It sounds unmistakeably early Franco-Flemish, but as I am nearer the ignorance end of the musical knowledge gamut, I hesitate to hazard a guess that might land me not only in the wrong country, but the wrong century all together.  Instead, as I step into the welcoming warmth of Chocolate Notes*, I stop abruptly, rooted to the white floor decorated with jet-black, curly clefs and notes, and translucent fragments of scores, waiting to catch Jan’s eye. He is sitting on the stool behind the counter, frowning into a large book.  

“One of your favourites,” he says, looking up and seeing me theatrically narrow my eyes  and bite my lip.  He turns up the volume slightly.

“… Dufay?” I blurt out.

“Yes.  Sung by…?”

I release my grimace and raise an eyebrow.  “No, not this morning.  My brain’s too cold.”

“You have this CD, Katia – I sold it to you last summer.”

“Of course!” I say, knowing the confidence instilled into my voice won’t fool Jan for a minute.  “Huelgas Ensemble.”

I leave my spot, where I’ve left a small puddle of melted snow, remove my coat, mittens and the sheepskin hat with ear flaps that makes me look like a Cocker Spaniel, and head to my usual table by the window.  It’s available today, as are all the other tables. “Where is everybody?”

“There hasn’t been a soul for over an hour,” Jan says, his almost imperceptible over-pronuciation of the diphtongue in “hour” hinting at his mother tongue.  He gestures at the glass door, outside which the snow is falling in soft, fat flakes.

“I’ve known it to snow in March in Norwich once before,” I say, spreading my duck down quilted coat over the backs of two chairs.  “In 2013, when I first came to Norwich to see if I wanted to live here.  In fact, it snowed on my birthday.”

“And you decided to stay?” 

“No – yes – long story.” 

Jan closes his book, apparently glad to have a customer to chat to this morning.  Not that “chat” is the right word for Jan, Fiamma’s part-time barista.  The most one can have with him is an exchange of a few anodyne words or else a lengthy, highbrow and always enjoyable conversation.  Today doesn’t feel like one of those occasions.  I feel too sheepish at not recognising the music on a CD I bought here not eight months ago and have played many times.  Maybe I have too many CDs.  Yes, that’s it.

“What are you reading?” I ask, so as not to retreat into too antisocial a silence.

Jan holds up the bulky, hardback volume.  There is an illustration of Vermeer’s Geographer on the glossy dust jacket.    

“Fascinating,” I say politely, although the title, three lines long, doesn’t convince me.

“It would be if it weren’t written by an academic,” Jan replies with a scowl.

“I guess you have to read it for your work, right?”

Jan nods slowly, suppressing a yawn.

“Fiamma not in today?” 

“She’s in London, attending a couple of concerts.”

I open my rucksack and take out my notebook, fountain pens and glasses case, all the time glancing at the large blackboard above Jan’s head, and the twenty or so hot chocolate options.  “I can’t make up my mind this morning…” I say.

“Do you want to leave it to me?” he offers, a twinkle in his eye.

I can’t help grinning.  “Yes. Choose something for me.”

“What are you writing this morning?”

“I thought I’d start a novel.”

“Right – I know just the thing.”

Jan turns the volume down to how it was when I first came in.  I like the fact that neither he nor Fiamma ever play the music too loud, unlike in other places.  I take the chrome cap off my Faber Castell and jot a few words on the lined  A4 page, while Jan busies himself behind the counter.

I am lulled by the comforting, gentle polyphony of Dufay’s isorhythmic motets. The ethereal voices of the Huelgas Ensemble throw a sound like gossamer over the air, the perfect soundtrack to the snow outside.  They remind me of the diaphanous, absent Flanders sky.  Of its soft, grey-white translucency.  Of its shy, hazy light.

Jan places on my table a sparkling white saucer with a small glass filled two-thirds with chocolate and capped with peaks of whipped cream that look like mini Alps.  He has sprinkled a dusting of what smells like nutmeg on top.

“Wow.  I don’t think I’ve had this one yet.  What is it?”

“It’s my Chocolat à l’Orange,” Jan says, his eyes narrowing knowingly.  “Let me know how you like it.”

(To be continued.)

* Please see https://scribedoll.com/2023/02/12/feasts-fancies-chocolate-notes/

Chocolat à l’Orange

(all measurements are approximate, see https://scribedoll.com/2023/01/15/new-blog-feasts-fancies/)

Makes two 150 ml glasses:

❧  2 teaspoons of raw organic cacao (100%)

❧ Grated rind of half an orange

❧ Whipping cream (oat or dairy)

❧ ½ teaspoon of honey

❧ A little grated nutmeg to taste

❧ Boiling water

Boil the kettle and let it stand for 20-30 seconds or so before pouring the hot water into a glass where you have already spooned the cacao and the grated orange rind mixed with the honey.  Stir thoroughly, then let stand for a few seconds.  Carefully spoon dollops of whipped cream so it floats on top of the hot chocolate.  Add a dusting of powdered nutmeg and, if you wish, you can decorate with a little more grated orange rind.  

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10 Responses to FEASTS & FANCIES @ CHOCOLATE NOTES: Chocolat à l’Orange

  1. Mmmmm, comfort and charm! Love it.

  2. Katia,
    That drink sounds so yummy. Good luck with writing the book!

  3. Silvia says:

    Unfortunately the nutritionist has prepared a very strict diet for me and so I can not eat sweet food (with honey or additional sugar) anymore, but I will try to prepare a Chocolat à l’orange without sugars…following your suggestions:-) I love dark chocolate:-))…and your stories are enchanting!

    • Scribe Doll says:

      You can make this hot chocolate without honey – in fact, I prefer it unsweetened. You can also, perhaps in the winter, soak the orange peel in 1 small teaspoon of liqueur, like Cointreau or a good Cognac. Good luck with your new diet – I’ll bet it will make you feel wonderful in the long run.

  4. Sue says:

    I want some!!! 😀

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