7th October 2016. We met at Gini’s house for this meeting, Gini’s first time as host. Kathryn, Theresa, George, Jo, Sally and Vicky made the meeting. Lara unfortunately was in hospital but had spoken to Gini about the book, and she is much better now and has since had her share of the chocolate! As an antidote to the more serious subject of the book, we also talked and laughed uncontrollably about: Friday night syndrome; the merits of keeping perfume in the freezer; a mother’s blind love and ugly babies on Facebook.
The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult
I recommended this book having read it before. I felt it was the best book from Jodi Picoult who is one of my favourite authors. The story interweaves the experiences of a Jewish woman who lived through the Holocaust; those of a German soldier who was at Auschwitz when she was; and the story of a granddaughter’s grief from losing her mother. It deals with issues of guilt, forgiveness and the capacity of people to be both evil and good.
Overall, we all enjoyed this book and found it really thought provoking. The issues of what happened in the Second World War and the Holocaust led us to talking about whether it could happen again and events that have happened since, such as the genocide in Rwanda. We also reflected on some uncomfortable current political events and the attitudes they are exposing.
We described the book as scary and intense and felt Jodi Picoult’s research had been very thorough and kept the story straightforward and clear. Jo did feel the book might have been too long and Kathryn (and Lara when she was better) both felt the romantic liaison in the granddaughter’s story was a bit unnecessary. In fact, Kathryn was initially uncertain this would be a book she would enjoy, thinking it may be of the ‘chick lit’ variety, but this didn’t turn out to be the case.
Jo wondered whether the connections between the characters over the two time periods was too far-fetched. However, we went on to talk about how often we find when on holiday, through work or when travelling, we meet people who have connections to Louth which is such a small market town and so we felt that the coincidence was credible. That is what stories often are.
George commented on how the story demonstrated how people have “got to keep it together” otherwise you lose everything. Theresa agreed and asked “how would you go on?”. The description of Minka telling her stories to the other women in the concentration camp and distracting them from their pain and grief, resonated with us. Interestingly, I was able to tell the group, how comforting Lara had found our mum reading the book to her in hospital that afternoon.
Kathryn felt the ending was not one she expected and “it made the book” for her and that it leaves the story living in peoples’ minds. This is a book our group would definitely recommend.
Given the subject of the book, the choice of chocolate was not particularly easy but there were two topics that Jodi Picoult had meticulously researched as part of the writing process, the first was of course the Holocaust but the second was bread making.
Through the art of bread making, relationships and memories between fathers and daughters are strengthened for Minka and Sage and echoed in the fictional characters of Ania and her father. The father-daughter team Chris and Joanna Brennan, at Pump Street Bakery seemed a fitting match for the force for good represented by bread baking in the book. I thought this time we would taste a selection of bars from the same maker. I hadn’t finished the book prior to choosing the chocolate but when I had finished it, I was so impressed with the respect and attention to detail with which Jodi Picoult had treated her subject and sources, I felt even more justified in pairing it with Pump Street Bakery.
All bars this month we sourced direct from Pump Street Bakery.
Pump Street Bakery, Ecuador 75%
We started with an Ecuador bar made with Nacional Arriba cacao. The beans are Heirloom Cacao Preservation (HCP) accredited beans from the same estate as the Pitch Dark, Ecuador Floral we have previously tasted.
As usual it took us a little while to warm up. When we got going, we found it had a very silky texture, silky rather than creamy we thought. A little too silky for George who thought is was bordering on greasy. We perked up as the flavours started to come through, Vicky was tasting deep chocolate with a bit of cherry. Citrus notes and something a little nutty. A few of us felt that the end was a little astringent which really lingered. It went down quite well with everyone but a couple of us were not that sure about the aftertaste. We thought it deserved a second tasting which yielded more buttery and creamy flavours which particularly impressed Theresa.
Pump Street Bakery, Madagascar Criollo 74%
It was a very light coloured bar with a rich aroma. It took a little longer to melt but then Gini was tasting treacle and George and Sally cream and milk. Everyone was concentrating really hard and there were heads nodding in appreciation. We detected a slight sweetness then the fruit which ranged from a little bit fruity to ‘lots of red fruit’. We agreed this had the same silky smooth texture but wasn’t in any way too silky or oily. George noted some coffee in the finish and it left a nice pleasant aftertaste. Delicious, complex and ‘yummy’ was the verdict.
Pump Street Bakery, Grenada Crayfish Bay Estate, 70%
This bar was a little different for us. Our first bar from Grenada so we weren’t sure what to expect although we really liked the sound of ‘Crayfish Bay’. We were already imagining a colourful array of tropical fruits. It had a slightly smokey aroma. It was immediately astringent for Vicky. Jo and Theresa were enjoying sweet and citrusy and others described creamy flavours followed by slightly spicy and a little astringency towards the end. The mouthfeel was a little different too. Slightly textured. I think it was fair to say, we weren’t sure what to make of this but it was interesting, complex and good to try something different.
Pump Street Bakery, Honduras 58%, Bread and Butter
While we were on a bakery theme it seemed only right to finish with a bakery series bars. There were a few frowns as I presented the milk bar with inclusions but they let me off because apart from a slight grainy texture, they agreed that you hardly noticed them. We remarked on the colour being just the same as one of the dark bars. On tasting, the first thing that hit was a slightly salty taste which Jo, George and Gini really liked. A little confusion followed. We were all going from creamy and salty to really buttery but with something in the middle that we couldn’t quite pin down. George got there first, “I think I can taste malted milk biscuits” she said. Yes, that was it and that set us all off reminiscing about images of cows on biscuits. It was satisfyingly long-lasting. We all really liked it, although it was quite a different take on a milk bar.
Interestingly Gini who is relatively new to the group, surprised herself by enjoying, for the first time, the dark bars over the milk.
It was good to taste bars from the same maker and despite the differences in style and flavours, we felt the bars all had the same quality feel to them.
The results for the bar we would most like to take home were:
Gini, Kathryn, Vicky – Madagascar Criollo, 74%
Theresa – Ecuador, 75%
Jo, Sally, George – Honduras, 58% Bread and Butter
For our next meeting we have chosen to read, The World According to Garp by John Irving