Henri IV vs. Red Vienna

Not helpful.

Recently, most of my days have been taken up with writing query letters to literary agents and tweaking Red Vienna, the first volume of Two Suitcases. I even added a short new section. Today Henri IV thought it was time to take a break from it.

Moving to the desktop worked for a short time.

But he was determined. I gave up.

And he decided to take a nap in the kitchen.

A short time later, while waking from a second nap on the kitchen counter, the idea to open his own Instagram account occurred to Henri. I reopened my laptop. He agreed to stay off the keyboard temporarily so we could choose some pictures to share to get it started.

But first he wanted to wash up.

And adjust a few things.

After that, we set up his new site, @henriquatredecordes. Naturally he wanted a simpler name, but some other Henri IVs had already claimed them. Thus, he is forced to go by most of his whole name, which is Henry IV de Cordes.

Satisfied with his day’s work, he sat on his throne to wait for dinner,

Follow him on Instagram.

Pick your favorite

Quite a few of the queries I’m sending out to literary agents ask for a one sentence pitch for the book.

Which of these do you like the best? Do you have a better idea?

1. Can young love and a passionate commitment to high ideals survive the forces of fascism, populism and propaganda in Red Vienna on the eve of World War II?

2. In Red Vienna, idealistic young lovers Gisi and Max watch their dream city fall to the forces of fascism as the second world war looms

3. In Red Vienna, young idealists Gisi and Max fall in love at the 1929 International Socialist Youth Congress and set to work creating a more caring world, but can they hold onto their vision when their beloved utopia is destroyed by racism, nationalism and civil war?

4. With shocking parallels to recent events in the United States and Europe, this book – based on a true story – tells of an idealistic young couple confronting the forces of rising fascism and civil war in Vienna on the eve of World War II.

Thanks so much for your input.

The End of Red Vienna

Viennese Social Housing Block

As those of you who follow this blog know, Two Suitcases, my book project, grew to three volumes some time ago. There was just too much material. My plan was to break the characters’ journey into their years in Vienna, their years in Paris, and their years in the south of France.

Though it’s five years since I began the project, and much of that time I was working on the project with a sense of great urgency – I even dreamed that my mother was telling me “work faster!” once – I stopped for two years when Mama Ganache needed me. And then there was the move to France which caused further delay. In retrospect, though, I think the gaps improved the book. Sorry, Mom.

Recently, as I was researching and writing about the period leading to the 1934 February Uprising (or Austrian Civil War), the parallels to what’s happening in the United States now became unmistakable. I posted an excerpt last year about how Austria became a Fascist dictatorship when Englebert Dollfuss dissolved the parliament and adopted martial law.

I continued writing until I reached 1936, all the while following the news of Trump’s America. Then that sense of urgency returned, and it pushed me to change my plans. The first volume, Red Vienna, would end after the February Uprising. The period when the characters are forced underground in Vienna, 1934-38, would be the second volume, and their period in France, 1938-1940, will be the third.

At that point, I went back and revised and rewrote the first book, which is now called Red Vienna, to prepare it for publication. I’m pleased to say that I’ve begun the process of seeking representation for it.

My real reason for this blog, though, is that I read this morning that Michael Caputo, one of Trump’s toadies, was warning people of armed uprisings, and that sense of urgency returned. I’ve posted an excerpt from Red Vienna below. It was hard to choose a piece because the events happen over a period of years, but this one is a pretty pointed parallel. It takes place immediately after the uprising.

Austrian Civil War 1934

February 18, 1934

Brigittenau, Vienna

Max’s apartment

At four in the morning on February 18, Max Baum, stinking, hungry, and thirsty, furtively unlocked the door to his family’s apartment, slipped in, and immediately locked it behind him. He had climbed out of the sewer at Karl-Marx-Hof just two hours earlier, and managed to make his way home flattened against the walls of buildings, deep in the shadows, through the darkest alleys and streets of the city.

