Distinguishing a cup of cocoa
SUCHARD is the brand name of an excellent good chocolate bar available in Germany, and like our domestic Hershey bar it comes with and without nuts. Except that the Suchard has hazelnuts instead of almonds -- a difference I preferred when I encountered a Suchard. I saw the bars displayed enticingly and when I asked the young lady for one she said, ``Mit Nuss?'' I nodded, thus getting a Suchard with nuts. A month or so later I was to learn that a Suchard with nuts can ease international tensions. We had visited Amiens in France on our tour and admired the great display of glass in the cathedral. The rich, warm red was comfortable, and we remarked that the rosy hue dispelled the feeling of sepulchral emptiness that seems standard for the big European churches. And this ruby mellowness was to be readily recalled when we later visited Chartres with its dominant blues. We approached Chartres by way of Vend^ome, where we enjoyed several days of visiting with Pierre de Ronsard. We looked into the city museum, which is in the old church complex, and there they told us that the Vend^ome church was once a cathedral but is now a ``window-church,'' losing its status when the seat was moved to Chartres. We thought that was unkind.
So when we came to Chartres, eager to see the celebrated stained glass, we had the extra desire to see what specialties had kicked the old place at Vend^ome downstairs. To us the glass was disappointing. It is blue, cold, and indeed sepulchral.
Where Amiens had warmed us, we stood at Chartres and shivered. Not to make a big thing about this, but that's the way we felt. So we continued our tour, driving with no planned route and pausing as we wished, and after a month or so we came to the fairyland free city of Bremen, where the people are said to be ``stur'' (I think a Scot would say dour) but nevertheless find time for ancient legends, nursery tales, and their venerated statue of old Roland. It was in the dining room of our hotel that Suchard and Chartres related.
Our waitress was a beautiful and charming girl with yellow hair who, like all German dining-room people, considered waiting an art instead of a job. On our third evening she led a couple to a table next to ours, and we bowed as they sat down. They looked to be French, and they were.
It was soon clear that they knew no German and the waitress knew no French. They were baffled and so was she. So it was amusing to sit there and watch, and we thought things went very well. The man had a way of shrugging his shoulders in the Gallic manner to indicate that he would take whatever came along, a sort of muscular ``ca va!'' ``So what!'' we would say. ``Let's see what happens next!'' The waitress interpreted his shrugs, it seemed, because when she brought food the couple were pleased and they began eating leisurely, conversing.
Good European waiters anticipate so there is seldom need to call them, but our girl had several tables going and didn't keep up. We heard the Frenchman say, ``Fraulein!'' She was instantly at his side, and we heard him say, ``Chocolat.'' That is, shock-o-la, or as we Kaybeck-influenced experts would put it, shock-o-law. A proper request. The French drink a lot of hot chocolate. Then the waitress said, ``Schokolade?'' He shrugged and nodded, and then we heard the waitress ask, ``Mit Nuss?'' He supposed so, if she said so, and he shrugged again.
Whereupon, in maybe two minutes, she appeared with two Suchards, each on its own little plate, and she set them down to step back and beam at her own success.
I stepped into the fray then, and the girl soon brought two cups of steaming-hot chocolate and things were resolved. The French couple thanked me, and the waitress thanked me. I asked for the two Suchards (zum Mitnehmen!) Mitnehmen, ``to take along'' and we chewed on them along the way after we left Bremen.
The Frenchman told us he was from Chartres, where he was an authority on stained glass. He had come to Bremen at the request of the city to look at the glass in the Dome of St. Peter, and to advise about caring for it. He dwelt on the magnificence of the famous blues of Chartres, somewhat convincing us by his enthusiasm that blue is not all that sepulchral after all. I explained that while chocolat is masculine in French, Schokolade is feminine in German, and he shrugged.
And I meditated that international accord can depend on nothing more than distinguishing a cup of cocoa from a candybar -- mit Nuss.