Monday, February 16, 2015

The Classist DIY

How is Chocolate made?Now this post is not meant to be critical or accusatory, simply observations and cogitation about their significance and implications. But have you ever notice the metaphorical chasm between categories of Do-It-Yourself projects? On the one hand, you have this ethos of self-sufficiency, of thrift. On the other, homemade has recently come into vogue, it has expanded its 'hippy' originas, become posh, trendy.

In the former circumstance is a time-worn tale. Take my housemate who mixed together a simple concoction of coconut oil and castille soap rather than fork over a heftier sum for 'natural' shampoo. Things like having a garden (DIY ingredients), canning surplus tomatoes (DIY Bertolli), and cooking dinner at home 'from scratch' (DIY restaurant), most of the times cut costs and are healthfully enjoyable. Plus, who hasn't learned some basic plumbing and carpentry to cut costs? (Ok, I haven't but that's not the point).

But Do-it-Yourself has also reached new heights. I write this after reading a New York Times article on making your own chocolate. Because of the involved process from bean to bar, making your own is not only more time-consuming than popping by a chocolatier (or supermarket), but also more expensive and potentially not as tasty. Even the subject of the article notes, "There is no rational reason for doing this”! Counter to the very practical roots of DIY, this is a seemingly superfluous activity.

Yet, we also should look beyond the purely utilitarian and economic arguments for and against certain "classes" of DIY projects. For one, the act itself of engaging in craft and hands-on past-times is enjoyable and rewarding. Sure, my mother spends much more on the yarn necessary to knit a sweater than she would a completed clothing item. However, there is something about the click of needles, the thought and artistry, and the pride at a finished product. Moreover, carrying out a process from start to finish is one way of better appreciating what is so often taken for granted. So no judgement, no normative proclamations about the merits of different types of doing-it-yourself. Regardless of motivation, it's good to see people in how and with what things are made. I still don't think making my own chocolate is in the future, though.

To avoid appearing to curmudgeonly in the wake of Valentine's Day, I thought you might want a DIY brownie cake to lighten things up...

1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup oil or melted coconut oil
1/2-1/3 cup almond or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
1/4 cup sugar or 15 drops liquid stevia 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour (can use gluten-free or wholewheat)
50g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

1. Food-process all ingredients except flour and chopped chocolate bar (and nuts, if including) until smooth.
2. Fold in flour and chocolate, adding the extra milk if need to keep a moderately thick batter.
3. Pour into a small, greased baking round or pyrex dish. 
4. Bake at 360F/180C for 30-45 minutes, until it is firm to press. A knife will come out sticky, so this test doesn't work. You can serve warm (with coconut ice cream...yum...), but it won't adhere together as nicely as when cooled.

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