Leaving his mud-caked boots in the hall, he skirted past his sleeping father and went into the kitchen where he threw some bits of coal onto the embers in the stove, and drank down every drop of the boiled water left in the pot. Then he refilled the pot and set it on top of the stove again.

He shivered as he took off his clothes and put on his threadbare bathrobe. It would have been a good thing if he could have thrown those clothes away, but that was out of the question. Instead, he pulled the big galvanized tub out from under the sink and began to fill it, pot by pot, with water heated on the stove. As he waited for the water to heat up, he ate whatever he could find: some dry bread and most of a can of pickled herring. An hour later, when the tub was full enough, he stepped in, sighing deeply as the steaming water surrounded him and slowly warmed him. He washed himself thoroughly and then lay back and relaxed until the water was almost cold. Later, dry from the heat of the fire and wearing his nightshirt, he added another pot of boiling water to the washtub and dropped his filthy clothes into it.

It was after six in the morning when he lay down on the settee. He slept for the next twelve hours, barely stirring when his father came into the room and pulled a blanket over him.

*   *   *

After covering his son, Peppe left quietly to go to his cafe, where he found Dolf and Fredl sitting in a booth in the back room. 

“Quick, sit,” said Dolf. 

“It’s safe?” asked Peppe. 

“I haven’t seen anything to make me think it’s not. But who knows anymore?” said Fredl. “They’re picking up more of us every day. We’re taking a big risk being here, but being at home could be an even bigger risk. Who knows anything anymore.”

“Max is back,” Peppe told them.

“Thank god!” said Dolf. “Did he tell you where he was?”

“He’s still sleeping.”

“At least he’s home. The news is all very bad.”

“Yes, Dollfuss is telling the world the housing complexes were built as fortresses to store weapons for an armed takeover, and that they stopped it from happening just in time,” Fredl said.

“And they’re putting out that we were in league with the Soviets,” finished Dolf.  “The headline on the Fatherland Front paper says ‘Armed Insurrection Averted.’  

Fredl said, “They claim only two hundred died, but I’ve heard it’s in the thousands.”

“And they’re hanging more as we speak,” said Peppe.

Adèle

The number of coincidences, through people I’ve met, books I’ve read, the information that has come to me unbidden—or only bidden in thought— as I’ve been doing the research for Two Suitcases was already extraordinary when we met Monique Lagard a few days ago, courtesy of Montalbanais friends, Ian and Janet Milligan. 

In 1993-1994, Monique and her lycée students made a short film about Adèle Kurzweil, a young Austrian refugee who came to Montauban at the same time as my parents, in 1940. Surely Adèle’s parents knew mine. They were active Austrian Social Democrats. Adèle’s mother worked for Ernst Papanek at Montmorency, outside of Paris, between 1938 and 1940, at the same time that my mother did. Her father was interned with mine. And the film project began with the discovery of three suitcases (not two) filled with the family’s memorabilia.

Now that I am writing about this, vague memories of hearing my parents talking about Adèle and her family are returning. 

Thank you so much, Ian and Janet. Thank you so much, Monique.

The film, which is only thirteen minutes long, is subtitled in English.

Click here to see it.

Two Suitcases: an excerpt


Powidltascherl

Alsergrund
December 31, 1934

Trude’s grandfather died on the last day of 1934. A fever took him, or perhaps it was pneumonia. He wouldn’t let Helene or Trude go for the doctor. “My time has come,” he told them that morning when, for a short time, he had the strength and clarity to speak. “Don’t spend good money dragging things out. Just sit with me.”

Trude brought another cool washcloth from where it was hanging on the sill of the slightly open window, and put it on his burning forehead. He hadn’t eaten for three days, and stopped taking liquids the night before.

Helene sat at the table writing notes to their relatives inviting them to come to say good-by. He might have another few days, she wrote. He’s a strong man.

In the early afternoon, two of Herr Berger’s friends from the coffee house stopped in. Trude went over earlier to tell them why her grandfather hadn’t been around for the last few days. A short time later a cousin from the next district brought a pot of soup.

