I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate. I mean, I’ll eat it, for sure, and quite happily. But given the choice, I’ll go for a salty snack over a sweet one every time.
Or I would. Until Peace by Chocolate came along.
Peace by Chocolate is a company in Antigonish, Nova Scotia that was begun by the Hadhads, a Syrian family who came to Canada as refugees a few years back. Their journey is a remarkable story, and like many Canadians, especially Nova Scotians, I’ve become quite enamored. Between that and my being such a supporter of buying local, it was a no brainer that sometimes when I was looking for a snack, I’d get one of their chocolate bars instead of a bag of chips. At first, I’d pick up the occasional bar at the grocery story, but as time went on, my purchases became less occasional, and I began mailing them to a friend here or there from time to time.
But I’m well beyond that, now. Now Ron and I hop in the car and make the 200km drive to their shop in Antigonish. Which, by the way, is the sweetest little place in more ways than simply being stuffed full of chocolate.
Armed with a list of names, I have a ludicrous amount of fun finding just the right product for each recipient. Friends who have moved away from Nova Scotia will get a little taste of home with a bar featuring an east coast saying. LGBTQ+ friends, and our allies, might get a Pride bar. Boxes of individual chocolates are my first choice both for families, and for friends I know love to share. A friend’s going through a rough time? That calls for a Resilience bar. When it comes to Ron, type outweighs theme, so he gets rewarded for his patience – he waits in the car due to the pandemic – with some dark chocolate. And while I like to try something different every visit, I always seem to end up with a Peace bar in my bag – usually the one with peace written on it in Arabic, because I find the script beautiful – for the drive home.
Of course, the fun doesn’t end there. I never know what’s going to happen once everything’s in the mail and friends start receiving their parcels. There are lots of smiles, of course, and some photos as well. And there’s the occasional hilarious story, like when I bought Nitap bars for a family of four, which includes two young children. I chose the bars for several reasons. They’re charitable, with proceeds going to Mi’kmaw initiatives, which I knew the parents would appreciate. The word Nitap means ‘friend’ in Mi’kmaw, which I thought would be a nice thing for the kids to learn. And I was able to get some individuality – four different flavours with four different colours of packaging – while also getting enough sameness in terms of size and design that it would hopefully preclude any arguments over who got what bar.
The kids, of course, still managed to find an angle I hadn’t covered, as relayed to me by their father:
Not all the responses are so funny, though. Some of them are touchingly sweet, like when a friend to whom I’d sent a Resilience bar messaged me this:
Now, I don’t send these parcels out expecting anything in return. Much as I love the messages and photos, all I really want is to hopefully brighten someone’s day. (Although, to be fair, any reason for a road trip brightens my day.) That being said, not gonna lie, I was insanely curious.
And then my Perttu Kivilaakso mug arrived.
For the next few mornings, when I got home from work, I’d enjoy a hot chocolate – with perhaps a splash of Amaretto – in my new mug, and read the story of the Hadhad family before bed. I couldn’t help but smile at these words:
They did not make chocolate, but happiness.
They got that right. Although they make pretty yummy chocolate, too.
Hmmm … Perhaps it’s time for another road trip.