Hot Chocolate

Dark Desires in Deepest Galicia

Every year towards the end of October, time is stolen from us. We’re all aware of its occurrence but powerless to prevent it. The innocuous stealth of a thief in the night feels more like a smash-and-grab from a daytime mugger. From now until the winter solstice, the dark cloak of evening advances across the sky earlier and earlier with each passing day.

On nights like these, when even the brightest moon fails to penetrate the concentrated cloud cover, dark desires occupy my thoughts: an irresistible urge that must be satisfied. I leave home and drive through the village. Early evening mist forms a luminescent cape around the streetlights.

Once through the village I hit the open road. From this point on, my only guides are the two bright beams emanating from the car. These focused shafts of light slice through the blackness like a still canvas of moving images.

Creeping over the hidden horizon is the glow of an approaching vehicle silhouetting the undulating countryside. Suddenly it leaps into view; terror fills the car. For a moment I’m blinded by the piercing light; floating along on experience and instinct. As quickly as it rose, the oncoming vehicle bows its brilliant beam and calm is restored.

My destination on this dark, miserable night is the town of Chantada. Cobbled streets and ancient porticos connect historic buildings, along a labyrinth of narrow lanes and dark alleys. Every footstep echo’s through the haunting alleyways. Dim streetlights form a theatrical backdrop to the fluorescent glow from shop windows. Distorted images of manicured window displays reflect off the damp cobbles. Purposefully I stride through this maze of narrow streets, confident of reaching my goal.

And there it is, shining through the gloom like a welcoming beacon. I push open the door and enter. The cheery jingle of a brass bell and the warm smile of a generous host greet my intrusion.

Floating on the warm air is the exotic aroma of roasted coffee beans. A boiling hiss of steam fractures the muffled chatter of the establishment’s clientele. The unmistakable rattle of cup and saucer and the musical tinkle of metal spoons add to the atmosphere.

I take a seat and stare at the bar, hypnotised by my Holy Grail. Atop its counter stands a clear glass cauldron of liquid chocolate. Within its confines a heaving mass, writhes and undulates under the influence of two metal paddles.

‘What can I get you sir?’ asks my attentive host.

I scroll down the menu of tantalising treats and make my choice. The wait is short and the ritual preparation begins.

A small white saucer is set on the counter and partnered with a glass beaker. With all the grace of a Bolshoi ballerina, my proficient host pours a generous measure of liqueur into the glass followed by an inch thick layer of liquid cream. This creamy liquid nestles comfortably in the base of the glass. Silently the rich, milk-chocolate is added, kissing the surface of the cream. A regal delight crowned with soft, fluffy folds of lightly whipped cream and topped with a dusting of ground coffee.

Upon presentation I pause, admiring this delectably delicious work of art. My self restraint is brief and all too soon the masterpiece is devoured.

For tonight at least, my dark desire is satisfied.

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