“He’s not eating, Grete,” Helene told her.

“It’s for you and Trude, Helene. You’ll go on living, no?”

“It’s very kind of you to think of us, Tante Grete,” said Trude.

Grete grunted and pulled her sweater around herself more tightly. “Why on earth is that window open? Are you both crazy? You’re letting him die!”

“Papa wants it open,” Helene said.

“And you think he’s in the right frame of mind to give advice?” Grete walked over to the window and closed it firmly.

“Grete!” came a voice from under the blankets on the settee. “Leave that window alone!

“Ach, Josef!’ cried Grete. “You’re still with us? Good! I have some messages for you to give to our family on the other side.” She opened the window just a little.

“There is no other side, Grete, but tell me anyway.” Herr Berger sounded infinitely weary. He closed his eyes and didn’t open them again until Grete was gone.

The sun was low in the sky when he woke once more.

“Close the window, Helene,” he said.

Alsergrund
January 12, 1935

“And five hundred grams of flour,” Trude said to the grocer’s wife. She looked at the small glass bottle of milk, the six eggs, the hundred grams of walnuts, and the hundred grams of butter already on the counter, and added up how much it would cost. “No,” she said. “Make that four hundred grams of flour. We have a little at home.”

“What are you making?” asked the grocer’s wife.

“Powidltascherl. The family is coming. You heard that my grandfather died? It was his favorite.”

“Oh, yes! So suddenly!”

“It was fast. He was fine, he caught a cold, and then he was gone. He was seventy-three, you know.”

“A good age. He had a long life. How many people are coming to you?”

“Well, the family from Tyrol, and maybe his cousins from Bavaria. And everyone from here. Maybe twelve or fifteen in all?”

“Then you’ll need more ingredients than this for the powidltascherl! Do you have the powidl?”

“I have two jars. It should be enough.”

“But you won’t have enough dough for that much powidl.” She was already weighing out more flour. “Here, I’m giving you more eggs, too. You have enough sugar? Let me give you some anyway.” The counter was filling with goods.

“No, no, Frau Steinmann! I can’t afford this much and I can’t add to our bill! It’s already late!”

“Trude! You aren’t paying for any of this! I’m giving it to you so you can remember Josef properly.”

“Oh, Frau Steinmann, you mustn’t. What will I tell my mother when I bring home so much food?”

“You tell her it’s my gift! We went to school together, your mother and I. Your family has come here for too many years to count. Take it! Open your bag and let me put these things in.”

Trude opened her bag. Frau Steinmann was right. One recipe would never feed so many people. “You’re very kind. Some day I’ll figure out a way to return the favor,” she said as she went back out into the cold.

Two hours later, the apartment was so packed with family and friends that people could barely move.

“Excuse me, Tante Anna,” Trude said as she pushed her way to the table with another plate of powidltascherl. She’d been able to make four recipes with the two jars of powidl and the ingredients Frau Steinmann gave her. Before returning to the kitchen, she popped another of the crispy plum turnovers into her mouth. It was her third. She stood still for a minute to savor the sweet and remember her grandfather. The taste of the powidl brought tears to her eyes. She ate the tascherl very slowly.

Behind her, she heard one of the cousins from Bavaria talking to Grete.

“All the Jews in our village are gone,” he was saying. “Every one.” Trude stayed where she was, perfectly still, listening. The cousin continued, “Could be they’re in hiding somewhere.”

“What are they hiding from?” asked Anna. “The police? Their neighbors?”

“Both. It’s very bad for the Jews all over Germany now. They can’t work, the children can’t go to school, what should they do? I imagine they went to the larger cities where maybe they can get work doing the things nobody else wants to do.” He reached over to the table and took two more powidltascherl. “If you ask me, that’s what they should be doing. That’s what they should have been doing all along. Making themselves useful without taking our jobs.”

Oh god, thought Trude. She hoped Litzi and Theresa wouldn’t be coming. What would she say to them?

