Once, along time ago I lived and worked in the honey coloured city of Bath. I used to walk to work every day because really, what with the bus gates, lost tourists and suicidal pedestrians driving was never much fun.
My route to work took me along many undistinguished streets on the wrong side of Pulteney Bridge. One day walking along in the chill of winter a blast of heat from an open doorway stopped me in my tracks. A South American couple had set up home in little more than a hole in the wall and were selling hot food from the open doorway.
Now I was not hungry because I believe in a good breakfast but the sight of this couple, the heat and smell of spice was too good to miss. In the middle of winter it was like standing on the threshold of some exotic world. If I'm honest I really stopped to look at their faces, slightly slanted eyes and straight noses set in thin faces the colour of Mayan temple paintings; as an artist I am a collector of faces and I just wanted to stop and look. Not really concentrating on the menu which hung on the wall opposite the door I randomly picked chilli chocolate to take away. I had never had chilli chocolate before but it was winter and the old stone absorbs water so its always damp in Bath. (The historic building I worked in did not have central heating).
I watched the dance of these two silence people in their tiny kitchen, the practiced gestures and economy of grace in which they moved was transfixing. By magic they created the most wonderful drink, bitter and sweet at the same time - is that possible? I like my chocolate very dark and this was like nothing I have ever tasted before, a thick, spicy liquid that bore no resemblance to a bar of milk chocolate.
The chocolate fuelled me for the rest of the walk and although I never really had an overwhelming taste of chilli, by the time I reached work I was glowing all over - it was not my winter coat nor the exercise but instead a deep down warmth from inside.
That winter I stopped every day on my way to work to buy chilli chocolate and I never had a cold, not even a sniffily. I encouraged all my friends to try this miraculous drink but few would be tempted.
I felt like I was the only person in Bath drinking chilli chocolate - maybe I was. By the time winter was over the South American couple had gone. I don't know, but Bath seems a little bit more dull without them. No more blasts of unbelievable heat, no more magical drinks that can stave off illness, no more graceful silence dances. The hole in the wall is now a pizza takeaway, normal and safe and utterly boring.
I have tried many times to make my own chilli chocolate and never quite got it just right, but if you like I will share my best attempt with you in the next few days.
Take care, B