Flooded! World's Best Car--and Great Chocolate

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I write several hours after becoming the distinctly un-proud owner of a car much bigger, nicer, and in better shape than I want or deserve. I have long been a smug reverse car snob, defending my 1990 Acura Integra against all who would point to its alarming dents and rust; who would be stunned into silence when they got in after waving away my cheerful disclaimers that it was a combination locker room and newsstand, and then pray for the trip to end soon; or simply say straight out, as my brother did after a trip from Maine to Boston, "You have the single most uncomfortable car I have ever driven in."

Yet I loved it with irrational devotion, and with the sort of constant, necessary, and very expensive maintenance that my trusty Jamaica Plain garage assured me was, in fact, rational. (Boston is not the land of good or careful drivers; it makes no sense to have a good car here.) Neither slow nor sleet nor a notoriously steep length of I-84 I later learned was called Heartbreak Hill could fell it.

Until a violent cloudburst last Saturday, when I rode to the rescue of my extremely wet spouse, whom I'd left at our regular Saturday afternoon stop for Clear Flour Bread. A single attempt to restart my car after it stalled in a sudden, unseen torrent was enough to wreck my engine forever. Or so I learned after a day of trying to dry out the car in a helpfully baking sun. The AAA tow-truck driver, hearing the same single angry click I had heard when I tried to start the car every few hours, looked up at me with the gravity of a doctor called to the scene too late. "I'm sorry," he said.

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Wikimedia Commons

I had no time to perform the ceremony I wished to before it was carted to the glue factory—I was teaching all week at the Columbia Publishing Course—but I certainly wished for one appropriate to losing a part of oneself. (Here's a picture of a similar Acura; you'll have to imagine character-giving dents, and the jauntily elegant wire hanger bent into a perfect diamond shape that served as the antenna.)

Any thoughts on what would have been the correct observance? In a season of sudden, destructive floods in many parts of the country, they'll be of use to my many fellow heartbreak sufferers. Clear Flour Bakery itself watched the water almost reach its front door, something it had never seen in its many years in the same building. And Somerville, across the Charles River, was hit much worse. A Clear Flour worker in the bakery returned to find that the cars in her street had all spent the afternoon seat-deep in water and raw sewage; she was luckier than the people stuck in torrents so deep they had to climb onto their car roofs and await rescue.

Somerville is also the home of our own artisan bean-to-bar chocolatiers at Taza Chocolate, who use old equipment and very old methods to make powerfully flavored, rough-hewn chocolate—the kind I prefer. One of the chocolate makers came to check on the newly renovated first-floor factory at precisely the moment I was riding to the rescue, and found water pouring in from above and below. Here's an account of the flood from Taza's blog; here's video of our contributor Alex Whitmore recounting what he found and showing scenes depressingly familiar to anyone flooded recently or, as we were, last spring; and here's a story from the Globe on the damage done.

All to say: buy some Taza chocolate now! Order from its online store. Start with any of the stone-ground chocolate bars, graduate to the wonderfully rough-textured chocolate Mexicano disks (my favorites are cacao puro and vanilla bean, but I see there's a new salted almond variety I'll have to try), and stock up on chocolate-covered nibs and almonds, which make ideal gifts. This can help make the difference to the survival of a local company that should certainly flourish for a long time. And, now that I've looked at the list of farmers' markets where Taza sells its chocolates, I know where I want the second trip in my new car—the first was to Clear Flour, obeying my spouse's instructions to "get back on the horse"—to be.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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