CHOCOLATE MAKES ME FEEL GOOOD!
Why do you consume chocolate? To satisfy a craving? To celebrate a special occasion? To console a broken heart? To inspire creativity?
The word “chocolate” and the context of one’s experiences with it can bring forth a lot of memories or emotions. Like many people, I have decades of experience with the enjoyment of chocolate treats. Now that I am on a personal chocolate journey, I feel like I have studied the topic of chocolate quite extensively, and yet I know nothing at all. I am not trying to be an armchair psychologist, but knowing what I now do about chocolate, I have to ask myself and others, when you hear the word “chocolate”, how does it make you feel? Happy? Curious? Nostalgic? Full of excitement?
When I hear the word “chocolate”, I have several emotions that come in to play. I feel gratitude that such a beautiful and delicious and versatile medium exists that is available in a number of edible forms – candy, cakes, tarts, fudge, ice cream, pies, muffins, breads, brownies, ganache, protein bars, and so forth – and even for drinking. Better yet, I can buy chocolate in its raw form and create delicious and often beautiful foods not readily found at the local grocer. Moreover – I could buy the fermented cacao beans, have them shipped from Africa, Asia, or South America, and make – from scratch – the chocolate to be used in my recipes (not quite there yet – but the point is that I could).
Because the taste of chocolate is so complimentary with so many other flavors – most anyone can see that the possibilities it offers as a medium for cooking and eating are absolutely mind blowing!
I also feel excitement when I hear the word “chocolate”, because whenever I present someone with a Baobab Chocolate Factory business card, I know that we may have some common ground on which to start a lively conversation – whether they hate chocolate or love it! As one of those “engineering” types who also loves to socialize, chocolate gives me a reason to go out into the public to meet, greet, and network with other people. For this reason alone, chocolate has brought a level of fun into my life that was sorely missing.
I grew up in a rural area of the southern United States, raised by parents who were organic gardening enthusiasts and food artisans in their own right. We had our share of delicious, maybe not so healthy, snack options too. When I was around four years old there was a nice woman who owned a nearby convenience store. For some odd reason, she would break with protocol, allowing me to walk behind the counter to pick out whatever candy I wanted my mom to buy. My older siblings gawked at this “event” with amazement, as it would unfold several times until I got older.
In addition, when I was “knee high to a duck”, I’ve heard that I would readily push a chair to the kitchen countertop so that I could get to eye level and help my mom make a cake. When I turned five or six years old, I remember making a special request for a big ‘ole chocolate cake with blue icing. Mom crafted the cake with a whole lot of love, and then she, Dad, and my siblings presented it to me with lighted candles and a rendition of the traditional birthday song right after dinner. Believe me, it was a great experience from growing up that I hope to never forget. I mean seriously – what could be better than having a special request like that fulfilled on your birthday – with homemade chocolate cake, icing just the way I wanted it, and topped off with vanilla ice cream and a song – and I got to blow out the candles! Wow!
Fast forward about a half-century when I received a mysterious and unexpected “light a fire under his butt” type of phone call from one of my B-school cronies. She called me to offer her condolences regarding my father’s recent passing – then let’s just say that she gave me a motivational pep talk.
Oh, she was sweet about it – reminding me that she had tasted my father’s homemade wild muscadine grape wine, as well as my mother’s handcrafted wild plum jelly and pear preserves. Yep, I went into deep thought for several days after that phone call. Ultimately, I decided that she was right. I needed to have something more going on in life that would bring joy to me and to others.
I realize that it may seem a bit cliché, but one morning the idea of my using chocolate as medium to bring smiles to the faces of others (and me) literally fell out of the sky and hit my head like a rock. I hopped out of bed, wide-eyed like the Bilbo Baggins character in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” movie, proclaiming to anyone who would listen to me: “I’m going on an adventure!”
Since then, I have approached the study of chocolate with the seriousness of a dissertation project; and so far, it been a journey that I have no regret for pursuing.
But as much as I love writing or conversing about chocolate; eating and drinking treats made from it; or making confections from scratch that are delicious (and sometimes nutritious) – using chocolate takes time and energy, and can be quite messy.
Just thinking about it takes me back to the wonder years. Then, it was just me, Volume 11 of the Childcraft book series “Make and Do” that my great aunt had given me, and countryside full of possibilities. Who knew what I might conjure from a bunch of raw materials. Back then, no matter what I had whipped up, the creation of a “make and do” masterpiece had also resulted in what some would deem “a grand mess”! Yes, a mess! But ignore all of that and just admire my latest masterpiece (ha ha!).
So now, whenever, I “stir something up” in the kitchen, I try to be efficient about my work, and clean as I go. More often than not, there is still a small “mess” of sorts left behind, and I ask, how could that happen – again? The more things change…
I am on a serious and personal chocolate “adventure”, and I could write endlessly about my chocolate-based stories. What about you? When you hear the word “chocolate”, what does it make you think of, and how does it make you feel?