Chocolate Independence Day Ramblings
Depending on others this Independence Day, or, Xocola’j
Chocolate as a way of Being
Those that know me understand that chocolate is not merely my profession; chocolate has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. Chocolate is ingrained in me; it has been a part of who I am and how I live my life. And while I don’t often speak on their behalf, in this case I will: chocolate is a part of my sisters, both my parents. Even my nonagenarian grandmother, in whose honor Laughing Gull Chocolates was named, only ate chocolate the last months of her life.
Chocolate and Independence Day
Laughing Gull Chocolates’ followers and fans know this about me; this is not news or even blog-worthy. Nor, on the surface, is it related to Independence Day, and this is intended to be a Fourth of July post. July 4, 2020 is no ordinary Independence Day. 2020 is the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a presidential impeachment (remember that?), talk of locusts and dust storms coming; even, I dare hope, a societal revolution. I will attempt to connect the dots from my personal story and connection to chocolate to our collective story of America.
I have lots of warm, comforting memories of chocolate: a s’more around a campfire with friends or family on the beach, or a warm mug of hot chocolate after an afternoon playing in the snow.
When I learned the true complexities of chocolate’s colonial legacy – and everything that went along with that, it was a revelation that in a strange way would change the course of my life. I realize it was only chocolate. But to the farmers laboring in the plantations, or the workers being exploited for cacao, it was so much more. And to me, chocolate was illustrative of the way so many oppressed people were treated in this country and around the world. The way I looked at chocolate changed. And then I changed the way I interacted with chocolate.
While we have seen more awareness surrounding the systematic racism in recent years, this movement feels different. After generations, the protests and advocacy seem to be making a difference, slowly but surely.
This is the first Independence day that my almost three year old is old enough to understand and question. She wonders and questions out-loud “why” to everything. I love her curiosity and inquisitiveness and do my best to foster that. How do I explain our country’s Independence Day to her? What has Independence Day meant to our country? How has that meaning changed depending on the color of your skin ? What should it have meant, and will that change moving forward?
My almost three year old doesn’t remember a time when she could claim we were celebrating independence from our colonial oppressors. Nor does she remember a time when communities gathered carefree for barbecues and drinks and parades. This year looks different for a variety of reasons, but the day, and our history, hasn’t meant the same thing to everybody. It is about time we recognize and talk about it. In the same way we talk about the complex colonial history of chocolate and are making changes, it is time that we openly have conversations about systemic racism in America. Chocolate has changed the world in the past. Chocolate Houses in Europe and less so in North America helped to launch revolutions. We’re ready for the next revolution.
Xocola’j and Depending on others for Independence Day
There is an ancient quiche word that I learned about only recently thanks to Megan Giller’s book Bean to Bar and Michael and Sophie Coe’s book The True History of Chocolate: “chocola’j”: drinking chocolate together. Chocolate was so integrated into the life of the Maya that they had multiple words related to chocolate. This is an inspiration to me…but I digress… Chocola’j speaks to me this Independence Day especially as we maintain social distancing but have a great need for connection – we have learned that dependence and independence are both important in distinct ways. Sparklers and s’mores were staples in my family’s Independence Day celebrations. The chocolate gene has been passed on to the next generation and my daughter enjoys chocolate almost as much as I do. I can’t wait for her to try her first s’more made with ethically-sourced, transparently traded (and delicious!) chocolate. We’ll enjoy these s’mores with our small quarantine circle, over conversations about the complex history of our country, and what the Fourth of July has meant, and can represent for our country.
We have recently launched a Chocolate Tasting titled Bittersweet: Politics of Chocolate, which uses chocolate to discuss systemic racism. If you want to join this conversation, please visit our website. The class is Pay What You Can and 100% of proceeds are donated to Teen Empowerment.
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