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I am the opposite of a nomad; despite my voracious travels, I have lived in the same place since 1986. This stationary bent isn’t related to a lack of adventure or acute Agoraphobia; it’s just that I love it here. As time has passed, animals, friends, frolics, and foibles have left the place a bit shoddy around the edges, in need of repair.
When I look at sprucing the place up a bit, I wonder how it can be done with grace and sustainability. Could my home improvement project be done mindfully to create hope for the planet?
Here are afew ways to refurbish and rejuvenate without adding to the planet’s woes.
I discovered chocolate was a drug in my early forties, the way it folded across my tongue, dispensing a sensation of wellbeing—almost like love. Then I went to Ecuador and witnessed the complexity of growing and processing magic cocoa beans. I met the good people who performed multiple ministrations, working under poverty-like conditions to bring this elixir to my 90% cocoa bar.
The cocoa bean is also referred to as cacao—not to be confused with coca when going through customs. Cocoa beans are embedded in an elongated leathery pod filled with a sweet, mucilaginous pulp (called baba de cacao). The appendage-like pods are harvested straight off the trunk, opened with a machete—the pulp and cocoa seeds are removed. Piled in heaps, bins, or laid out on grates for days in the Equatorial sun. Trodden and shuffled about (often with bare feet), sometimes, sprinkled with red clay mixed and water, to obtain a finer color and polish. This process protects them from moldering during shipment to other countries.
Dried and fully fermented, the seeds are finally roasted; only then can the cocoa solids (the powder) and cocoa butter (the fat) be extracted.
That’s a lot of work for one little bean, and the history of colonialism remains an enduring legacy of inequality in the lives of these producers today.
The British comedienne and author Jo Brand once proclaimed, “Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.”
I would add that good is made when chocolate is grown with ethical practices, Organic and Fair-Trade.
I have always held India in my travel future, but thus far have only tasted her riches from afar. I’ve explored her diversity in steaming bowls from Santa Cruz to New York City. But my true fascination—nay obsession— for curry was cultivated in Dubai, where many Indian and Pakistani people live, work, and cook.
It is said that humans trekked from the cradle of Africa to the Indian subcontinent some 55,000 years ago—well before we fiddled with agriculture. That long excursion of time produced a vast array of peoples and genetic diversity, second only to Africa.
Once they settled near the Indus River basin, about 9000 years ago, they took up farming, and this diversity translated to language, religion, and, of course, food.
Indian “Curry” is a saucy concoction that’s as diverse as food can get, with hundreds or even thousands of variations. Its very definition is debated by food critics, chefs, and curious linguists. Ubiquitous on menus across the world; what does the word curry really mean? Sometimes it’s a verb when you rub down or “curry” your horse.
But the curry we focus on here my friend is one hot dish!
I just returned from The Organic Produce Summit in Monterey, Calif., where 2100 of my favorite friends gathered to celebrate. Finally connected in person—after a year like no other—growers, buyers, friends, sometimes rivals—we celebrated the part we played in 2020.
As the world changed, organic food sales went wild. OTA reports that organic food sales soared to $62 billion, growing twice as fast as the year before. Yet organic food huddles still at around 4% of all food sales.
There’s clearly work to be done beyond growing, selling, and buying organic food—it’s policy and political work.