Monday, March 11, 2019
L.A. Burdick: "When luxury passes into necessity."
The second half of my Lewy body dementia story, 'Where's Bob?' is running in today's Sun-Times. If you haven't read it, you can read it here. If you have, well, mustn't leave you high and dry. Here's a little something sweet to tide you over until tomorrow.
What? Mid-March already? Nearly.
That means I missed Valentine's Day.
Not for my wife, of course. We enjoyed a spa day in the city and this exquisite box of L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, which we broke open a few days before Feb. 14, because they only last about two weeks, and you've got to eat 'em while they're fresh.
But for you. I meant to tip off procrastinating swains and sweethearts facing the traditional Valentine's dilemma of what to buy their beloved that, if stymied for a gift, they could always rush to the Chicago branch of L.A. Burdick's at 609 N. State and buy some really, really exquisite chocolate. Because not everybody knows about the place.
We've been aware of Burdick's for years, from that most unromantic of publications, Consumer's Reports, which included it in a national chocolate roundup in 2002. Something about the notice caught my fancy, and I ordered a box, and remember our liking the stuff, but we weren't so captivated that we ordered more.
Then in October, we blundered upon Burdick's festive Greenwich Village outpost, twinkling with golden lights, while visiting our son at school. The company was founded 30 years ago, is based in Walpole, New Hampshire, and prides itself in not using any artificial flavors. Burdick has been slowly branching out—the Chicago store opened in 2017. In New York, we loaded up on presents for the various cat-sitters and dog-walkers minding the home front while we were gone. And some chocolates for ourselves.
Man. They were really good in a way that stuck with us this time.
Intense flavors. Lime zest and anise. Caramelized honey and saffron. Unique combinations: cherry and cumin seed. Dusted in cocoa. Not overwhelmingly sweet, the way, oh, Fannie Mae tends to be. I sent a box to my mother. She went wild for it. Over. The. Moon.
Come Valentine's Day, we got lucky—bought a box as a present we weren't able to deliver, because of a snowstorm. So we delivered it to ourselves.
That's it. No larger philosophical point today. Life's too short to eat mediocre chocolate. Tuck the thought aside for next year. Or maybe you have a birthday or special event coming. Or if the world starts looking glum. The stuff is pricey, at $68 for a pound box, or more than twice what Fannie Mae will set you back. That might seem like a prohibitive amount of money; that only means you haven't tried it. Once you do, well, it brings to mind Dostoevsky's dictum about "how easily habits of luxury are acquired, and how difficult they are to give up afterwards, when luxury passes into necessity."
Now I can't imagine buying a box of anything else. Not that we now have to eat Burdick's chocolates as a matter of habit. At that price, who can? But after Burdick's, all other chocolate seems not worth their calories, hardly worth the effort of chewing, despite their reduced cost. Burdick's heft price can almost be seen as a blessing—if they cost less, you might never stop eating them. Our routine was to permit ourselves one of the "tiny bites" each evening after dinner. Okay, usually two. Three if we were feeling decadent.