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When I was young, we ate from our backyard. Instead of grass, the rich alluvial soils had been coaxed into an oasis of fruits and veggies. It was a tremendous way to grow up, next door to my grandparent’s perennial rhubarb and grape arbors that defined the garden’s edge.
I found the very act of rooting around in the humus, on hands and knees, planting and churning microbes, brought me close to my roots—to my family and food.
I didn’t know at the time that the very act of poking seeds into moist fingerprints and nurturing this plant kingdom held benefits beyond our daily meals.
Tending a garden, no matter how minuscule, is terrific for your health—in body and spirit.
We can all agree the past few years have been as turbulent as we ever thought we’d witness. The great ferment of P’s; Politics, People, Pandemic, and Planet have become increasingly unsettled, and we’re all experiencing massive changes.
Perhaps it’s time to take stock and take care of our inner beings as well as our physical bodies.
The tumult may continue outside but settling our internal storms—being open to new habits and beliefs—will help us all through this gyre.
Don’t get me wrong, the theme of this article isn’t what your naughty mind has conjured up. I’ve been sick with flu-like symptoms and may, at this point, be an Omichondriac. I’ve been forced to spend endless hours in bed, trying to make myself comfortable and amused.
It afforded me time to ponder why I’m so good in the kitchen yet so poor at resting in bed. Both are healthy, nourishing activities that require certain skills.
Fostering these skills will help you cook and take a needed respite from life—all from the comfort of home.
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.