“We’re much better off without the Jews,” the cousin continued. “The bank is in local hands now, and although there is only one left, we have a doctor we can trust.”

“The Jewish doctor wasn’t trustworthy?” asked Anna.

“Doctors! There were two. To be honest, I never had a problem with them, Herr Frankel and Herr Goldmann, but you hear stories.”

Deciding she’d heard enough, Trude looked up, and there was Fritz, right across the room from her, standing hesitantly near the door. He looked thin and haggard. Trude watched him make his way to where her mother was accepting condolences and wait his turn to speak to her. He didn’t look around the room.

She glanced at the plate of powidltascherl. More than half were still there.

“Excuse me, Tante Anna,” she said again, this time making her way to where Fritz stood.

“Trude!” a voice called out. It was Theresa, the cousin she grew up with, the cousin she hadn’t seen in more than two years, the cousin whose wedding she missed because of the civil war, the one who never wrote back after Trude told her that Fritz and she were planning to travel together, and to marry someday.

“Theresa!” Trude exclaimed as they hugged. “How wonderful to see you!” and it was. All their differences fell away in that hug. The two young women forgot what was going on around them, so deep in conversation were they, catching up, apologizing, falling into their old familiar way of being together.

It was ten minutes before Trude remembered that she was in charge of the powidltascherl, and the two of them went into the kitchen to prepare another batch. It was half an hour before she remembered Fritz. He was gone by then.

A morning walk in Cordes-sur-Ciel

Yesterday we took a different route than usual. Here’s a little of what we saw.

The old steam mill in our valley is on the left. It originally used water, but the little stream didn’t provide enough power.

Small stone buildings like this one are common in the fields.

Cordes rising out of the gentle landscape

Another view from a little higher

The sweetpeas could use rain

The wild plums are very tannic this year but still delicious.

Mocha can go off-leash on this walk

These grapes are smaller than usual too. It’s been hot and dry.

March 1933 – an excerpt from Two Suitcases

Talk about history repeating itself. This is where I am in Two Suitcases now:

Café Rüdigerhof, Brigitennau, Vienna
March 7, 1933

Fritz closes the shop early to meet with the others at the coffee house. The news that Chancellor Dollfuss eliminated the parliament hit the press earlier that week, and today it was announced that the Wartime Economy Authority Law, an emergency law passed in 1917, would be used as a basis to rule.


Every day that week brought what seemed like earth-shattering news. First the National Council couldn’t agree on how to settle the railway workers’ strike. When an agreement was finally reached, irregularities were found in the vote, and Karl Renner, leader of the SDAP, resigned as Chairman of the Council.


Rudolf Ramek, a Christian Socialist, then became Chairman. He declared the previous vote invalid and asked for a new vote. Another uproar followed. Ramek then resigned, and Sepp Straffner of the Pan-Germans became Chairman, but he also stepped down immediately. The resignations of Renner, Ramek, and Straffner left the house without a speaker, so the session couldn’t be closed and the National Council was incapable of acting. The members left the chamber as a consequence.


Chancellor Dollfuss declared a constitutional crisis. The parliament had “eliminated itself,” a crisis not provided for in the constitution. He then set up an authoritarian government without a parliament. The establishment of wartime rule gave him complete authority.


“It’s what he always wanted! He wanted to be head of a fascist state from the beginning!” Gert is saying as Fritz comes into the coffee house.


“That’s not true. He wanted to make peace between the parties at first,” Fanny answers.


“What does it matter what his intentions were?” Karl asks. “We have a completely authoritarian government now. Democracy is dead.”


“It’s as bad as Italy,” says Hugo. “Dollfuss always admired Mussolini.”


“That’s why I said he always wanted to be a dictator,” Gert points out.


Fritz adds, “It’s a coup d’état, really. Renner, Ramek, and Straffner fell right into his hands.”


“At least he won’t let Austria merge with Germany,” says Erwin.


