Editor’s Letter

The Many Intersections of Chocolate

by | Dec 7, 2020

Is it a confession if someone confesses twice to the same thing?  Yes, dear readers, here it comes. I hate chocolate.

For years, Visiting Scholars, returning students, loving friends have been bringing me chocolate from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and several other countries, not to mention Switzerland. And yes, dear friends and colleagues, I have regifted your delicious gifts. Delicious to someone else.

Ah yes, and now my Colombia friends will find me out, that for years I have been going with them to the marvelous Pastelería Florida on the Séptima, drooling over the drippy stringy melting cheese that Colombians add to their hot chocolate, feasting on the traditional assortment of breads and only drinking the chocolate if someone was looking.

I confess. Forgive me. And the next time, bring me coffee. But I’ve told you all this before, back when Chocolate was a ReVista Spotlight.

But now that Chocolate has officially become our Fall issue (a little late because, as you will see, we’ve gone through a complete web redesign), I want to make another confession. 

This is the hardest table of contents I have ever assembled.  

We set out to provide you with an interdisciplinary view of cacao and chocolate, ranging from climate change threats to boutique chocolate to chocolate in arts and literature. The challenge now has been that these connections have been made all too well by each and every author.

So when I go to put, say, Santiago Montoya’s excellent article, “Bittersweet Symphony,” into a category, what do I choose? It’s a story of trade, of history, of sustainability, of art, of challenges. It’s a story that—like all the others—weaves the strands of this commodity through time and space. It finally ended up in the history section.

Or how do I classify Molly Leavens’ “Cocoa vs. Cacao” story? The recent Harvard graduate visited cocoa farms across Belize, Colombia, Indonesia and Ghana, speaking with chocolate companies, cocoa traders, governmental extension officers and cocoa research institutions in a dozen other countries. She even got a job at a chocolate factory in Massachusetts—only to quit two weeks later (confessing, since confessions are so popular here, that she discovered Willy Wonka had unsurprisingly romanticized that experience). Her senior thesis, for a special concentration on Food and the Environment at Harvard, focused on private-sector cocoa sustainability initiatives—and the article takes us through history, culture, labor practices and sustainability. After a lot of shifting, her contribution ended up in the sustainability section.

Like a box of assorted chocolates, this issue offers a variety of unexpected themes. So curl up with a cup of hot chocolate or your favorite candy bar and enjoy. Just don’t offer me any.

Fall 2020, Volume XX, Number 1

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