We have already firmly established my preoccupation, bordering on obsession, with chocolate - not just the rich decadence of flavors, but also the ecology and social responsibility aspects (not to mention the proximity of cacao to lemurs...). It should come as no surprise to you, then, that I was thinking about chocolate again.
In one of many article I read over the course of a day, I recently happened across this one on the Royal African Society. It reveals how despite the presence of a large fair-trade cooperative (source of Divine cacao, see below) operations, growers in Ghana, the world's second largest cocoa producer, still face substandard living conditions. Even still, Ghana is unique in that it places a price floor for farmers that is 2/3 of the world market price (a rare occurrence for commodity crop producers). Unfortunately, this article provides no tangible actions for a consumer to take if interested in the dirt behind the label!
So I was curious; what other efforts in sustainable cocoa production had occurred in Ghana? Being a large producer of the beans, Ghana is reasonable at the center of several large confectionaries' corporate responsibility plans. Mars, Corp. (that's your Snickers...) is working to improve rural livelihoods and production practices in partnership with several big name foundations and NGOs. Cadbury and UN Development Programme teamed up to reinvest in local cacao growing communities. And Cargill is partnering with CARE, International to support rural livelihoods in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. This still doesn't solve our previous problem of what looks good on paper (or the internet, for that matter), doesn't necessarily yield results on the ground. But alas, this is just a start, and obviously calls for further investigation.
In the meantime, I am trying to make chocolate more of a high-quality, in small doses food. Chocolate should not be consumed with abandon, as it is both a delicacy of the past and a treat of the present. Here is a recipe for my healthier take on a chocolate pudding recipe that has satisfied all but the strongest chocolatey cravings.
Serve a Single Some Puddin'
1.5 heaping tbs organic corn starch (or arrowroot powder*)
1 heaping tbs fair trade cocoa (I used Equal Exchange, which sources from the CONACADO in Dominican Republic)
1 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almond milk
1 block dark chocolate (I used Divine's 70%, sources from Kuapo Kokoo in Ghana)
10 drops liquid stevia (Whole Food's brand, a little bitter, but a cheaper option that the superior flavored NuNatural)
1. Stir together cocoa and starch in a small saucepan until uniform. Add half of milk and stir until as well-incorporated as possible. Add stevia and rest of milk and stir.
2. Heat over a medium flame until warm and add the block of chocolate. Stir continuously until it starts to bubble. Pour into a bowl. Let cool slightly or refrigerate, depending on your preferences.
*Arrowroot acts differently than corn starch. See 101 cookbooks for methodology and another recipe.
One final and exciting development in my life ... I'm going to the Vegan Food Blogger Conference in Portland in August!!! Potential panels/classes about which I am super-excited: veganism and special diets, photography, and travel. Not to mention meeting countless other awesome food bloggers!