Le Petit Chocolat.

This was determination. With a chocolate moustache painted across his upper lip, Little Man was stretching his tongue as far as he could, savouring each and every last smudge. Unlike his meals at home, none of this was going to waste!

Indeed, even as a rambunctious two year old, he knew there was chocolate and there was CHOCOLATE!!! This delicacy was so incredibly rich and creamy and as much as he loved his Freddo Frogs, this was an altogether different experience.

The older lady in the black dress had given him a chocolate. And then, even another!

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Wow! Little Man gravitated towards the shelves. There were chocolate Easter rabbits everywhere! He’d never even seen so much chocolate before in his life but the rabbits themselves also looked exquisite. It was almost like his magical picture-book world had suddenly sprung to life and he’d become absorbed into a chocolate fairytale. His big brown eyes were bursting out of their sockets. The smell was so intoxicatingly good, that even his nose was twitching!

Ooh, yes! Our Little Man didn’t need to tell me that he’d stumbled into chocolate Heaven.

I knew.

It might have been 25 years ago but I still remembered the very first time I walked into Du Plessy Praline holding my mother’s hand and experienced those chocolate rabbits myself. As a child, any chocolate is appreciated but this was pure heaven. The shelves were lined with an eclectic collection of handmade chocolate rabbits…racing car rabbits, a rabbit on a tractor. Indeed, there were rabbits everywhere . Of course, the rabbits for sale weren’t wrapped in foil like their poor relations at the supermarket. Rather, they were elegantly wrapped in clear cellophane, which was like looking through a window into heaven itself. Although I was definitely not allowed to touch ANYTHING, I could already taste all that divine chocolate.

Naturally, as much as I love that shop, it was also a hard place for a kid to visit. All of that chocolate and you’re under Mum’s thumb. I vowed then and there that when I grew up. I was going to buy and eat every single chocolate rabbit in the shop…even if it made me sick! After all, when you’re a grown up, you can do whatever you like. Mum can’t say: “No!”

Fortunately, the Easter Bunny had excellent taste and a Du Plessy rabbit would always arrive every Easter Sunday. Most years, it still does!

Du Plessy’s was nestled underneath Peterson’s of Pymble where we used to buy my school uniforms. Stylish yet simple in black, “Madame” was Du Plessy Praline. Naturally, Madame was French and in Sydney back in the eighties, that was synonymous with sophistication. Madame did not disappoint. In addition to their Easter chocolates, Du Plessy specialised in very thin, flavoured chocolate slices. This being the era of Red Tulip’s After Dinner Mints, needless to say, there was no comparison…only superlatives!

Madame’s understated elegance went way beyond the chocolate. Even the packaging was impeccable…an art form in itself. The box was meticulously wrapped in quality white paper etched with Du Plessy’s signature logo and tied with a piece of gold string. Looking like a little treasure chest, you could take that little white box anywhere on the North Shore and it didn’t need an introduction. It spoke for itself.

Although I knew her face so well, we didn’t know Madame in quite the same way we knew the butcher or the fruit man. No doubt, Mum had been in a rush on these visits, preparing for yet another dinner party. She’d pick up half –a-round of French Brie from Cheese Please next door and dart into Du Plessy’s for those inimitable after dinner chocolates. When you’re a kid, adults always move so fast. Even after all these years, I can still feel Mum’s intense busyness trying to get everything ready on time and that exasperating sense of impending doom. After all, who isn’t trying to raise The Titanic from the murky depths of the Atlantic, every time they have guests?!!

Indeed, when it comes to our place, The Titanic sank many moons ago and is long past resurrection. It’s gone!

These days, I still return to Du Plessy’s and its offspring Otello with my own children and the magic continues. While my daughter and I were in Sydney yesterday, we popped in. I was hoping to show her their Easter display but unfortunately we were two weeks early. We live about an hour away so it was unfortunate timing.

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Savoring A Chocolate Mouthful!

Remembering the photos I’d taken in their Turramurra shop, I asked whether they would like me to email them through. These were taken exactly ten years ago, as I mentioned, just after Mister had had his first haircut at Mum’s hairdresser.

It’s funny because I was a bit shy about mentioning the photos. I’m not sure why but I blame the usual self-doubts. However, who wouldn’t want to see photos taken in their family business ten years ago, especially when they involve chocolate?!!

