"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
I believe there is some quote or proverb that says something about life and experience being two of the greatest teachers we can learn from.
But when it comes to those particular lessons, I must have either skipped out of class or had a substitute teacher.
This journey starts way back in the first grade. I was rummaging around the pantry for some tasty goodies. I noticed a shiny wrapped object, which warranted further investigation. Upon further investigation, what I discovered was akin to finding a light saber.
I have always been a firm believer in the "if it looks like (fill in the blank) and smells like (fill in the blank), then by all evidence presented it should be (fill in the blank)."
Baking chocolate does not subscribe to this philosophy. As a matter of fact, baking chocolate laughs in the face of that philosophy. It mocks it while wearing monkey pants. But I believe I am digressing.
It smells like a delicious chocolate bar. It looks like one of the biggest chocolate bars I had ever seen. So with my first grade understanding of these simple and basic truths, this was going to be one of the greatest chocolate experiences in my life.
I was mistaken.
I can still remember acrid bitterness after the first three chews. The conflicting moments between my taste buds screaming "THIS IS NOT CHOCOLATE...SPIT IT OUT NOW!!!!" while my brain was pleading in a whiny tone to my taste buds "BUT IT LOOKED AND SMELLED LIKE CHOCOLATE! IT'S NOT MY FAULT."
Luckily I had the wherewithal to trust my taste buds and make a mad dash to the sink where I proceeded to spit the remains out.
You know those moments alarming clarity that seem to sneak up on you? I am about to have two of those moments.
1. I had not yet learned the fine art of spitting.
2. I couldn't reach the sink properly.
As a five, almost six, year old lad, I was a little bit on the pudgy and short side. On a good day and with some planning I could do the infamous run and jump that all young lads and lassies do when there are vertical obstacles.
This would not be one of my good days.
Luckily, the apartment my mom and I lived in had a very tiny kitchen so I was able to take a step, grab a chair, pull it over, climb on it and do that dribble spit thing that children are oft to do, into the sink.
There was a moment of illumination while leaning over the sink and spitting out the bitterness that had overwhelmed my unsuspecting tongue; my mouth had been open during my baking chocolate ordeal.
Allow me to paint by number a picture for you. As I stare at the mess in the sink, on my shirt, shoes, on the chair, and all over the floor I begin to cry, which wakes up my mother. Her first reaction is of course to be quite upset, but settled down pretty quick. There was no parental punishment to be dealt out this time.
My mother believed I had learned from my mistake.
I would prove her wrong.
It happened while I was living in El Paso, Texas when I was 8 years old and I had a hankering for something sweet. So again I explore the pantry. And again I find a chocolate bar. I had this tingly sensation that I had been at this crossroads before.
I chalked it up to guilt.
Until I took that first bite.
My fourth grade mind vividly remembered my first grade experience. BUT this time things would be different.
First I remembered to keep my mouth shut, tight.
Secondly I was finally tall enough to be able to spit out the horrendous reminder into the sink.
Third I had mastered the spitting technique. I had actually won a few spitting contests on the playground during recess.
Of course this would be the exact moment my mom would walk in the door.
With a mixture of horror, wonder, and disappointment she asked me why I didn't learn my lesson the first time I had done this.
I simply said "I just thought the other one was a bad batch of chocolate."
The horror and wonder left her face. The disappointment lingered while she said "I sure hope you learned your lesson this time."
I would prove her wrong.
I was a senior in high school and I was taking a home economics cooking class. The teacher had on some occasion brought in chocolate treats for her students. We had broken up into cooking teams and she starts to hand out some chocolate bars. Ms. Teacher and I were on the same page of the book, although her interpretation was very different than mine.
She begins to say "This is baking chocolate, and not very good to eat."
I heard 'This is..' as I was biting into what is now my third foray into the consumption of this deceptive food product.
Only the look of pain on my face gave any indication that I had done something stupid.
It became felony stupid when I decided to tell my mom about my home economics experience. This time her expression was simply disbelief, mixed with a touch of "he seems so bright, and then he does this".
"Are you ever going to learn?" my mother asked me. I don't know which was more humbling. Her asking me that question or the fact that you could almost hear the last embers of hope quickly growing cold.
"Yes mother. I have learned my lesson."
Seven years later I see it in the pantry.
I walk away.
I know it tastes bad.
I know the disappointment I will suffer if I take a bite.
I remember first grade and the shame.
I remember fourth grade and embarrassment.
I remember 12th grade and the look I got.
Somehow with all this going through my wasted grey matter, I somehow forget that it tastes like absolute shite, I grab it and take a bite. I, of course, proceed to spit it out.
This time I do not tell my mother. I don't want to hear her heart break.
Now what does all of this have to do with today.
Yesterday, I was helping my mom clean out her pantry. Take a guess what was in there.
I am sitting here typing out this story to remind myself that taking a bite of unsweetened baking chocolate is not a good idea.
I, the wife, just read this. I guess I'd better hide the baking chocolate I bought this afternoon for Christmas cookies. Otherwise, I have a sneaking suspicion it will go missing, and I'll never EVER know where it went.