CE&C Renovation Experiment: Four – Chocolate I

“The essence of casual refinement, chic is a little less studied than elegance and a little more intellectual. It is an inborn quality of certain individuals, who are sometimes unaware that they possess it… It is a gift of the gods and has no relationship to beauty nor to wealth… One baby in its crib may have chic, while another doesn’t. In order to increase your chances of acquiring chic when it is lacking, the first requirement is to be aware of the fact that you do not possess it. You can then entrust to experienced specialists the responsibility…”

• Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

I was sitting with one of the most chic and elegant women I know, having tea and a luscious Giraudi dark chocolate bar with nuts and candied fruit that I bought at Eataly when I was in Florence a few weeks ago. “Madame C&E” simply oozes chicness and elegance from every pore. She has been one of my anchors and serious “girl crushes” over the last few years. I treasure the rare moments I have with her.

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
• Linda Grayson

Like everyone else, Madame C&E has her physical and emotional ups and downs. But in all situations, even when she is tearing her hair out (and lovely silver locks she has) she is kind, exudes timeless simplicity, grooming, good taste, grace and poise. She is financially savvy and because of this is in a good place. She has her own original style. But more than that she seems to be in harmony with herself. My life is better for knowing her.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
• Leonardo da Vinci

Between delicate nibbles of chocolate, I asked Madame C&E if she has always been like this or if she had to develop it. She thought for a moment and then responded that she thinks she may have been born that way…

Although complimentary spirits, Madame C&E and I are very different. She is euphoric to go on her pilgrimages to the Gaspe Peninsula, covered up in what she calls her old rags (although she would look stunning in a potato sack – she is that chic), and do nothing. Natural rugged landscapes, solitude and quiet energize her.

When she returns to work she is completely recharged. She gracefully glides in wearing her power heels, trademark inherited vintage designer clothing, and her innately inspiring persona. She wields power not through her position, which gains her mere obedience, but by making those around her feel valued and special; they in return empower her through their loyalty and desire to please her well beyond the obedience owed her position. I am simply gob-smacked by Madame C&E’s natural grace and elegance in all things.

“Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.”
• Habeeb Amanda

I on the other hand am like the pink energizer bunny that gets charged by other people. Travel is in my blood. I love fine food, wines (particularly big reds of the Borolo and Barbaresco kind), Champagne (although technically a wine it is in a class of its own), archaeological sites, museums, art, architecture, people. Really, really, interesting difficult complex searingly intelligent articulate argumentative people. Big crazy effervescent western cities like New York, Paris, Rome, Toronto, and London feel to me like emotional down comforters. After even a mere glimpse of a bucolic landscape I have a crazy desire to ask strangers to smell their car exhausts… I need real air with lots of hydrocarbons. But, while I am blessed in so many ways (just pinch me, hard, I need it), I am always running from what I have to some elusive ill-defined and unachievable nirvana. When I return to work… well, let’s just say, not like Madame C&E.

The one thing Madame C&E and I share is a grand passion for chocolate. We are both chocoholics. But, in keeping with our personalities, she is grateful to have any quality of chocolate, while I only consume the best.

Of the many passive lessons in chicness and elegance I have learned from Madame C&E, one in particular stands out, and that is to be grateful for and focus on the small simple pleasures that we encounter in our daily lives, be it chocolate or anything else.

What a Wonderful World 

High quality chocolate goes beyond a necessity of life. When taken with a good friend, it is transformed into an elegant, chic and connective sustaining resource that binds people… Chocolate and the pursuit of happiness are intrinsically bound together.

For me, chocolate is a metaphor for all the small pleasures in life. I am faced with a philosophical conundrum: Is insisting on only the best preventing me from becoming chic? Is Madame C&E chic because she can wear a potato sack and eat waxy chocolate and still be happy, or is it being chic that lets her be happy wearing a potato sack and eating waxy chocolate? Or is it all unrelated?

“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.”
• Humphry Davy

Chocolate is a metaphor, a food, a luxury and an indulgence, but it is also a material, and like all materials, can be used by an artist in unexpected ways to surprise, draw smiles, and make you think.


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