There was nothing quite like them. They were made for the Queen for god sake. The round blush box, the small powdered pink spheres- nothing manly about my favourite chocolates, but I wouldn't be the man I was if I gave up my search for them.
I first tasted the creamy champagne truffles on a chocolate tour I booked for my wife when we lived in London. After stops at the most luxurious department stores, confectioneries and shoppes, we ended our tour in good old 'save the best for last' fashion. As our group of gluttons caught up with the tour guide, who had disappeared into the final store and emerged with gold-rimmed boxes, we all gathered in a circle, eyes on the prize but ears ready for an explanation. Charbonnel et Walker, Britain's first and finest chocolatier...something something...grumble, mouth-watering...is one of the Queen's favourite chocolatiers and holds a royal warrant to make chocolates for the Queen.
Well didn't that make those chocolates sound even more delectable and prestigious. Impatiently we waited for the delicate boxes to be passed around. When our turn to choose arrived, I chose the pink champagne truffles for their high-class name, and boy was I happy I did. Inside the crunch of the powdered outer shell, smooth truffle with a hint of strawberry.
It was decided instantly. These would be my favourite chocolates.
Years later, after moving away from England, my wife would produce a small box here and there for Christmas, on our wedding day, but she would never let on where she had found them. She wanted to add to the mystique, the hype, the hunt.
The first time I received the coveted chocolates as a gift, they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. After sharing a courteous thank you chocolate with my wife, I devoured the others, one after the other. I tried to close the box and save a few for later but found an empty box and a satisfying taste in my mouth instead. Peeling at the insert on the bottom of the box, trying to reveal an impossible second layer, I also felt an emptiness inside of me. This is when the hunt began, sparked by a delicious fleeting reminder of how much I loved and missed these chocolates.
I started keeping an eye out everywhere we went for my next hit. Department stores, book stores with specialty food sections, airports, novelty candy stores. I knew I could order them online from the UK, but the shipping cost was outrageous. Did I think they were worth it? Obviously. Would my wife appreciate the extra charge on the credit card? Obviously not. I begged her to tell me where she was finding them. Not a chance. She would just smile and tell me they wouldn’t be as special if I had such easy access to them. While I didn’t want to admit she was right, I also didn’t push too hard, not wanting her to stop thinking of them when trying to figure out the perfect gift to get me.
The second time they came to me was when my wife gifted me 2 small boxes on our wedding day. The traditional round boxes were replaced by heart-shaped ones to suit the occasion. One of the boxes was a sea salt caramel variety, in a blue box with the same gold trim as the blush box I knew so well. I automatically opened and savored a pink champagne truffle first, biting it in half, holding it on my tongue, inspecting its insides before popping the other half down the hatch. I almost picked up a second, not being able to resist the excitement I felt from my tongue down to my toes. I resisted, instead opening the other box to sample the new type, skeptical that they could be anywhere near as good as the chocolates I'd been longingly hunting for. Delicious. But as soon as I had swallowed the last of its velvety smooth insides, I found my attention drawn back to the familiar box. Maybe it was the importance of the day or the desire to save them for later, but I managed to put both boxes aside. The next day, my wife kindly refused my insincere offer to share, which I was grateful for, and the chocolates lasted a whole week before their empty boxes meant that the hunt was back on.
I thought I had found them once. My eyes caught a glimpse of a blush box, gold trim, about the right size, placed among a random assortment of things in a passerby's shopping basket. Paralyzed with excitement, my eyes darted around my immediate surroundings before calling out to my wife who had continued walking ahead. When I told her what I had seen, we decided on a plan of action. She was always a great accomplice to the hunt- despite withholding information about where she was finding the boxes she had gifted to me. She would follow the lady to get a closer look and confirm the sighting. This was not a job for me, as I would be mortified if the lady caught me, and regularly went out of my way to avoid uncomfortable encounters. I would rush to the food section of the store, as well as the seasonal gifts area- it was nearly Valentine's day after all. Failure, on both fronts. It turns out it was a generic box of chocolates, picked up as a gift for someone in a mindless moment of obligation. And the shelves I checked, littered with lesser brands of sweets, but lacking the sophistication of boxes of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates.
The disappointment only fueled the hunt. I won't give up. The longing is too strong and the hope of possibly finding them bubbles up inside me whenever we go shopping. I know the next time I'll hold my coveted chocolates will most likely be thanks to my wife on an anniversary or birthday, but that won't discourage me from finding a bonus box somewhere. She can't keep their location a secret forever.