There are many ways to say I love you and throughout history one of the most favorite ways has been with chocolate. It can be said with great confidence and ease that nearly every love letter written could be sung to a bar of chocolate. In fact I would venture to say that Emma Lazarus laid her best words at the feet of a woman whose call to the world sounds very much like the sounds from the chocolate bars and stashes of chocolate cookies in my cupboard calling to me on rainy Saturdays. Whether you like chocolate or not (and there is a growing cult of the anti- chocolate, I have seen them) there is a social indoctrination, a soft hum, a sweet scent, dense melting nostalgia of chocolate as the go to food of love and happiness.
Last week was Chocolate Week in London U.K. and it got me thinking about chocolate and me. Chocolate powered my childhood; it was my joy delivery system. I ate so much chocolate…. everything. Chocolate ice cream. Chocolate cake. Chocolate cookies. Chocolate chip brownies. Oh sweet chocolate happiness. Memories of me dancing in a field and making wishes with dandelions as I eat chocolate cover the walls of my youth. In my small chocolate colored eyes the world was because there was chocolate.
At some point this changed not in a dated but a gradual way, the change melted chocolate for me. When it happened I stopped eating chocolate immediately for nearly twenty years; a miserable divorce indeed.
The genesis of this change was my mother. In a full moment, she moved my practical application of chocolate as kid crack into the theoretical notion of chocolate as simple regenerative pleasure. My mother paid great honor to the belief that a bath and quiet will restore. Her meditative crime was eating Dove chocolate during a long soak while reading a trashy novel. This was my introduction to kid vs. adult as a type of chocolate.
While this was great for her, it created for me the concept that I was not having a full chocolate experience. Yes, at eleven a true concern, a full chocolate experience. This dear friends was the divorce. I began to collect and catalog all the conversations that I had ever heard about chocolate. The social games, the historic legends: Chocolate’s romantic iconography and I grew disgusted. Questions like: if chocolate is an aphrodisiac why do we stuff it in the mouths of babes? Was chocolate supposed to be spicy or sweet? Where was chocolate born? Was the legend of chocolate as beer true? Many facts about chocolate turned out to be myth but I was still intrigued. My curiosity grew.
During this cocoa velvety divorce what I learned about chocolate was that this vegetable, this legume had variety and strata like wine, that there were strains of chocolate as varied as the family primate. That species of chocolate Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario were all different in taste, smell, mouth feel, pod color. Chocolate was more that the skin it was in.
Here is the science behind chocolate: reduces the risk of diabetes, increases brain blood flow, contains the compound pentameric procyanidin which upsets cancers capacity to spread, linked to endorphins (feel good chemicals), serotonin, (feel relaxed chemicals) and Harvard discovered in 2008, that eating chocolate actually adds two years to your life expectancy. Jeanne Louise Calment, said to be the oldest person in recorded history lived to the age of 122 and ate two and a half pounds of dark chocolate per week.
The more I looked, the more I also discovered the art behind chocolate. Stories worthy of flashlights and bed sheet forts, the Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundy, Dan Brown stories of intrigue about the adventures of the amelonado strain trekking in the 1880’s across the world on a quest to diversify cocoa crops and protect against a chocolate shortage due to disease and how it is now vibrantly on the rise.
I read stories of farmers with heirloom and wild beans who could not even imagine magical places their chocolate would see or could even suppose what their chocolate would become. I read about children stolen, some kidnapped, all beaten to work as slaves on chocolate plantations discovered picking chocolate for companies like and including Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle.
I read stories that called to me about chocolate, forcing new eyes to open. This is how it went for nearly two decades, reading, learning, discovering and falling back into love. This new world view of chocolate made me new. And so… my life and to some degree my love became chocolate.
As with most new vibrant love, we tend to be evangelical. I was not different. There are regular chocolate services with preaching, dancing and singing. I want to shout it from the rooftops, sing it in the rain. When I considered creating a store, I knew my why, I knew my what but not the how. While I thought I found an investor, they pulled out ten days before the store was due to open and I was left with a space, some chocolate and a dream. I was lucky to have protected my research and a bit of cash tucked away to protect my dream. My dream was and is to change our personal and collective experience with chocolate. To see chocolate for what it was meant to be.
My chocolate, the chocolate I sell, is amazing and challenging the impression of chocolate as candy and as novel treat. It sings, this chocolate and demands, to be seen as how it truly is more than s’mores, chocolate chip cookies or as ribbons of chocolate syrup sinking into milk at grandma’s house.
It is time to treasure chocolate with wine, with popcorn, with beer, with olives, with fruit, with peppers, with moonlight, with kisses, with graham crackers and fire, with eyes closed head tilted back sweeping away drama, chocolate wants to be the amazing thing it was created to be. Chocolate wants to be more than Clark Kent. It wants to take off its glasses and be seen, really seen as being this amazing thing. Chocolate deserves it.
And in some way, isn’t this what we all or may be some of us? Our moment in time, a moment to be seen as the best we can be.