There is a little shop on Wells Street in Old Town--a little shop called Catering/Chocolate-- where you can press your nose to the window and "ooh" at its contents: gingerbread men, cookie trees, chocolate treats, holiday houses, and a little heart that says, "For Larry". Inside, you can find more wonderful things to "ooh" at. Like English goat butter, from St. Helena's Farm the flavor of which is indescribably delicious. Like A L'Olivier's vinegars: passion fruit, tomato, mango, cassis, raspberry and fig-- that transform any salad into an epicurean experience. Like baguettes and brioches from the ovens of master baker Lucas Tashey that would rival those in any French boulangerie. Like the P'tit Basque sheep's milk cheese that neighbor Jacqui Thams declares to be magnifique. Like Edmond Fallot's award- winning mustards and the Vindaloo chutneys. Like--well, you get the idea. And, up until a month ago, you could find Larry Taylor. But Larry isn't there anymore.
Larry was a character--but he was our character. It was easy to love Larry, not always so easy to like him because he could be, well, prickly. If you took too long to make a decision, he left you flat. If you questioned the price of an item, he gave you "that look". If you caught him when he was out of sorts, he would stare through you as though there were air where you stood.
On the other hand, he had so many good qualities you forgave him all those little things. First off, you should know, Larry was a great cook, but more than that, he understood food. If you needed to know how to turn a simple sauteed chicken into a memorable meal, you asked Larry. If you needed to know the temperature at which to bake anything, you asked Larry. If you needed the best cheese to serve discriminating guests, you asked Larry. I remember tasting one of the cheeses he recommended and all I could say was, "Oh, My God!" After that, when I went in and asked for "Oh, My God", he knew exactly what I wanted.
"Oh My God" wasn't limited to cheese. A few years ago, Larry put a tin of Sarabeth's Hot Chocolate Parisienne in my hand. When I took it home and tried it, I was transported to Angelina's on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris where tourists and Parisians alike flock to drink hot chocoate so thick you have to spoon it out of the cup."Oh My God"!
On another occasion, he sold me a jar of Seville orange honey, knowing that I hate honey. Still Larry recommended it, so I bought it. I became such a convert that now, I can't drink tea without a generous dose of orange honey. "Oh My God!"
And then, there were those chocolatey, caramelly, nutty cookies he pressed on me, knowing if I ate them they would have to widen doorways to let me through (he, of course, did not eat them for fear of gaining weight), "Oh My God!"
Now, Larry is gone. He left us on October 24 of this year. He was fifty years old.It's hard for me to accept that I can no longer dash into the shop and ask for a tray of cookies to be assembled while I wait. I can't point to a tray of jicama salad and ask for "some". Larry had an amazing knack for knowing just how much "some" was. And I can't go in and dish the dirt on who was doing what in the neighborhood. No one could dish dirt better than Larry.
Others will miss different things about Larry. His artistic abilities (one neighbor has purchased eight of his paintings, and he personally went over to help her hang them, and Jay has "Larry" paintings all around the shop). His sense of humor. His love of music. His devotion to his little Chihuahua Tina. His generous spirit. The twinkle in his eye. His addition to junk food, like Hostess mini powdered sugar doughnuts and vanilla-flavored instant coffee (well, nobody's perfect). I will miss all of these things about Larry. But Jay Shindler put it best. "We will miss our friend".
So, next time you find yourself on the 1700 block of North Wells Street, pop into Catering/Chocolate. Ask for "Oh, My God", and see what happens.
Filed under: Living in Interesting Times