As an athlete, sitting through lecture your mind wanders normally to food and especially when the topic is about food. Lecture began like most do. The clock strikes 12 and the first thought that enters my mind is whats for lunch? I will need something to help my body recover from the mornings rowing session and something that will help prepare my body for the afternoons session.
I feel my aching muscles and my stomach growls. As class winds down my attention in attuned to the contemplative practice introduced to the class. As the cups of cacao nubs and chocolate bars are passed around the room. Childlike, I am curious about trying pure chocolate right from the source. Before I have either the product or its derivative in my mouth I am anticipating its sweet taste melting in my mouth. “Ok chris” I thought anecdotally “if it were a ham sandwich being handed out you would be just as excited to eat that too.”
Quizzically, the nubs of cacao I had been so excited to eat at first, sat in my mouth like tart pebbles. When crushed by my teeth, they didn’t give off the pleasant taste or sweetness you taste when you eat milk chocolate and it was chalky.
My mind is brought back to the video we watch a few minutes before where workers try chocolate the cacao plantation for the first time. Their first reaction is “wow its nice!”. Now this is not my first rodeo but in spirit of trying to recreate my first time eating chocolate, I paused. Instead of devouring the piece I held in my hand, I smelled it then took a small bite. The dark chocolate sat in my mouth and I tried to recreate that novelty. As it melted I began to taste a much more enjoyable flavor than I had tasted in the dried cacao beans. Almost as if there was some history that brought that taste to my mouth.
Many Americans see food as a source of nutrition and Pollan attributes this to the rise of nutritionism where food is simplified into calories from fat, carbs and protein. This contemplative practice gave me an opportunity to actually enjoy the sweetness and pleasant aroma of the chocolate bar. Like many Americans, I consider food as a way to fuel my body and relive that aching sensation in my stomach that I described earlier. The mild hunger I am describing would not compare to the sensation of hunger billions of people on this planet feel every day. I think there is a disconnect here especially when it comes to chocolate because the people who laboriously farm the stuff have never enjoyed its end product.