Not long ago, during a friendly conversation about chocolate–as if there were any other kind–culinary historian, and NYC chocolate tour director, Alexandra Leaf, said to me that she thought of chocolate as the “best known, least known food in existence.” That comment got a chuckle out of me as I realized that not only is it true, but that the reason it is funny in the first place is due to the irony that something as well-loved as chocolate, a food to which people are exposed, in one form or another, virtually from infancy, a food that impassions a large part of the the human community with its complexity, unique flavor and texture, is virtually a stranger to us in terms of how it actually comes to be chocolate!
To some extent this is to be expected; after all, with expanding globalization it is rare nowadays that many of us know from whence all, or even most, of our food comes. Still, it is probably safe to say that even if we are not sure whether the orange that we are eating comes from Florida, most of us are reasonably certain that the orange did originally come from a tree. Even this much is not generally known about chocolate. In conversations I’ve had over the past several years, with people of all backgrounds, levels of education, economic statuses, sexes, and everything in between, most people truly are astonished when I tell them that chocolate has its ultimate origin in the bitter, pulp-covered seeds of a fruit that grows on a tree. This need not be the case!
Personally, I have dealt with the issue of chocolate’s complex provenance many times, and in many ways, in the posts of this blog, and there is a good chance that all of you reading this post have seen me mention these facts in one way or another. However, my blog posts are not enough. They simply cannot reach the majority of the population. That is why you, as the choco-literati, must take it upon yourself to help educate others about the glory and the beauty of cacao and its long and difficult voyage to chocolate. You can do it! You can spread the good word, the chocolate gospel, the truth about the best known, least known food in existence! The next time a friend of yours bites into a chocolate bar in front of you, by all means drop a little chocolate knowledge in their general direction. After all, though most people know only a little about chocolate, it is a subject that few can resist. You might even get to share a bit of their chocolate as a sign of appreciation.
P.S. My utmost appreciation goes to Alexandra Leaf for the inspiration for this post, and for her work as a culinary and chocolate educator!