I have many loves in life: great food, amazing stories, provocative movies, libraries, (ahem) writing, rockin’ friends, adventures, awesome daydreams about possible romantic love sequences I would like to have happen at some point in my life…- but none supersede my love of two things…. These two things are toward the top of my list of being the things I cannot live without. They are my healthy obsessions (although maybe sometimes maybe not so healthy…). Music and chocolate.
Music is life- it’s the rythym in which I move my feet and brush my teeth. It’s the beat to which this post was typed. Chocolate is, well…. it is calming, it is creamy, and it is… gosh I ran out of another c word, so I will just go with AMAZING. Anyway, the two are my best friends, and it got me to thinking about these best friends. Specifically chocolate.
I took the title of this blog from a movie, in which a “friend” does something not so friendly which leads to a scandal. It’s super intense and provocative. As you read above, I enjoy provocative movies. But in this case, chocolate has never done anything scandalous….or has it?
Chocolate has a rich history (pun intended). Discovered first in Central South America where the Mesoamericans drank it and hailed it as a sacred drink from the Gods- there it was taken and moved to Spain where they did some amazing advances with the cacao bean. Not so long after, it spread around Europe and everyone wanted a piece of chocolate. The industrial revolution brought on the machinery for conching and ultimately making smooth creamy solid chocolate….yum.
So chocolate does this- first it’s harvested (picked, fermented, dried out in the sun), and then sold to manufacturers, and therein lies the problem. Labor- fair or unfair? Believe me harvesting is labor intensive. You don’t want to know how unfair the harvesting of my best friend is- many companies have been sued. Moving on, they go through a process in machinery. They are cleaned, sorted, roasted, winnowed (cracked open, fanned away into sleeves thus called winnowed) the cacao nibs are ground (this is where cacao becomes cocoa, and chocolate liquor is formed), cocoa butter is extracted (cocoa powder is made at this stage, and white “chocolate” can be made) then it becomes chocolate liquor with some additives like sugar and milk product. Next it is refined, yummier chocolates like Lindt are refined longer, and then conched (the refined chocolate is put in a vat, ground and agitated so that the sugars. milk, lecithin is mellowed out into a well rounded flavor). Another FYI- conching takes sometimes up to a week to complete.
When a pastry chef, like myself, gets her hands on this chocolate, she is going to do something great. For instance, she may temper it…. that means heating chocolate to its warmest melted point, then cooling it down repeatedly while she makes chocolaty confections. Sounds magical right? Oh I wish it were. But the truffles she makes with that tempered chocolate are…
Too much chocolate info? Well I say you should know your best friend, and favorite treat better than your enemy- fake chocolate.
Chocolate is a labor of love, and in the past that love was exploited. But when hasn’t something we loved came from a source that was corrupt and unethical? So many times it’s hard to count. But we are getting better, at least I hope we are! I will say this- purchase free trade chocolate because then you know that it was made slave-free.
For any of you, like myself, Lindt is my favorite chocolate and after some research I found out that it does not purchase chocolate from the Ivory Coast, where there are a lot of issues with child labor and slavery. But beware of some of your favorite chocolates- they commission their chocolate from some unsavory (pun again intended) places, and that’s so not cool.
So this is the end for this week- the first post of April, and I’m feeling pretty good about this month. You know how I love food- so if you have any foods that you want me to talk about you let me know!
Thanks to all of you for reading my posts, for the comments, and for the support. It has been most inspiring to hear from you all. Without getting overly emotional, I’ll say this- you guys make me one happy writer indeed.
Until next time, XOXO (still stolen from GG)