A recent post by heh heh (all 17 of him) made me think about the various ways in which we as a society sanction cruel and inhuman treatment of various food groups every day of our lives. Just think about the way we puree tomatoes, for instance, or dice carrots, without any concern for their feelings or the effect that such torture could have on their families.
In particular, I'm concerned about a food group very near to my heart - chocolate. It's truly horrendous the kind of tortures you see chocolate being put to every day. Enter any half-decent cafe in New York and you'll see perfectly good, well-educated chocolate being set upon by raspberries and blueberries and other assorted tropical fruit, and being able to do nothing about it. Such treatment is worse than insulting - it's downright barbaric. And what about those patronising chefs who grate the chocolate into tiny pieces and sprinkle it lightly over some putridly fruity confection, as though chocolate had no identity of its own and could be usurped to anyone else's service. Or the restaurants back in India that will serve you Bournvita and claim it's Hot Chocolate. What about Bournvita itself? What about all these biscuits and cereal bars and toffees pretending to be chocolate and corrupting the taste buds of young and old alike? Whatever happened to the dignity of chocolate? How did we go from being a culture where chocolate was treated with the respect and gravity it deserved, to the point where it has become little more than a flavouring, a frail yes-man reduced to mere flattery of our ever more insolent taste-buds.
Some people will argue that its chocolate itself that has become more subservient, more cloying. Schooled in the insouciant tradition of Hershey's and Snickers, today's chocolate is a mealy-mouthed spineless thing, a grovelling excuse for a food-group that deserves the contempt it receives. Yet who is to blame for this deterioration in the moral fibre of chocolate? Is it not a socio-economic system that has systematically marginalised chocolate interests, forcing chocolates to prostitute themselves if they are to survive as active members of the foodstuff community? Is it not the lack of an appropriately nurturing environment, the ridiculous prejudice against chocolates enshrined in the canons of weight-watchers everywhere, the blatant preference shown by young people today for things like fruit and grain, which can never hope to match up to the sophistication, the quiet distinction of the true chocolate bar?
Where is the public debate on this issue? Where are the NGOs? Where are the lobbyists? How can so vital a component of our food-groups be disenfranchised and no one care? How indifferent have we become as citizens, as members of society?
All is not lost however. You still see them - whispering together in confectionaries, waiting patiently in duty-free shops at airports - bars of true chocolate, the kind that have not abandoned the proud traditions of their forefathers, but cling bravely to there identity as chocolates - international dissidents riding as the vanguard of a chocolate Revolution that is bound to come.
Let us join hands with these chocolates, let us show them our solidarity. Let us boycott those restaurants and cafes that would enslave chocolate in the name of bananas or mangos. Let us demand equal rights for chocolates everywhere, let us look into the plight of chocolates in China, in Iraq, let us cry out for greater representation for chocolates on city councils and in parliament. Let us make sure that each and every chocolate is assured its true and honest place in the pantheon of food.
How is all this to be achieved you ask? Time is short and there is much to do, so I won't go into the details here - except to mention briefly my plan to set up an International Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Chocolate. For those of you who wish to support our cause, however, there are many smaller ways in which you can already begin to make a difference. As the Christmas season approaches, chocolates everywhere will be lonelier than ever. Show them you care. Make them feel special. Take a chocolate home today.