This is the story of what I learned about myself at a wine and chocolate tasting event last week.
You may know of my fondness for good chocolate. You may even know my fondness for good, red wines, too.
I try to eat and drink them within due bounds. I also like to choose products that I feel were produced with care and concern. Quality organic, ethical, responsible, fresh, reasonably priced food and drink are always on my watchlist.
So, imagine my delight when I found out about a charitable wine and chocolate tasting event in Amsterdam last week.
For a donation of 25 euro, I could taste my favorite combination of goodness since the discovery of peanut butter and chocolate (yes; chocolate is always in my internal equation).
And I could help people at the same time.
Good, ethically-created, fair-trade, quality chocolate paired with the best European wines, and all proceeds going to help stop human trafficking.
This event was made just for me.
I finished up work on Wednesday and trotted town to the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam’s bustling Centre district.
I was about ten minutes late (a dreadful habit that is a real crime in Dutch culture, and one in which I am trying to remedy), so they party had started by the time I got there.
I hung up my coat, checked my hair and lipstick in an old-fashioned doorknob, and began to tip-toe my way past a group of people at a slide-show presentation of toward a far door where the festivities must have commenced…
…when I realized that this slide show presentation WAS the party.
There were two wooden tables in the high-ceilinged room with people sitting – empty handed – while a demure gentleman explained the importance of the mission of his company and the derivation of free-trade cacao in the world.
Now, I like a good slide show presentation. Don’t get me wrong.
But in case you missed it, there were two words in the last paragraph that wound up giving me great consternation.
The adults were sitting like schoolchildren at their seats watching the little man progress from slide to slide, solemnly and meaningfully, while no one had as much as a taste of chocolate or wine in front of them.
A stern looking woman (I swear she was stern looking) directed me to an empty seat at the front of the room, directly in front of the speaker.
Yeah, no one likes that seat.
But I dutifully filled the spot and tried to engage my brain.
It is for a good, just cause…
He was speaking about the cause and the good that his company was doing, the hard efforts and the personal stories, and this was all fine and well…
…except that the perpetual adolescent that lives in my head kept looking furtively around the room and shouting at me, “Where’s the chocolate? Where’s the wine?”
“HUSH!” I told my inner adolescent. “It’s coming. This is important. Listen.”
So my inner adolescent sat grumpily behind my carefully constructed expression as the nice, knowledgeable, caring, dedicated man continued his lecture.
I looked around the room. All the grown-ups there looked like they were pleased to be where they were. They looked almost self-satisfied to me, as if they felt that their attention to this lecture made them better people.
I was not a “Better People.” It was going on 8:00 p.m. and I wanted my chocolate.
My impatience actually shocked me. I even felt guilty, despite the fact that no one else knew my mind.
This was serious business! Human trafficking is no joke! The least I could do was be patient and listen with the intensity that the subject demanded.
That did not stop me from feeling incredibly irritated that I didn’t have my goodies!
I was so embarrassed (for whom??? this was all in my head!) and disappointed with my own irritation!
Which one was it? Was I greedy or pious? My own absurdity was so incredible to me that I started to laugh at myself. Literally.
“STOP!” I shouted at my inner teenager. I composed my face again and swatted her on her imaginary head. She continued to giggle.
At 8:00 on the dot, (this is the Dutch, after all,) we moved onto the actual tasting.
Okay, good. My inner shame of my inner self could cease. I could forget it. I won. I was patient, like a good middle-aged woman, and now the revelries could commence.
I thought we were going to get up and walk into the adjacent room where surely, as I had been dreaming, there were tables full of yummy chocolates, truffles, confections, bon-bons, cakes, cookes, ice cream and the like (I had had a long time to think about this while the man spoke); next to multiple bottles of wine from all of the best vineyards in Europe.
I would grab the first, big, round, wine glass and fill it 1/3rd of the way full with a luscious French red. Only a third of the way full. I didn’t want to appear greedy. I could always fill it after I drained it with a beautiful Italian red.
This fantasy was never to reveal itself.
This is what happened instead.
The hosts placed a tiny, short, sippy-cup of a glass in front of each of us, along with a full glass of water.
A tray was passed among us, containing small, broken chips off of a chocolate bar. We were each allowed two of the stukjes of chocolate (stukjes means pieces in Dutch. It’s so much more descriptive of the portions allotted that I thought I would throw it in here).
As we chose our stukjes carefully, another woman came around with a bottle of white wine and dribbled a few drops in each of our glasses.
She literally dribbled, pulled back, thought a moment, and dribbled a bit more. Just a bit.
Priests at Catholic mass serve more wine during communion than we were served at this tasting.
I’m not kidding.
We were to rub the chocolate. We were to smell the chocolate. We were to break the chocolate and listen to the way it “clicked” when it broke. We were to notice the color. We were to roll the stukje around in our mouths and taste its character. Then, we were to take a sip of wine and notice how it changed in character on our palate and in our nose.
Oh, my gods….
This was an actual tasting.
This was the real deal. This wasn’t the classy-but-Baucean wine and chocolate party I had dreamed up in my head. We were being “edjumacated” as to the delicate dance of chocolate and wine pairing.
Do you remember the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Not the Johnny Dep one. The one with Gene Wilder, from years ago.
There was a character named Augustus Gloop. He was the gluttonous child who ignored his host’s verbal celebration of the beautiful chocolate room and began scooping liquid chocolate into his maw from the river of chocolate.
I felt like Augustus Gloop at that moment. I wanted to stick my gullet into a river of chocolate. I had worked my imagination so far out of whack of this particular situation that I was a mental glutton.
Am I alone in this?
I tried to make eye contact with the others in the room, to see if anyone else was trying to quiet their inner thirteen-year-old.
No one seemed in the least perturbed. One fellow, in fact, thought that I was “making eyes” at him and gave a “flirty look” back at me.
I broke the tiny chocolate stukje (to examine the “click”). It flew out of my fingers and ricocheted loudly under the table.
That’s when a few people finally noticed the inner child that is the real me.
Two women sitting across from me on the bench stopped their chocolate stukje sniffing and looked at me.
I widened my eyes, looked around the ceiling, and sucked in my lips to create a deliberate “not me” look that made them burst into laughter.
Finally. A reasonable, human response.
After that evening, I decided that really have some thinking to do about myself.
As much as I like to think of myself as a person who can meet any challenge I set in front of myself, I still have a teenage girl living in my soul.
The lecture, as well as the tasting lesson, were both delivered with love and respect for their subject matters. I was privileged to attend, and I am grateful that my small donation could help this organization.
I suppose I am a long way from being the perfect person whom I think I should be. In my mind, with my audacious dreams, I feel like the “me” that should be at the helm of these dreams should be a lot more “grown up” than I actually feel.
But I don’t suppose it would help me or anyone if I gave up my dreams because I’m not there yet. Maybe the pursuit will help me be that person.
Or maybe that perfect person really does have a silly, goofy, teenager inside her. As that tasting showed me, my preconception of the way things should be don’t always match the authenticity of the thing.
As long as my intentions are healthy and my actions considerate, I think I’ll let go of my expectations and accept myself the way I am.
How about you? Of what expectations do you need to let go?