Once upon a time, a friend wanted to buy another friend a gift. He had worked with this friend for a few years, knew she had expensive taste in shoes, a great sense of humour, and seemed cultured enough. Almost fancy. She was having a baby, and for the shower work was throwing he wanted to get her some of the chocolates he had heard her rave on about, proclaiming them her favourite; the best ever. They had sounded French and had caramel in them. Started with a “V.” Armed with this information, he set off.
First he went to Godiva. He spoke at length with the lady there about the surely exotic and definitely delectable chocolates his co-worker was always going on about. The lady couldn’t help him, but suggested he try another speciality shop. It too turned out to be a dead end. He tried a few more shops, none knew of the French-sounding chocolate treats. He was stumped. A few days later, he was in a mall. As he passed Laura Secord, he decided to try one last time.
As he told his tale of woe to the teenager working there, she started to look at him skeptically. He explained he was searching for fancy treats that were chocolate and caramel, and sounded French. He told her it was for a colleague, who had said there aren’t many in a box, and their name starts with “V.” Leaning away from the crazy man, the clerk told him to go to a grocery store.
Perplexed, he went straight to A&P. To the cookie aisle. Well. Truthfully, he went to the junk at the end of the cookie aisle. There they were. Vachon Ah Caramel squares. Snack cakes with icing, and a dollop of caramel on top. $2.99.
He wrapped them in paper befitting their status and presented them to his friend. She wasn’t that phased by the newspaper wrapping, she knew he was a bachelor and was touched he had bought her a gift in the first place. As she began hacking at the tape job on the parcel, he couldn’t stand it anymore.
He sputtered at her; “What is so special about these chocolates? You talk about them like they’re precious and I went to high end stores looking for them, but they’re common – they’re junk food!!” As he relayed the story of his quest to find what he thought were special chocolates, everyone started to giggle. As he finished, having convincingly portrayed what a dork the teenager at the mall thought he was, everyone was full out laughing. Even me. I don’t think I ever explained my devotion to those little snack cakes. Or if I did, it was lost in the swirl of the baby shower.
In the 11 years since buying those first Ah Caramels, he has given me some when kid2 was born, for Halloween, and some Christmases. He gave me some when I got fired, he gave me some once because it was a Tuesday. I recently ran into him at a community event. I hadn’t seen him in almost two years, and we no longer work together, but we knew we’d both be at this particular meeting. When our paths crossed in the crowd, we hugged and he gave me a Christmas gift bag. “Merry belated Christmas,” he said.
Later as the kids and I enjoyed them, I relayed the story of my friend and his quest to find my special chocolates. Kid2 said it best. “Mommy, what a sweet friend you have.” Sweet indeed.
p.s. The “Why” of the adoration. I had a wondrous childhood. Full of outdoor adventures, books galore, and always free to roam. We just didn’t have much “stuff.” We drank powdered milk, trips weren’t ever considered, and back to school shopping was done at thrift stores. Periodically a box of Vachon Caramel squares would appear, tucked on top of the fridge as special treats. Nothing turned us into covert ops agents more than knowing there were treats in the house. Once captured, we would eat them upside down, to make them last longer: we would eat the cake part first, then be left with a circle of icing filled with caramel.