanced into town. Music was assaulting his ears from every angle, but there wasn’t a violin in sight. Despite his expiration prior to the invention of violins, all dead and all alive know the sound of love when they hear it. Instead, from his right he could hear the horns of traffic, and from his left, the roar of huge flying contraptions that could only be aeroplanes. He shuddered at the thought of being forced into one of those.
St Valentine was of the opinion that for love to flourish, peace was needed. He decided to hasten forth to find the object of his hitherto unmentioned fascination: chocolate. He doubted chocolate could be found languishing on ring roads. He had been told he could sniff it out, that it had a sweet and intoxicating smell. Cupid himself would have dipped the tips of his arrows in velvet chocolate before firing.
As he followed his nose, St Valentine ruminated. Sent back to report on the state of 21st Century love, he was flummoxed. Everywhere around him, people were smiling. People were talking. Using his innate ability to detect love, he could sense its presence, yet not see it. With his ‘love gauge’ so high, he was used to seeing couples canoodling, kisses on the lips, fingers grasped together. He was so sensitive to love he could detect butterfly kisses sent across a square mile, like a shark scenting blood in the ocean. What was amiss? Love transference from one to another had to be uninterrupted, St Valentine believed, and an air of tranquillity was desirable. Perhaps there were simply too many people nowadays. Perhaps this infuriating traffic blocked signals, the way a submarine interferes with a dolphin’s echo- location. Or was it these phones that were the problem? Yes, he could see people talking, and feel love in the air. But why was everybody staring into a blank screen in the palm of their hands? Had human beings fallen in love with small portable…machinery (he could not bring himself to use the word ‘technology’, not yet)?
Still convinced he could find the most potent answer to the riddle of where love was on modern- day Earth by studying chocolate, he lured himself towards the Chocolatiers. From his saintly position after the terrible business at the Flaminian Gate (he rubbed his neck absent-mindedly as he walked) he had noted that on his given day, the people decided to express their love in earnest. Cards were made, flowers were sent, the air was thick with seduction, wine was drunk, romance rose, the cold of the last vestiges of winter was unfelt, banished by the depth of human feeling…..and chocolate was given in abundance. Was love for chocolate considered fair trade? Were luxury chocolate gifts sweet and edible expressions of desire? He felt he must know.
He finally stepped out of the cold, and into a large supermarket. The ‘love gauge’ dropped immediately, for reasons known to anyone who enters a supermarket at lunch time. Slabs of meat piled high here, grains there…..and ah! Neatly lined on a shelf, row after row after row of the hallowed stuff he had been waiting, maybe for centuries, to try. He picked up a small variety, and had his first experience at a till in a supermarket.
Suffice it to say he did not want a repeat of that experience in a hurry, but at least he had his chocolate. He braced himself, unwrapped, opened his mouth, put the chocolate inside, and waited for rapture…….and it did not come. Chewing on what felt like rubber coated with vegetable oil and sugar, he swallowed and sat down, miserable. Disappointed. He had believed that chocolate really did show the strength of feeling one had for another, and that that strength really could break through the barriers modern life had erected which seemed to slow love down. He would now have to start again. Love was not what he felt in his mouth right then.
He got up, turned down a side street, and was about to consider buying an iphone to see whether that held the answers to love in the modern world, when his senses were assaulted again, but by an intoxicating smell, together with a shock of colour. He could smell vanilla, he could smell sweetness, perhaps a hint of champagne. The brightest blue hues, shocking pink, the colours of celebration. He followed his senses into the small shop to his left. What could Prestat be?
He knew immediately what Prestat was. The sight and smell of chocolate whelmed him nicely. “This”, thought St Valentine “is what I have been waiting for!” He realised his mistake had been to try generic chocolate, mass- produced with no feeling. How could love be found in that? To test the true bond chocolate has to love, artisan, tenderly crafted, and delicious tasting jewels had to be sought. And he had found them! He popped a Prestat truffle into his mouth……
And immediately discovered why on his glorious Day, St Valentine’s Day, love flourished, and was felt in abundance, and was most intensely experienced, with a box of the finest chocolates to hand. True love was possible to distil through the gift of chocolate.
With that, St Valentine felt he had completed his mission, and began to prepare for leaving modernity behind. He just had to finish those chocolates first…..
Discover the divine taste of Prestat Chocolate for yourself!
Anthony Lewis- Binns