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A Bureaucrat Triumphs and a Little Bit of Chicago Dies

Expanded ArchitectureChicago Plus posting from November 28th , 2005 


And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?” - Marcel Proust, in à La Recherche du Temps Perdu on his encounter with a madeleine.

For as long as anyone remembers, one of the great unexpected pleasures of living or working on the periphery of Chicago's Loop was the strong aroma of chocolate suddenly wafting mysteriously through the air. Now, this singular delight is about to meet a brutish end. The countless many who loved it have been outnumbered by a disdainful one, slithering furtively to the EPA with a formal complaint against the scentgiver, the Blommer Chocolate Company, which has been processing cocoa beans in its Kinzie Street factory for sixty-six years. With singular and relentless obtuseness, the EPA has now put the strong-arm on Blommer to protect the "children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases" from the pernicious effects of inhaling cocoa dust, by installing equipment that will banish it from the air forever. What's next? Putting the screws to bakeries to eliminate whatever particulate produces the aroma of fresh-baked bread?

In reply, I can only paraphrase the response to the mania of another bureaucracy, the FDA, as it "protects" us from the supposed peril of prescription drugs imported from Canada, "Show me the dead chocolate sniffers." Show me the helpless urchins, wheezing invalids and lovable grandmothers brought low by Blommer's romantic emissions. I suggest to you, sir, that you cannot, because they do not exist. Old, young or infirm, place any of them within the power of that sweetly dense scent, and I submit you will witness neither consternation nor concern, but only an unforced smile.

Six decades of pleasure, gone in an instant via a desk jockey's decree, the long, cold winter hard upon us, and aromatic respite snatched away, never to return. It's almost enough to turn one into a libertarian.


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© Copyright 2005 Lynn Becker All rights reserved.