Reading may seem like a solitary pleasure, but we do not believe it is so. As we read, we intimately interact with writers, the worlds they create, and our own inner selves as well as the real world that surrounds us. Some of us are also blessed enough to have friends to share the experience with.

While discussing the idyllic village of Three Pines and the captivating characters author Louise Penny created in the Inspector Gamache books, we were aware of the sensory pleasure to be had in the meals described. Olivier’s Bistro, Gabri’s baking, and dinners at the Morrow’s can easily make us salivate while reading the books… Louise Penny's books, are a wonderful entrée into a sensual world, where each book is a season, capturing its mood and flavours, and contributing to the layers of meaning about the characters, who are marvellously revealed over the series.

At one point, a daydream of going through the series with a notebook in hand, writing down all these meals and later cooking them, took shape. This is our "notebook". We hope you enjoy this literary-culinary-sensory-philosophical journey.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Chocolate Truffles (kind of) and Overlooked Love

by Amy

Chef Véronique was putting hand-made truffles and chocolate-dipped candied fruit on small plates. Her sausage fingers instinctively placed the confections in an artistic pattern. She took a sprig of mint from the glass, shook the water from it and clipped a few leaves with her nails. Absently she chose some edible flowers from her vase and before long a few chocolates had become a lovely design on the white plate.

Some people have a talent for creating beautiful. Chef Véronique does. My sister does. She takes the simplest, most unassuming things and suddenly they’re art or decoration or magic.

I’m artistically challenged. I can tell when it’s good. I can sometimes imitate an idea. But my things never have that flair or “instinctive” placement that Chef Véronique manages effortlessly.

“He needs to know who’s in charge,” said Pierre firmly.“He does know. He just doesn’t like it.”The maître d’ had had a hard day, she could see. She took the largest truffle from the tray and handed it to him.
He ate it absently.”

He ate it absently.

That line kind of breaks my heart. The truffle itself wasn’t where her effort was. It was time-consuming, but she was good enough at what she did that it wasn’t really an effort or a hardship in and of itself. What is a little heartbreaking is that for years, decades, they’d worked together and she had offered him the best of her food, her listening ear, her support, her council, and her unrequited love. And he didn’t really seem to notice. Any of it.

Pierre sipped, and nodded. It was relaxing begin around Chef Véronique, though he knew she scared the crap out of the new employees. She was huge and beefy, her face like a pumpkin and her voice like a root vegetable. And she had knives. Lots of them. And cleavers and cast-iron pans.

And here’s why, sometimes, fiction is more soothing than real life. We know, because we glimpse into Pierre’s head, that he does appreciate her and consciously seeks her out as a relaxing and comforting safe place. I’m not sure she realizes how he feels. While he isn’t even close to being in love with her – or as selflessly dedicated to her as she would be to him – he does notice and value their friendship and working partnership. He just doesn’t always show it.

The world is full of Chef Véroniques. Full of them.

They are the amazing people who are in the background, making things beautiful and safe and soothing and comfortable. These are the people whose love and effort is frequently overlooked – although we are drawn to them and the havens they create. I know that all the Chef Véroniques have been doing overtime in the “backstage” of Holiday preparations. Communities, families, and friends will all benefit from their talents, their efforts, and the magical things they do. Individuals will be touched because these Véroniques care enough to pay attention to moods and needs and be attuned to big and small sufferings, and they will give of their time and shower those around them with their offerings. These things that are sometimes classified as superfluous or unimportant. They aren’t. Things like flowers and chocolates, decorations, extra hugs, cards that say I appreciate you, and smiles freely given are the little magical things that give us the comfort of feeling cherished and loved.

I’m sure many of you have been channeling your inner Véroniques this holiday season.

May we also appreciate the Véroniques in our lives and thank them for their tireless – and important – work.

These aren’t truffles. They’re Brazilian chocolate candies called brigadeiros.

The “original” is made with sweet chocolate powder like Nescau or Nesquick and rolled in chocolate sprinkles. I like making it with dark cacao powder. Usually mine isn’t rolled into balls unless it’s for company or gifting. I’d just spoon some off the plate like peanut butter.


Stir until bubbly like this. Then keep stirring until thick and kind of "loose" off bottom of pan.

Set aside to cool before rolling. Unless you're making it for yourself and want to just to eat a warm spoonful...

You can be creative with toppings. Sprinkles are traditional, but I like nuts best.

Preparing to spread holiday cheer. ;)

-          1 tablespoon of butter
-          2 tablespoons of dark chocolate powder
-          1 can of sweet condensed milk

Pour everything into a pan over medium heat. Stir until butter melts. Continue to stir occasionally until it starts bubbling. Then stir continuously until it starts thickening and loosening from bottom of pan. Let it cool. Roll into balls and roll on almond flour, crushed nuts, chocolate sprinkles or cacao nibs. Enjoy!

I made some as gifts for our new neighbors (we just moved to a new house in a great neighborhood) and to wish them Happy Holidays. 


  1. Yum - I'd never heard of brigadeiros - but they look amazing! I can almost taste them. I've never tried to make chocolates and I'm with you on making things beautiful - I can appreciate it, and recognize it when I see it, but it's very hard for me to do except for a few very discrete applications. I DO know how to arrange furniture in a pleasing way, and I can design things like greeting cards, etc., but I couldn't possibly then arrange them in an artful way to take a photo of them - isn't that funny? It's one of those things where the former comes so easily to me, that I expect anything that takes longer than 10 minutes is hardly worth the effort. So lazy. But, I have so many satisfying things to do that I don't worry about it, hahaha.

    1. They're pretty yummy and a "must" at any birthday party in Brazil. Ha! On the furniture. I'm not hopeless, but my husband usually ends up deciding. This house was the first time I kind of determined where I thought things should go and I like it the way I've arranged it. There isn't much stuff (which helps - I kind of like the "clean" look.
      And I understand what you mean. I've started to conscientiously try to do more things that DON'T come easily to me. It's been humbling and eye opening to realize how very incompetent I am at so many things. It's okay. I think it's a good thing. It helps us recognize competence in others and know, deep down, that people are different and have varied talents - but are all worthy regardless.

  2. You are so insightful. I didn't think about Chf Veronique much during the book, just that everyone thought they might have known her. When it was discovered she had a cooking show, I didn't think more about her character. Thank you.
    Now that candy looks yummy.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family. Merry Christmas to all the readers of TNIAS.

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I really felt for Chef Veronique. She had such pain and so much to give and was so lonely in a way... :(
      I hope you had a lovely day!

  3. I love bricadeiros!! I grow up with mom making these sweets but I seldom make it. They are wonderful. Thank you for bringing great memories. Merry Christmas!!

    1. Oh! I'm glad you enjoyed them! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

  4. Fantastic Amy! your recipe looks very healthy and yummy. I like creamy chocolate and even most of the members of my family love it. Thanks for sharing and merry Christmas