“Small comfort when one man now controls the power over all economic activities and over war and peace indefinitely,” Fritz says.


Fanny wonders, “Do we continue our new education program? Having Dollfuss as dictator doesn’t diminish the rising power of the Nazis and the dangers of demagoguery.”


“Dollfuss isn’t a Nazi. Or a demagogue. It’s possible the rule of a strong hand will calm things down a little,” Erwin says.


“One can hope,” says Gert, “but I think the Nazis are far too pleased with how fast their ideas are spreading to stop now.”


“I think they’ll be more dangerous than ever. And Dollfuss’s party, the Christian Socials, are barely less anti-Jewish than the Nazis anyway,” Karl says.


Erwin adds, “I wonder if it will soon become too dangerous for us to even hold meetings or give talks.”


“Especially in the beer halls. I already find them frightening,” Fanny says.


“We shouldn’t be driven by fear of what might be!” Fritz answers. “I say we go ahead with the talks as scheduled. I think it would be a big mistake to let ourselves be intimidated.”


“I agree!” “Yes.” “You’re right,” the others say.


“Alright. We’ll go ahead, but I think we all need to keep our eyes and ears open to gauge the response of the groups we address. Dictators use spies to keep the peace. It’s more important than ever that we aren’t seen as rabble-rousers,” says Hugo. “We’ll meet on Tuesday then, and listen to Karl practice his speech for the beer hall.”


Cordes in winter (Cordes en hiver)

We’re told that this winter is not typical for Cordes-sur-Ciel, that it was unusually short, that, in fact, it may well not be over yet.

On nous dit que cet hiver n’est pas typique de Cordes-sur-Ciel, qu’il a été exceptionnellement court, qu’en fait, il se pourrait bien qu’il ne soit pas encore terminé.

After six weeks in California, we came back to our little house in Cordes on January 11. The skies were gray, but the fields were still green.

Après six semaines en Californie, nous sommes rentrés dans notre petite maison à Cordes le 11 janvier. Le ciel était gris, mais les champs étaient toujours verts.

January 11
11 janvier

It was cold that month, cold and damp and very gray.

Il faisait froid ce mois-ci, froid et humide et très gris.

January 17
17 janvier

It even snowed a little.

Il a même neigé un peu.

January 23
23 janvier

January 25
25 janvier

But it was cozy indoors and there were at least a couple sunny and clear days each week.

Mais c’était agréable à l’intérieur et il y avait au moins deux journées ensoleillées et claires chaque semaine.

My favorite chair for reading.
Ma chaise préférée pour lire.
Tom is trying it out.
Tom l’essaie.

It was a good time for making potimarron soup.

C’était un bon moment pour faire de la soupe au potimarron.

And poached pears.

Et des poires pochées.

I love seeing the trees and bushes without leaves.

J’aime voir les arbres et les buissons sans feuilles.

We took long walks with the dog. One day, I noticed hyacinths in bud in front of a neighbor’s house. It happens, our neighbor said, but then it gets very, very cold again, and the buds never bloom.

Nous avons fait de longues promenades avec le chien. Un jour, j’ai remarqué des jacinthes en boutons devant la maison d’un voisin. Cela arrive, a dit notre voisin, mais ensuite, il fait à nouveau très froid et les bourgeons ne fleurissent jamais.

January 19

It was about then that a fortunate thing happened. We’d wondered who the abandoned garden across the street from our house belonged to, and had asked around before we left for California. We could look over the wall and see that, though largely covered in brush, it looked like there there were fruit trees, a chicken coop, and maybe a well.

C’était à peu près alors qu’une chose chanceuse s’est produite. Nous nous étions demandés à qui appartenait le jardin abandonné situé de l’autre côté de la rue de notre maison et nous l’avions demandé avant notre départ pour la Californie. Nous pourrions regarder par-dessus le mur et voir que, bien que largement recouvert de broussailles, il semblait y avoir des arbres fruitiers, un poulailler et peut-être un puits.

