14: Chocolate

by Jane Carnall

Magic is in books. The books magic is in are not found in running brooks or bought in dusty ancient shops with dark corners. Not always, anyway, certainly not often. Magic is in the printed page: the words that create the images.

I have written this before. Magic is in chocolate. You use the dark, sharp-snapping high-cocoa chocolate to cast the bleak and bitter spells of learning, loss, and lunch. You use the mild and milky chocolate to cast the soft and soppy spells of clarity, kindness, and cows. For every spell there is a precise type of chocolate: milk, cocoa solids, cocoa butter, flavourings: orange chocolate is used for the spells of pedantry, paediatrics, and pavements.

Spells use chocolate in bars, blocks, slabs, and powder: cocoa powder or cocoa seeds or cocoa butter is used for the most intense magic. Easter eggs are useless for magic, but the empty space at the centre of the hollow egg is useful for storing certain written spells. Sugar icing on the egg is worse than useless for writing magic, though: sugar has a retardant effect on magic, so the sweeter the chocolate, the weaker the spell. Strong magic is safest enclosed by a layer of sugar: many great magicians saved their most dangerous spells in Smarties. Blue for death, red for luck, yellow for gardening, orange for children, green for the terrible spells of healing.

Chocolate magic can cure every ill from a broken heart to a broken bone, from unwanted children to unwanted cancer. All you have to do is learn to taste chocolate as it slowly melts on the tongue, taste and read every flavour in the chocolate, taste and feel the texture of the solid hard enough to build with, soft enough to melt at body temperature. Store magic in the fridge before it melts. You cannot use magic to make a teapot or a cup of tea: you cannot make good soup out of magic or chocolate. You can create fresh strawberries at midwinter out of magic and air, and dip them in hot chocolate: you must use sweet chocolate, sugary and hot. or the magic in the strawberries will destroy the house in which they were made. Strawberry magic is powerful and terrifying: they say only a fool with a sweet tooth will make a strawberry. Blackberries, for some reason, are easier and safer, popping up one black bubble on the berry, and another and another, but a strawberry must be created whole and entire out of glopping, melted, bitterly dark chocolate.

Chocolate is just a word: but what a word!

Name chocolate and in winter the name will set a spell of hot liquid with chocolate melted through it, rich and thick, with whipped cream melting driblets down the sides of the high hot mug. Name chocolate: and in spring the leaves will dream of being dipped in white and milk and mint chocolate, sweet and deadly, engulfing the leaf and leaving a dead copy of itself preserved in cool and innocent-seeming chocolate. Name chocolate in summer: thick cold bars of sweetness stored in the fridge. Name chocolate in autumn: small chocolate skeletons and skulls and bats, foil-wrapped, hung on strings, dancing chocolate demanding to be bought, and given, and consumed.

Chocolate is death: and god: and magic.

552 words

16 minutes

3rd June 2000

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