Of course, they were thrilled. I was introduced to Madame’s daughter-in-law. As it turned out, they have no photos of that shop. I was so excited that my photos would at least fill some of that gap. This was almost like the return of a ghost, except unfortunately there were no photos of Madame. I’d had just enough pluck to ask her if I could photograph the kids in the shop but didn’t take that extra step. That’s an extra step you have to take as a photographer because more often than not, that is THE shot.

I really wished I had. Somehow, just having that picture of Madame in my head is no longer enough. She was such a uniquely special part of my childhood…the lady with all those magical chocolate rabbits! Who wouldn’t love her?

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Mister getting his hair cut.

After some searching, I finally found the photos. They were taken exactly ten years ago in Easter 2006. Our daughter was only 10 weeks old and Mister had just turned two. We’d just taken Mister for his first hair cut and the chocolate shop was just around the corner. Mum, the kids and I made what you could only describe as a pilgrimage to this very special place from my childhood so I could pass that magic on. After all these chocolate rabbits had become such a part of our family’s Easter tradition.

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Little Man with his letter sister and Grandma.

I often find revisiting photos rather enlightening. So often, I miss things at the time and it’s only when I come back, that I finally see between the lines.

In this instance, I found were photos of a lively, curious 2 year old boy feasting on chocolates inside the shop!!

That’s right. Mister is actually eating chocolates inside the “look but don’t touch” chocolate shop.

What was the meaning of this?

Well, Madame had given him a couple of chocolates…petits cadeaux!

That was really special and really touched my heart and unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate the significance at the time. That gesture of love and Madame’s appreciation of our Little Man.

After all, as you might have experienced yourself, little men usually aren’t welcome in shops. Or, for that matter, in a great many locations. They’re boisterous, loud and seemingly have more tentacles than an octopus, sticking their little fingers into everything. Even when my son was being perfectly behaved, he’d somehow get in trouble. It seemed being a little kid, especially a boy, was enough!!

However, obviously my son had found his way into Madame’s chocolate heart, which was melting all over his mouth, little fingers and creating a scrumptious chocolate moustache.

Now, that my Little Man is almost 12 and recently started high school, I understand why Madame cherished my son so much. I have no doubt that he reminded her of her own precious son who had well and truly grown up by then. This is the very same son who is now running the business continuing their family tradition of hand-making, incredibly scrumptious French chocolates under our hot Australian sun. More than 50 years later, Du Plessy still lives on!

Of course, he is carrying on so much more than just a family business!

After all, you never quite know when a chocolate heart filled with love, might just make all the difference!

I should know. I’m eating one now…a gift for the random photographer!

This has been such a beautiful trip down memory lane but I need some more chocolate!

xx Rowena

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Too young for chocolate, our very own Miss Bunny Rabbit, aged 10 weeks.

 

22 thoughts on “Le Petit Chocolat.

  1. trentpmcd

    Sounds like a great shop to visit. There is a small candy store in my village, but I really don’t care for his chocolate very much – it’s too close to Hershey and not close enough to Belgium – but I have been to other artisanall chocolate shops that are great. Du Plessy Praline sounds fantastic! And it is funny (in a good way) that Madame let the two year old Little Man sample some – what a treat for him!

    Smiles that involve chocolate are always great smiles, even if a little messy at times. Enjoy the chocolate!

  2. Tails Around the Ranch

    I love going through long ago photos to relive a captured moment in time; savoring it once again is the best. Just like with good chocolate shops. Always worth a repeat visit in one’s mind. ღ

  3. Oliana

    Miam, Chocolat que c’est bon!!! (a French expression we say here in Montréal) What a fun post. I remember when my first born, my son was two, my aunt babysat him for a few hours. He had never tasted a candy in his life. When I picked him my aunt had given him several candies and said he ate like a real pro…thinking he had savoured them before. As for chocolat, we are all chocolate addicts:)

  4. roweeee Post author

    I had a huge belly laugh with your aunt feeding him candy for the first time. He wasn’t stupid. He knew he’d got hold of something good!
    Thank you for that touch of French! I spend 6 weeks in Paris back in 1992 and read my poetry there at the Shakespeare Bookshop where Hemingway used to hang out. I was revisiting my trip there when the terrorist attacks on Paris took place at the end of last year and then my hard drive crashed and I guess the best way of putting it is that I lost my place. I still haven’t really got my desk top computer working properly and it’s been too hot to write out there. Yes, it’s a rather long list of whingeing excuses and complaints. My apologies. Looks like I need more chocolate!

  5. roweeee Post author

    They’re fabulous, aren’t they and on so many levels. There’s what you see but also what you don’t see. Being the main family photographer, I’m usually the missing link.

