Her name is Sofia. “Zie Americano” was her nickname in the class.
They met at the chocolate workshop in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. She has big, chestnut-brown eyes, a sweet smile, and soft, flowing brunette locks with golden undertone. Freckles were dancing on her cheeks. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, especially when she slightly parted her lips while carefully decorating the bonbon. It could also have been the way she held the ganache pipe, sending the dark velvety richness into truffle shells.
He had come to Paris from Martinique to learn the art of chocolate making. Even though his family roots are deep in the Caribbean cocoa business, he had not understood the charm until a relative returning from Paris brought back a magical blue tin box of “truffles”, labeled “Jean-Paul Hévin”. “C’est magnifique, non?” his uncle said.
Le chocolat changed his life.
The workshop only lasted for 4 days. On the last day, he finally gathered all the courage to ask Sofia if she would join him for coffee. He couldn’t believe she would have accepted the invitation.
Sitting at the bistro table on the pavement in front of Café de Flore, Sofia told him that being born into a Mexican family meant undying love forchocolate para masa, a.k.a. Mexican hot chocolate. A fresh brewed hot chocolate with a splash of cinnamon can brighten up anyone’s day in foggy San Francisco. Her grandmother would sprinkle some chili powder in the hot chocolate for the kick. Young Sofia associated love, joy and happiness with chocolate.
He gave her the recipe for chocolat chaud antillais, or “Creole hot chocolate”. “We also have cinnamon in our hot chocolate, and we add lime zest. My father, however, would pour a generous amount of Creole Shrubb Liqueur instead, a citrus-scented rum from Martinique. He calls it an enhancement.” He shrugged, making a face, poking his tongue out.
Her laughter was relaxing, comforting and pleasant. She was the hot chocolate for his heart.
They sat there exchanging stories after stories, like the day was never going to end, except that Sofia had to catch a plane back to San Francisco the second day. Sofia told him to meet her at the same place tomorrow before she would take off for CDG.
She wasn’t there when he got to the café the second day. He waited for hours until he realized she was gone. He wished he had asked her to stay for a few more days.
San Francisco, 2014
He comes out to various parks in San Francisco, only on very sunny days and when the parks are overflowing with young urban San Franciscans kicking back in the warmth.
He’d come out with his signature straw hat, an array of glittering copper pots, selling truffles of different flavors: coconuts, rum, espresso and ginger. He’s worked for his status: unlike the other vendors within this micro economy, he no longer has to walk the grounds. As soon as he sets foot in Dolores Park, boys and girls come running towards him giggling, smiling, and laughing. They cannot hide their excitement. Some would even ask to take a selfie with him. He usually happily obliges.
“The Truffle Guy” is how they lovingly refer to him.
You can say that he has made a name for himself, as indicated by various perfect online reviews over the years.
“Keep an eye out for the truffle guy. He sells home made truffles that are heavenly. There are more quiet areas in GGP but this one is the place to go if you want to lay out in the sun or people watch.” – Yelp review for Hippie Hill, San Francisco in 2007
“I'll be honest: My enjoyment of this park may/may not have been affected by the cute truffle man peddling his ganja ganache goodies.” – Yelp review for Dolores Park, San Francisco in 2009
“Where else would you find a dude carrying multiple metal pots in a park selling awesomely special chocolate truffles? Only in SF at Dolores Park I tell ya.
Eat one and you'll be set.” – Yelp review for “Truffle Man, 2010
He had been looking for Sofia as soon as he arrived in 2007, hoping that he would run into her again. San Francisco, he’s learned, is not overly populated, and is one of the cities that charm the hearts with its eternal beauty, but only the lucky ones can stay. Even the tourists say they had left their hearts in San Francisco.
That’s how he knows he’ll run into her again, because even if she’d moved away, she’ll eventually return.
His name is Trevor.