VERDE VALLEY - She eats chocolate. She drinks chocolate. She even dances to the idea of chocolate.
She calls herself the Chocolate Lady. As far back as she can recall, Lee Perrotta-Fityo has had a love affair with chocolate. One that doesn't make her husband the least bit jealous.
"In the beginning, my world is chocolate," the Cottonwood chocolatier says. "My life literally breathes it. It's in my blood. I can't live without it."
Perrotta-Fityo's passion for chocolate, she says, is the perfect accompaniment to be shared by lovers on Valentine's Day. Chocolate, she also says, can provide wealth.
"When your parents told you that money doesn't grow on trees, they lied to you," she says. "Chocolate is a commodity and it's on the stock exchange."
Most people have a favorite type of chocolate. Some prefer milk. Others, dark. Some like their chocolate with nuts. Others, plain. Perrotta-Fityo has no favorite.
"I don't discriminate," she says. "I love all chocolate."
She also loves to watch people eat chocolate. Perrotta-Fityo enjoys "teaching, sharing and creating flavor profiles" with chocolate.
"Creamy, crunchy, smooth, gritty, when the flavor profile meets the mouth, the love child is symphonic," she says.
It's the "happiness business" that Perrotta-Fityo is in, she says, lamenting a recent discovery that "one in 37 1/4 people don't like chocolate."
With an artist's background, Perrotta-Fityo even paints edible colors onto a canvas of white chocolate to create her own personal artistic pieces. Art - and chocolate, she says, transcend all languages.
"Chocolates are art - and they are edible," she says. Chocolate melts, and it morphs. Chocolate speaks its own language. It melts on your tongue. It starts a chain reaction of things going on in your body. The physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of chocolate."
Perrotta-Fityo says there isn't a best way to pick chocolate for Valentine's Day, because everyone's tastes are so different. Oftentimes, she says, the picker ends up choosing half the box based on the tastes of the recipient - and the other half is what the giver likes.
Perrotta-Fityo first fell in love with Valentine's Day when her mother once gave her a tiny box - with chocolate.
"First one I remember, I was in the backseat of her 1974 candy apple red Toyota Celica," she says. "She gave me a little foil heart, and then she gave me one every year. It was shiny, sparkly, crispy from the red cellophane. I'd hold up the red cello and look at the world with red cello eyes."
"It really molded me into who I am."
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and on Facebook at @CampVerdeBugle