Chocolate

“I LOVE chocolate!”

I hear it said so often. It’s rare to find a person who doesn’t love chocolate, but do you really know about chocolate and where it comes from?

Most of us see it at this ready-to-eat stage and that is really all that matters. But at the Farmers’ Market in Olympia, Washington, I had a quick lesson in the story of chocolate.

 

Photo from Wikipedia

This is how the cocoa beans look as they grow on the trees – not on branches, but on the trunk. They have to be cut away carefully so as not to damage the place where the stem joins the tree lest it spoil the next year’s growth.

 

Photo from Wikipedia

At a booth in the Farmers’ Market where they sell chocolate, these cocoa pods were on display. The pods which contain many cocoa beans, come in several different colours, depending on variety and ripeness.

Taken at the Olympia Farmer’s Market

The pods are cut open and the leathery shell is discarded. The 30 to 50 cocoa beans inside are placed on a grate or in a bin for several days while the pulp between the seeds ferments and drains away. Then the beans are spread out to dry. At this stage, they may even be sprinkled with red clay mixed with water  for polish and to enhance the colour and discourage mildew.

It takes about 400 beans to make a pound of chocolate. Below are cocoa beans with the husks still on. The husks will be removed, either by machine or by dancing on them in a way that is reminiscent of stomping on grapes to make wine.

Photo taken by Irene Scott for AusAID. (13/2529)

Why does chocolate make us happy?

It’s said to be a good antioxidant and beneficial to cardiovascular health. But I don’t think that’s why almost everyone loves chocolate. Chocolate contains tryptophan which releases serotonin, which in turn triggers the parts of the brain  that tell us we’re happy. (I’ve over-simplified. When I get my degree in organic chemistry, I’ll explain it more thoroughly.)

Mainly I like chocolate because it’s just plain good!

Forget about the calories. 

Happy Easter!

 

Happy Easter

Why do rabbits paint Easter eggs? Where do they get them? Do they steal them from the chickens’ nesting boxes? I suppose it wouldn’t be impossible for them to come up with a paintbrush somewhere – maybe some feathers lost by a bird. They might make colours for painting by chewing different plants or their flowers and spitting out the juice onto a rock and dipping the “brush” in. Most of the painting party would have to take place at night – first to make it easier to steal the eggs, and second, to have the whole warren pitch in and work on the painting while the dogs (Emma and Ruby) are sleeping in the house.

I see that one of the eggs is of alabaster. It has been part of the collection for more than 40 years. An inexpensive little something bought at a shop in Vancouver. A quail has contributed an egg to the plate. One of its babies was not going to hatch, so its shell is like a commemorative to the little guy. The four faded eggs were painted by my friends Yana and Yosef when they were about 8 or 9 years old. They’re about 32 now. The more brightly coloured eggs, were done by professional rabbits in the Czech Republic more than 20 years ago. These eggs are all resting on an authentic Czech plate that has holes in it. You might be able to see the holes beside the quail egg or to the top right of the green egg. It’s part of the fancy design of the dish that we fondly refer to as a soup plate.

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I’m glad that the rabbits painted these Easter eggs. I don’t usually think of these fluffy critters in a kindly light. No gardener would!  I’ll forgive them this time because of the hard work they do at Easter time, but my goodwill won’t last long. Once in a while I have to get my revenge on them  by eating one of their chocolate cousins, just to teach them a lesson.

Happy Easter!