  6. roweeee Post author

    Trent, interesting that you should mention Hershey. My husband spent 3 months living in California and took a supply of Cadbury’s with him. He can’t stand the stuff and hence I’ve never touched it. It wasn’t that available in Australia until a few years ago. Love chocolate smiles too.
    I have been enjoying the chocolate. It is so good…the flavour, creaminess. Even a relatively simple chocolate heart is an experience!

  7. roweeee Post author

    It was interesting with that because I dug them up again to email them through but then I was also blessed myself because I saw things I hadn’t seen before and ended up writing the story, which really captures an aspect of my childhood and my Mum.
    I had a similar experience a few years ago. I filmed by cousin and her husband dancing at their wedding. I don’t know if people do this where you live but some couple goto dancing classes and really go to town with these. Their dance was incredible but they didn’t arrange to record it. So a few months later, I received a desperate request and was thrilled to be able to give it to them. It was such an easy thing which brought them such joy!!
    I have experienced the same myself. A former piano pupil of my grandmother’s recently got in touch with me and emailed through a copy of a portrait she’d sketched. I was so stoked! A much appreciated touch of human kindness!

  8. trentpmcd

    Lately I’ve been addicted to a Belgium style chocolate that’s 77%. It seems perfect – not too sweet yet not too bitter. I can’t eat Hershey, but before they existed most people couldn’t afford chocolate, it was a treat only for the rich.

  9. giselzitrone

    Süsses Baby ja bei uns in Köln ist nur Regen ich kann ja mal was zu euch schicken wir haben zuviel davon einen schönen Tag und ein gutes und schönes week-end eine liebe Umarmung Gislinde

  10. roweeee Post author

    We have Cadbury’s here and it’s rather creamy. I love it…especially with roast almonds or hazlenuts. Toblerone is pretty good and I’ve been through a few boxes of Lindt with the family as well. They were great…and on sale!

  11. New Journey

    Great post, and what beautiful babies you make….My daughter had started kindergarten at the local Montessori school, they all knew I didn’t allow her sugar in any form, don’t ask what I was thinking…LOL however they had a substitute teacher who gave the children a square of Hershey chocolate…she came home so animated about what she had eaten describing it to us….all I could do is laugh….my gig was up, she no longer agreed a banana was candy…LOL and she has been in love with chocolate every since….LOL great story….great memories….kat

  12. Oliana

    When I lived in Toronto I discovered Hemingway!s. A pub in Yorkville I the 50-60’s it was like Greenwich Village inNY. It’s gentrified since. Lost its creative beatnik/hippie charm I should go visit again now that I stared writing again to see if I feel his spirit. 😉

  13. roweeee Post author

    That would be great, Oliana and to write a post about it too. I was working on writing up my reading at the Shakespeare Bookshop and need to get back to it.

  14. Oliana

    Talking about this with you is helping me consider this more seriously when I visit my friends in TO. I may set aside several hours to spend there alone…yes, I like that idea and with my notebook of course.

  15. Pingback: Daily Moments March 5-16 ~ chocolat c’est bon! (haibun) – Tournesol dans un Jardin

  16. merrildsmith

    To have a family business that has passed through generations be a part of your own family traditions is special; to have the story also involve chocolate, makes it extra special.

    When my older daughter was–maybe around your son’s age–we had a birthday party for her at a chocolate store in a nearby town. They did a little tour and showed how they made the candies, and then the kids got to taste some. There seem to be more little chocolate stores popping up lately. There’s one next door to a favorite winery. . . 🙂

  17. Pingback: Cafe au Chocolat! | beyondtheflow

  18. jhwinterauthor

    How did you know, I love chocolate? This place looks divine! Here I was thinking our sons were the same age, and then you jump ahead that yours is going into high school now! I can’t even imagine what that will be like. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it with me on my blog!

    Julianne
    Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com

  19. roweeee Post author

    Hi Julianne,
    I thought you’d appreciate that post. There are very few people who don’t even secretly enjoy chocolate and you could just imagine my son in there. He was a very smiley boy and he still has that same charismatic warmth but moodier.
    I am enjoying your blog. It has a real sincerity about it and I can so relate to the stage your at with juggling young kids, finances and trying to have some kind of career and income. Your crochet is incredibly clever. Well done!
    xx Rowena

  20. jhwinterauthor

    Thank you so much! It is definitely a juggling act everyday, but it’s worth it. I’m really looking forward to staying connected, even after this challenge is over. Keep in touch 🙂

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