I found my true calling in life at the 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2004.
I consider most work-related travel a chore, but this trip was different. The conference was the final event of a high-profile project I’d been immersed in for years. It was an opportunity to show off some work I was truly proud of. And it was three blocks away from the Five Senses Bakery, home of the Chocolate Sparkle Cookie.
I first encountered the Chocolate Sparkle Cookie in 2002, when I saw an unusual recipe in the Los Angeles Times. I decided to try it. The first bite of the first cookie of the first batch changed my life forever.
If you’ve ever had a Chocolate Sparkle Cookie, you know what I’m talking about. If not – well, I’ll try to explain. I was once like you. I thought I knew how good a cookie could be. I was wrong. The Chocolate Sparkle Cookie was better than that. It was impossibly good. It was rich and soft and chocolaty. If chocolate intensity were measured on a scale of 1 to 10, this cookie’s intensity would be infinity. If cookies were cars, the Chocolate Sparkle Cookie would be the DeLorean from Back to the Future. If cookies were amphibians, the Chocolate Sparkle Cookie would be the kind of frog that grants wishes.
The LA Times credited the recipe to the Five Senses Bakery. I vowed that I would go there one day. Two years later, I was sent to a conference three blocks away. It was fate.
I landed in Vancouver late on a Saturday night. The Canadian immigration officer seemed unusually suspicious. He kept asking about the reason for my trip. I told him I was attending an earthquake engineering conference. I didn’t say that this was my pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Chocolate Sparkle Cookie. I think he could tell I was hiding something.
Sunday morning, I walked to the Five Senses Bakery – and discovered it was closed on Sundays. I was depressed. I went back at the crack of dawn on Monday – and found that it was closed for “British Columbia Day.” I’d never even heard of this holiday. I was despondent. I went to bed early Monday night. Outside my window, I heard fireworks. It was like they were mocking me, celebrating a holiday that separated me from the one thing I loved more than anything else in the world. I fell into deep despair.
I managed to drag myself out of bed and to the bakery Tuesday morning. It was open! My heart filled with joy. I handed my empty backpack to the woman behind the counter and asked her to fill it with Chocolate Sparkle Cookies. I wound up with three dozen, which was all they had.
I practically inhaled the first cookie. I took my time with the second. It had the same intense chocolate flavor as the ones I made at home, but the texture was a little smoother, a little more melt-in-your-mouth. The recipe calls for ground almonds in place of flour; the bakery must have ground their almonds more finely than mine. Or maybe they used magic fairy dust instead.
I shared the rest of the cookies with my colleagues back at the conference. As I looked at each person’s face as they took that first bite, I realized that introducing people to these cookies was the most rewarding thing I’d ever done. That’s when it hit me: I was born to be a choco-vangelist.
So please, try these cookies. Don’t worry. I won’t judge you. I’m not some crazy cookie fundamentalist. I accept the fact that some people don’t appreciate the Cookie. I don’t hate these people; I pity them. My niece likes my sister’s black-bottom cupcakes better than the Cookie. Can you believe that? I admit, those cupcakes are really good – they’re responsible for at least six of the eight pounds I gained over Thanksgiving – but they don’t compare to the Cookie. Cookie-impaired people like my niece deserve our tolerance.
But tolerance has its limits. Some people refuse to even try the Cookie. Like my ex-friend Steve, who made some lame excuse about the almonds triggering his severe nut allergy. How is this a problem? He carries an epi-pen and lives five minutes away from a hospital. A near-death experience is a small price to pay for the bliss of the Cookie.
Sorry, I seem to have gone off on a tangent. To answer your question: yes, 7:15 is a little early, and I apologize for waking you. But I work during the week, and Sunday mornings are the only time I’m free to go door-to-door, so I like to get an early start.
So please, try a Chocolate Sparkle Cookie. It’ll change your life.
Chocolate Sparkle Cookies were created by Thomas Haas at the Sen5es Bakery in Vancouver. They and he have since moved to Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie. The recipe can be found here — I follow it exactly as written except that I don’t sprinkle it with powdered sugar at the end.