Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Robert Steinberg

Robert Steinberg, the San Francisco physician whose own diagnosis of lymphocytic leukemia propelled him into the chocolate business (and eventually into founding Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker with John Scharffenberger in the 1990s), died this week.

In the 2006 cookbook The Essence of Chocolate, Steinberg wrote that
Since we began Scharffen Berger, I've received many letters from people who are coping with an illness of some sort. Whenever I can, I write back. Many of the letters praise my openness about my leukemia as "courageous." But I don't see myself as courageous. Cancer is such a charged topic in our society, it's easy for an illness to become sort of a dynamic event, but not very easy to shrug off the kind of stigma we assign people with cancer. To talk openly about my illness is simply to talk about an integral part of my being. It's kind of hard for me to imagine trying to direct a conversation away from the topic without being closed and mysterious in a way that is foreign to my sense of self. Being open about my leukemia also lets me acknowledge what I know for sure from my years of practicing medicine: every one of us has challenges to face. The deeply felt and beautifully written letters that have been sent to me connect me to people in an unusually personal way. For those who have asked me how to approach life with an illness, I can say this: there are no useful generalizations, but to the extent that your illness and life circumstances allow, try to be yourself and understand that in accepting who you are, you are likely to become more accepting of others. It may not be readily apparent, but that sort of compassion is a reward in itself.

In a tribute on the Scharffen Berger website today, John Scharffenberger wrote that
The chocolate world has lost a great visionary, and I lost a good friend.

I met Robert Steinberg as a friend and neighbor in Mendocino County. It was later, however, as his patient, that I came to recognize his focused and thoughtful intellect. These powers of analysis and investigation set him apart from any doctor that I had encountered and became the basis of my absolute trust in his judgment and taste.

Among many others, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, and Serious Eats have run obituaries.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Emily, you have a really fascinating chocolate blog! I have one myself and sometimes it gets to be a bit fattening...yours is truly educational though!
Thanks for posting,

3:37 AM GMT-5  

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