Travelling for so long – we’d left Cordes in mid-October for Morocco, stayed four weeks, returning for only a couple, before our time in California – I was longing for roots. As I fell asleep in all those different beds, I’d imagine asking for permission to use that garden: cleaning it up, pruning the trees, digging over the beds and planting vegetables and flowers, and maybe even having a few chickens.

Voyager pendant si longtemps – nous avions quitté Cordes à la mi-octobre pour le Maroc, sommes restés quatre semaines et n’y étions revenus que deux semaines avant notre séjour en Californie – je rêvais de racines. Quand je me suis endormi dans tous ces différents lits, j’imagine que demander l’autorisation d’utiliser ce jardin: le nettoyer, tailler les arbres, creuser par-dessus les lits, planter des légumes et des fleurs et peut-être même avoir quelques poulets.

Our neighbors, Dominique and Lucie, were kind enough to keep Mocha for us while we were gone. A week or so after we came back, we invited them over for dinner. To our delight, Dominique told us the garden belonged to Lucette, who passed away three years ago, and whose house was maintained by her children, though they rarely use it. Coincidentally, they were there that weekend.

Nos voisins, Dominique et Lucie, ont eu la gentillesse de garder Mocha pour nous pendant notre absence. Environ une semaine après notre retour, nous les avons invités à dîner. À notre plus grand plaisir, Dominique nous a dit que le jardin appartenait à Lucette, décédée il y a trois ans et dont la maison était entretenue par ses enfants, bien qu’ils l’utilisent rarement. Par coïncidence, ils étaient là ce week-end.

The next morning, Tom went over, introduced himself, and minutes later, we had permission to use the garden.

Le lendemain matin, Tom est allé se présenter, et quelques minutes plus tard, nous avons eu la permission d’utiliser le jardin.

The chicken coop. I took this picture from an angle where the piles of trash and old building materials weren’t visible.
Le poulailler. J’ai pris cette photo sous un angle où les piles de déchets et les vieux matériaux de construction n’étaient pas visibles.
I was pleased to discover a clothesline, partly covered in vines and brambles, but functional. Artichokes, planted randomly on the lawn and in the beds, were thriving. That’s the door to the chicken coop in the background.
J’ai eu le plaisir de découvrir une corde à linge, partiellement recouverte de vignes et de ronces, mais fonctionnelle. Les artichauts, plantés au hasard sur la pelouse et dans les parterres, étaient en plein essor. C’est la porte du poulailler à l’arrière-plan.
It is a well!
C’est un puits!
There’s an old pump that we haven’t got working yet.
Il y a une vieille pompe avec laquelle nous n’avons pas encore travaillé.

And, even though it was January, there were irises blooming.

Et, même si c’était en janvier, des iris étaient en fleurs.

I think they are Iranian iris, Iris reticulata.
Je pense que ce sont des iris iraniens, Iris reticulata.

We also found a peach tree already budding.

Nous avons également trouvé un pêcher en herbe.

So we began work in the garden, pruning, clearing brush, cleaning up in general.

Nous avons donc commencé à travailler dans le jardin: élagage, débroussaillage, nettoyage en général.

Shirtsleeve weather
Assez chaud pour pas de manteau
I had no idea how much joy hanging the clothes to dry would bring me.
Je n’avais aucune idée de la joie que j’avais à suspendre des vêtements.
A neighbor gave us a little table and chair.
Un voisin nous a donné une petite table et une chaise.
Tom repaired the steps going down to the well.
Tom a réparé les marches qui descendent au puits.
We found a small enamel bucket and began using the well to water the fruit trees.
Nous avons trouvé un petit seau en émail et avons commencé à utiliser le puits pour arroser les arbres fruitiers.
We carried the water in a bigger bucket.
Nous avons porté l’eau dans un plus grand seau.
One Saturday, we bought four little strawberry plants and set them in the ground in a neat row.
Un samedi, nous avons acheté quatre petits plants de fraises et les avons placés dans le sol de manière ordonnée.
Every couple days I pick fresh irises for the table. They’re very
delicate and don’t last long.
Tous les deux jours, je choisis des iris frais pour la table. Ils sont très délicat et ne dure pas longtemps.

