I’ve never met a person who was without a vice — or ten.
We like to believe we are good people. We like to think our choices — many so deliberately made — are righteous; that they serve a good greater than our own. I like to think even in seeking pleasure we can refrain from causing pain in its myriad forms.
I love chocolate. In bars, truffles, balls, chips, crumbles, shavings, drinks. In milk and dark — especially dark. Infused with pear, orange, apple, chili pepper. Chocolate is now and always has been my guilty pleasure. I like to top it with a dollop of freshly ground peanut butter, to coat a peppermint stick with it and stir it through my morning espresso.
It seems, this time of year, there is no shortage of that which brings me culinary pleasure. It lends its rich decadence nicely to the season’s other traditional flavors and scents. Its simple beauty makes for a perfect hostess gift; a gorgeous display.
Surrounded by the twinkle of lights, the sounds of laughter; shared in bites between friends and family under the umbrella of joyous conversation. Chocolate is universal. Chocolate, displayed on platters and melted in mouths never gives indication of the much darker source from which it is all too often derived.
Once native to the Americas, once revered as a monetary unit greater than gold, most of the world’s cacao is now grown on the Ivory Coast. Much of the Ivory Coast’s labor is carried out by slaves. Many of those slaves are children. Much of the world’s chocolate is produced, even if indirectly, by the enslavement of children.
Long overshadowed by its bigger sister in the fight for fair trade, coffee, too many consumers know naught of the evils that saturate the chocolate industry. The slavery, the ravishing of forests, the unfair wage distribution.
This year, before you enjoy a piece of fudge, a mocha, a hot cocoa with marshmallows on top, give a little thought to where the chocolate you’re consuming comes from. Is it from the Ivory Coast or another slavery ridden region? Has it been produced for your consumption at a mighty social and environmental cost?
More importantly, next time choose organic, fair trade chocolate products instead. The product will likely be better quality, the labor performed by choice, the wages better distributed, the production process more sustainable — and that’s something that can make an indulgent piece of your favorite variety even better.