A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, May 22, 2006

From Russia with Love

Most people think that cheap stuff is in Wal-Mart and the drugstore, average stuff is in the mall, and pricey stuff is in the hoity-toity boutiques. Used-clothing stores, railroad salvages, and job lots are for the real crap, disdained by anyone with taste.

But in fact, those last places are where you have to go--unless you live in a big metropolis--to find the very best stuff. I'm not sure how it gets there, and I don't really care. The fact is that, before a hot new item reaches the regular stores, you'll often find it in the job lots. You have to be an experienced shopper/detective to spot the gems, but for frugal New Englanders anyway, it's part of the thrill of the chase.

A few years ago, I started buying Terra Chips for $.99 a bag at East Coast Marketplace. The kids and I were going through three or four bags a week. I had never seen them, or any product like them, anywhere else. Taro, sweet potato, yuca, batata, and parsnip slices; all natural; no hydrogenated oils. And really, really delicious.

About the time that Marketplace stopped carrying them, they began appearing on supermarket shelves...for close to $5 a bag. I haven't purchased a bag since. They will forever be a $.99 item for me--except that I can't actually buy them at that price anymore.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a new brand of chocolate in Marketplace. Elegant packaging and delicious-sounding flavors. A careful reading of the ingredients confirmed my first instinct. Chocolate...cocoa butter...real vanilla. Even Lindt chocolates are made with palm kernel oil and vanillin!

Korkunuv chocolate is made in Russia, of all places. The gilded box, fancy script, seals, and crowns give the impression that the Korkunov family have been chocolate-makers to the czars for centuries. In fact, Andrei Korkunov is a self-made businessman, a product of the new Russia.

Korkunov started out in the 1990's importing anything and everything that would sell. Chocolate was a fluke, but proved to be wildly popular. He decided to take advantage of new economic freedoms and start manufacturing his own product, of the highest quality. He imported his machinery from Italy, and began turning out a product that drew attention at the Fancy Food fairs.

Noone who appreciates chocolate can open a Korkunov bar without eating the whole thing. It's too impossibly rich and creamy. And right now, at Marketplace, it's $1.39 a 3.5-ounce bar--sometimes $.99.

Officially, you have to go almost to Boston to buy Korkunov chocolate. But before too long it's going to catch on, and then I know just what's going to happen. It'll be everywhere, for $5 a bar, and gone forever from Marketplace. I started trying to stockpile some against this inevitability, but it's impossible not to raid the pantry if I know it's around. So I'm trying to limit myself to a bar or two a week.

For now it's copacetic. But all too soon, I'm afraid, it'll be прощайте, Коркунов.


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