On February 10, M. Jazz de Rodez, a cat of great dignity and considerable curiosity, came to live with us.

Le 10 février, M. Jazz de Rodez, un chat d’une grande dignité et d’une grande curiosité, est venu vivre avec nous.

He took over the upper floor of the house immediately.
Il a immédiatement pris possession de l’étage supérieur de la maison.
At this point, he owns every room except the one Mocha is in.
À ce stade, il possède toutes les pièces, sauf celle de Mocha.
Mocha likes Jazz a lot more than Jazz likes her. If Mocha showed her considerable interest in the cat in some way other than barking, the process of integration would be going better.
Mocha aime beaucoup Jazz beaucoup plus que Jazz ne l’aime bien. Si Mocha manifestait un intérêt considérable pour le chat autrement qu’en aboyant, le processus d’intégration se déroulerait mieux.

While the two of them make their peace, the garden keeps growing.

Alors que les deux font leur paix, le jardin ne cesse de croître.

Daffodils on our street
February 20
Jonquilles dans notre rue.

Peach blossoms about to open.
Fleurs de pêche sur le point de s’ouvrir.
February 28
First peach blossom.
Première fleur de pêche.
March 3
Tree peony.
Pivoine arbustive.
February 28
Apricot blossom
Fleur d’abricot
March 3

Now there are trees in bloom everywhere.

Maintenant, il y a des arbres en fleurs partout.

Wild plum or maybe almond
Prune sauvage ou peut-être d’amande
March 5

Inside, Mocha waits a little impatiently to be taken for a walk.

A l’intérieur, Mocha attend un peu avec impatience de se promener.

And Jazz is sleeping on my lap.

Et Jazz dort sur mes genoux.

I don’t think winter will come back this year.

Je ne pense pas que l’hiver reviendra cette année.

But I could be wrong.

Mais je peux me tromper.

Mama Ganache: a retrospective

It’s only eight months since we passed Mama Ganache on to Ben Taylor and his family. In some ways that feels like an eternity; in others, the blink of an eye. It was harder than I expected to review my pictures from all those years. Assembling them for this blog brings a lump to my throat, an ache in my heart, and even some tears.

Mama Ganache began her life in the basement of the Vets Hall in San Luis. We rented the kitchen there on Sunday afternoons to create some ridiculously labor-intensive, ridiculously delicious chocolate bars: layers of chocolate, crispy rice and peanut butter. Tom sold them at local churches to fund his fledgling NGO, Project Hope and Fairness.

When his sister Joanne opened Splash Cafe in San Luis, our newly named Sweet Earth Chocolates were made in the second floor kitchen.

Our chocolate at Splash in 2006
Our first truffle collection

In 2009, we moved down the street to 1445 Monterey.

Our chocolates grew more and more beautiful and delicious, especially when Rebecca Wamsley came to work for us.

We held art shows, wine tastings and parties.

In 2012, we changed our name to Mama Ganache.

Valentine’s Day was always fun.

As was Easter:

Halloween:

And Christmas:

In 2013, we started to make our own chocolate from beans sourced from around the world.

Truffle critters were always popular.

We gave tours, hosted birthday parties and meetings, and raffled off huge bunnies and turkeys.

Our artists were amazing.

As was their art.

And our customers.

Tom and I will be forever grateful to all the incredible people who worked for us over the years. Apologies to those of you – and there are many – who aren’t included here because I don’t have pictures of you.

Larry, Tom, and Josefina

Tom and I (and Joanne) had Mama Ganache for thirteen years. I went through close to 6000 pictures to choose these, and the ones I picked in the end don’t cover a fraction of the love, life, and laughter that we shared in those years.

And none of it would have happened without Tom.