When I was a kid, I read a book that will always stay with me. I don't remember the name of the book, but it was set in Europe during World War II. Food was rationed, and chocolate was unavailable to most people. One of the kids in the book was given a chocolate bar. She and her friends hid the chocolate bar in a cave, and they would visit the cave occasionally to taste the valuable candy. Each child would lick his finger and place it on the chocolate bar, then lick the chocolate off his finger. They wanted to make their precious treat last as long as possible.
Growing up, I had a corner store around the block I that could walk to and plunk down my exact change on the counter. I could walk out with a candy bar without the store owner even looking at me (he was a miserable grump and didn't want to deal with kids; but he didn't mind our money). Although the book was fiction, I realized the chocolate scene could have really happened during the war, and it made me appreciate how fortunate I was.
I think about that part of the book often when I'm eating chocolate, and I thought of it today when I saw a video on Sploid of Ivory Coast cocoa farmers trying chocolate for the first time. In all their years of harvesting cocoa beans, they had never tasted chocolate. They didn't even know that chocolate was what the cocoa beans were farmed for — and they were skeptical. They thought the beans were used in wine.
I love the reaction on their faces when they taste the chocolate bar for the first time. They can't believe it's so sweet. The beans by themselves are not sweet at all. The comment that one of them makes, "This is why the white people are so healthy," is funny and ironic. (As we all know, when chocolate becomes a daily food instead of a once-in-a-while treat, it's not healthy at all.)
I agree with Jesus Diaz, the writer of the Sploid piece, who says this video is a "stark reminder of how amazingly lucky we are."
For us westerners, chocolate is just one more thing. It's inconsequential. We like to eat it, sometimes we get delighted by it for a minute. But more often than not, it's just one more snack to stuff our fat faces with. We don't think about it and the incredible effort and resources that are required to make it. We take it for granted along with the other billion foods and the other billion other technologies and privileges we didn't fight for.
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