Monday, 28 November 2011

If Chocolate Be The Food Of Love...

If over a thousand people spend a day in Chocolate Heaven, the resulting ripples of happiness must surely travel an incalculable distance.

Once again, Frome did what it does best: take a small and quirky idea, nurture and cuddle it, keep it warm and feed it, until it’s a fully-grown eccentric marvel, capable of growing itself, multiplying and strengthening the bonds of community that built it.   
A Fromeagotchi, you might say.  The annual Cobble Wobble is one such; Lipsmacking is another: building on a successful first year, the Cheese and Grain hosted the second Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival on 20 November. 

Here is a small example of what makes Frome so special.  I met Jo Harrington at the Artisan Market on Catherine Hill.  These are held on the first Sunday of every month from about April to October, and all of the town’s finest and shiniest can be found promenading up and down nodding to their acquaintance and exclaiming, “Isn’t this nice?”  It’s practically the Royal Crescent 200 years ago, except with knack-knacks rather than husbands.  On that particular Sunday I was dressed, coincidentally, as a Jane Austen character, to promote the Frome Festival World Record Attempt (in which almost 150 storybook characters gathered for – oh wait, just read the blog entry here).  We got chatting… business cards and chocolate exchanged hands… chocolate quickly scoffed by Little and Tiny Lavender… and before long Jo kindly invited me to judge the Limerick competition for the Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival.  Frome begets more Fromeyness.

Limericks are really hard.  I hadn’t written any since my teens, and suddenly I felt I had to turn out a handful and make it look easy.  I required the assistance of another Frome favourite, the Archangel – for a couple of hours sans Lavender sprigs so I could think.  Oddly, for the third time I found myself writing about Kate Moss.  Why does she keep coming up in my work?  Answers here please, because I really do not know.  On this occasion, the inspiration came from the time Kate outraged the listeners of Woman’s Hour, and a great many more besides, when she apparently declared that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (or did I dream that? Now I’m not sure).  Anyway, if she did, she has clearly never been to a Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival.  I could have said, if she’s right, I’ll eat my hat – but that’s no feat, because my hat for the occasion was entirely made from chocolate by the exceptionally creative and talented Diana from Lick The Spoon.  What a pleasure to wear, and to look at! Almost too good, perhaps, as Diana’s craftsmanship is so extraordinary that few people realised it was actually chocolate.  I can’t wait to wear it again… any celebrity weddings coming up?

Back to the Limericks. I write a lot about the simple pleasures of life, the ones that are available to us normal everyday folk (women especially I suppose, after all, I am one), because I do believe that if we can all find happiness in the small things, we will be far happier than if we can only sigh after the big, unattainable things.  Chocolate is a small pleasure – but a pleasure indeed, whatever Miss Moss may or may not have said. And although you’ll be really glad to know that I have not tried to rhyme ‘Kate’ with ‘Chocolate’, I have written a little something about both of them:

Nothing about you is curvy
Your fangs are a little unnerving
Men like boobs, hips and thighs
Of an adequate size
The blokes who like you are just pervy

This is a ‘Lipsmacking’ high
For the nose and the tongue and the eyes
So jog on, Miss Moss
Our gain is your loss
I’ll keep to my curves and a chocolate pie –

(My technique for which is a dream):
Melt dark chocolate; mix with thick cream;
Let it fill every space
Of a rich pastry case
It’s indulgent in the extreme

I’m a sucker for chocolate ├ęclairs
I’d do things other girls wouldn’t dare
I’d sit on your knee
For a praline or three
For a truffle I’d sit anywhere

I adore a ganache to excess
I’m simply hooked, I must confess
When deprived of my fondant
I grow quite despondent
I’d show you my ankles for less

© Muriel Lavender
November 2011

They were filthier when I wrote them.  I rinsed their mouths out with soap and water though, before performing them in public. Dotted through this blog is a selection of the entries, which I loved, including the Honourable Mentions.  

Before we move on to the winners, here’s a little about some of the gorgeous stalls which caught my eye:

Purky Products
© Purky Products
Specially for the occasion, Purky Products had created the most delicious items of jewellery: highly realistic truffles and caramels to adorn one’s already-scrumptious bosom. Or earlobes. Nom Nom! My favourite was this strawberry fondant with a little nibble out of it. Reminded me of me. Visit Purky’s blog for an honest and touching insight into the life of a talented young craftsman.  

Kernow Chocolate
The Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival served me up all manner of new ways to be naughty, and one of the most fascinating was sea salt chocolate from Kernow Chocolate.  It’s all the rage, I understand, and now I know why: it’s a delicacy truly for the connoisseur – that is, one whose taste buds will be satisfied with a dainty quantity of something special.  If one is, on the other hand, gripped by an urge to scoff down a Mars bar, one would be more satisfied at the Texaco garage, where one may also fulfil one’s need for a Ginster’s slice and a can of Fanta.  And probably a gentlemen’s art pamphlet.  
Crumpet Cupcakes
© Crumpet! Cakes
I honestly did not know whether to eat them or wear them on my head. I would gladly do both.  At the same time.  Hello, Mummy!  

 Great Cake Company
I confess I’m not accustomed to gourmet chocolate – after all, nothing floats my boat quite like a Tunnock’s Tea Cake – but the caramel truffles made by these talented people are, quite simply, gift-wrapped happiness.  A box of them for Christmas would absolutely be all I need. Provided the box was diamond-encrusted, obvs, Darling. 

Chocolates For The Soul
© Chocolates For The Soul
Caroline blessed the Lipsmacking Festival with the launch of her Chakra range of chocolates. I couldn’t say I’d recognise a truly spiritual moment if it marched in playing a trombone, BUT I did experience a noticeable feeling of wellbeing when I sampled Caroline’s ‘visionary violet’ chocolates (pictured). One little taste, and I suddenly felt that ‘…Aaah. Everything’s going to be all right, then.’  Can chocolate heal the world? It’s doubtful, but when it comes to these violet lovelies, I shall Keep Calm And Carry On.

If you have read this far – Congratulations!  Here for you are the winners of the Lipsmacking Limerick competiton, and the proud owners of a Lipsmacking goodie bag each:

"There once was a woman so girlie
Whose hair was lovely and curly
She said 'I want chocs
That look like my locks'
So she now only eats Curly-Wurly"
A blatant attempt to sway the Judge.  Successful, too: well done Matt Sims!

"There was a young fella from Frome
Who didn't think much of perfume
He preferred girls to use
A chocolatey ooze
That he baked every day in his room"
A darkly disturbing tale, the many layers of which reveal too much or too little. A masterful effort by Ed Coate!

"A chocoholic young woman from Frome
Said to her boyfriend, 'Don't give me perfume
Or bouquets or champagne
For chocs, milk, white or plain
Are sure to jump-start this girl's Va-Va-Voom!"
Va-Va-Voom? Don’t ask me, darling, I invented it. Brava to Janet Smith for a verse close to my heart!

I found myself winding up the day sitting on the stage steps, drinking coffee and musing with my new friend Jammer Jamski on how fortunate we are.  Life, we agreed, doesn’t hand out cookies, but that’s okay – because here in Frome, we make our own. Then we invite you in for a nibble, because we’re nice like that.