My dear partner has been suggesting to me, ever since I started the chocolate making course at Ecole Chocolat, that we should do something to combine chocolate and sailboats.
One idea, of which he is really fond, is to have me make bonbons and truffles and, packaging them in waterproof bags, we would then take them around to boats at anchor in the marinas up and down the waters of Howe Sound, the idea being that nothing would be quite so wonderful after a day on the ”big blue” as some fine chocolate.
It is part of the reason I love him so much. He gets a million ideas, and some of them are, I think, brilliant.
- Taking up half of our front lawn to plant a food garden: inspired.
- Designing a special mobile phone app for a Fringe show we did last year: fantastic.
- Helping the boys build both a functioning trebuchet and a medieval helm for Social Studies projects: so much fun.
Not this one. I have visions of sitting in a leaky inflatable boat, rowing around in the rain, being warned away from big unwelcoming vessels by loud air horns. Call me a curmudgeon, but I just can’t work up the enthusiasm necessary for this project.
I was however, very enthusiastic when he suggested to me, early on Mother’s Day, that he take me sailing for the day. The weather was glorious, the winds were with us, and the boys needed the kitchen to prepare a “surprise” for me.
In my preparations for a day’s sailing, I always pack some chocolate, along with the water bottles and bananas. I have found that any snacks brought along should be something you can grab and eat with one hand, as the boat is often listing to one side, especially when “beating”. Bars of dark chocolate are perfect.
It’s a very busy business getting the docking lines off, the boat out of the slip, the fenders up and finally, the boat glides out into the open water. Honestly, my partner does the work. When I am along with him, I pitch in, but he sails the boat himself.
And when the sails go up with a whoosh and the motor is cut off … everything is quiet. It was a particularly “blowy” day and the salt spray came shooting over the bow, as we clipped along at 6 ½ knots. It landed on our cheeks, foreheads and upper lips.
As soon as we are comfortably on a port tack, I go below and fish out the chocolate. And oh, it tastes good. With one square, melting in my mouth, running the tip of the tongue over my upper lip, I concede my partner might be on to something.
The taste of that soupcon of salt water, combined with the dark chocolate and gallons of fresh air, is a potent elixir.
Salt and chocolate have become a very popular combination and I can understand why. I made a chocolate pound cake last week for a friend’s birthday and by sheer accident, left out the seemingly insignificant ½ teaspoon of salt. The resultant cake looked and smelled perfect, its texture fine, but to me, the taste was a little bland.
I used salted butter in the ganache icing, to kind of balance this out, and was surprised at how much it helped lift the flavour.
The idea that salt actually helps to bring out the sweetness and complexity in foods is not a new one. I had an uncle who would sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on a bowl of vanilla ice cream, to make it taste “more home-made”. And I know many people who insist on sprinkling it on their summer slice of watermelon.
And while so many of us, need to cut down on our salt consumption, as the average Canadian consumes far more sodium on a daily basis than is necessary or good for us:
Recommended adequate sodium intake
- · 1,300 mg for adults age 51 to 70.
Consuming more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day increases your risk of health problems.
Canadians consume — on average — 3,400 mg of sodium every day, mostly through processed foods.
I can’t help but take heart (no pun intended) in the fact that the tiny little salt spray across my upper lip is from the sea, and is more than made up for by the exercise we are getting out in the fresh air. I will eat a big salad for dinner.
And the day is made perfect when we spot, not only a big brown California Sea Lion, rolling and frolicking off the bow, as he fishes for herring, but, ten minutes later, two Dall’s Porpoises, dorsal fins arching up out of the salty sea.
After a wonderful sail around Passage Island, we head back in. And with wind-blown hair, and a deep sense of calm, I lick my upper lip. Mmm. Oh, that tastes so good.
We turn to each other and say, “We really have to do this more often”.
Even though I am still completely unwilling to row around in a soggy boat flogging chocolate to people I don’t know, I get up the next morning, and take out my favorite chocolate mold: the sailboats. Picked up second–hand by my partner one afternoon as we were searching for something completely different, it has made some wonderful chocolates for other people.
But these ones are just for him. Good dark chocolate, with juste un soupcon of sea salt, I make 21 little sailboats, for those days when he can’t get out on the salt water.
A small thank you to my wonderful partner, who has so many great ideas.