by Dan Pearson and Nancy Curren
“Of all the Gin Joints in all the world…She walked into mine.” Humphrey Bogart in the movie “Casablanca” spoke those words about the lady he loved and lost as the Germans marched into Paris during World War II. Years later she unexpectedly walked into his Casablanca night club (Gin Joint) turning his life upside down. He was drunk when he delivered this famous line as he tried to decide whether he wanted his life to be turned upside down or not.
My life has been turned upside down, as has the Chocolate Chaser I live with, Nancy Curren, since the thought-to-be-extinct lady, Pure Nacional Cacao, lost for 100 years, unexpectedly walked into our lives. Brian Horsley and I, with no chocolate experience, stumbled upon the lost Pure Nacional while searching for bananas. In our wildest thoughts, we never dreamed our story would catch the imagination of adventurers and chocolate lovers, everywhere. Especially when we were on a journey seeking one thing and discovering, unexpectedly, something totally different and historically remarkable.
Fortunately we are on this journey with Chocolate Chasers that do know something about making fine chocolate. So after our story of discovery is told, the unique and delicate flavors and aromas of the Swiss made chocolate, can speak for the lady, Pure Nacional.
How does it feel when an ordinary person like me, who with Brian, accidentally makes an extraordinary discovery? It is like riding a teeter-toter between exciting and frightening. At the end of every 14 to 16 hour work day, since we launched Fortunato No. 4 chocolate, I think of Fortunato. The mother tree of the Pure Nacional cacao lives on his farm. When Brian told Fortunato we were naming the chocolate after him, he frowned, smiled briefly, shrugged his shoulders and went back to work. Now when asked how I feel about being present at the discovery of Pure Nacional, I am comfortable responding like Fortunato. Unlike Bogart, I do not need to get drunk and decide whether I want my life turned upside down or not.
My life has been and is upside down since the discovery and it is fine with me, because I have learned that Fate and/or Lady Luck is what it is…no more…no less.
I have known Dan Pearson for most all of my adult life. We met when he was 24 and that meeting is a whole other story. For now in real time, I find myself still asking the same question I once asked in our earlier years when we first met after some bold stroke of his that came from out of nowhere, “WHO ARE YOU?!”. Well, nothing has changed. Chocolate Chasing is the latest BOLD STROKE.
As for me, I am often asked what my Chocolate Chasing role is today. Rather than give a resume of my life both past and present, I keep it simple and answer, “I’m the ‘Laundry Lady'”. The tasks that I perform are not necessarily intellectually stimulating. I view what I do as catching the ‘stuff’ that falls off of Dan’s desk. The ‘Head Chocolate Chaser in Charge’ puts in 14 to 16 hour days and is totally into Chocolate Chasing but alas, as we all know, real life in the fast lane still benefits from making certain that any ‘BIG STUFF’ that falls off the desk is caught before it hits the floor. The little stuff may hit the floor and will get picked up later.