Chocolate is a rich, tasty indulgence that I perceived to be universal. However, this week I learned that chocolate is not universal, it is a luxury and surprisingly the very people extracting the raw cacao have not been given access. In lecture 7, we watched a video of cacao farmers in the Ivory Coast that has never tasted chocolate. In fact, they did not know it existed, one man even suspected the beans were used to make wine. It is hard to imagine that their years of hard labor have been to harvest a product that is a complete mystery to them. When they finally tasting the fruits of their labor, their expressions were delighted and surprised. The taste that we are so familiar with, was completely new to these farmers. In contrast, they are accustomed to cutting open orange and yellow pods with machetes to extract the beans. The beans are then dried and fermented before selling.
In a contemplative practice, our class had the opportunity to eat both cacao and chocolate, in that order. I didn’t expect the cacao to taste like chocolate, but I wasn’t prepared for just how bitter and dry it was.
This contemplative practice was eye-opening because in my daily life, I never stop to think about who made the food in my mouth, the clothes on my back, or the phone in my hand. For example, many of the cacao beans were farmed in the Ivory Coast by children. These are children who may not get an education because they are being forced to work in hazardous conditions. These disparities show the importance of recognizing the value and privilege that comes with living in a developed nation. With this privilege comes greater opportunities and more luxuries (like chocolate).