I'm really not kidding. I won't be offended if you leave right now and move to the next blog on your "Favorites" list. You may be really, really sorry if you continue reading. Kids under 18, I really want you to go away now; I don't want your parents harassing me later.
Still here? Okay. But I warned you. Don't give me any grief in a comment once you're done here.
According to my Scavenger Hunt spreadsheet, Pezmama gets a rest for a while starting tomorrow. Today, though, her burning question is this: why have both an Almond Joy and a Mounds candy bar? Why not combine the two?
It's something I have often wondered myself. I've come to the conclusion that there are some people who have strong preferences regarding dark and milk chocolate. The decision to have the almond paired with the milk chocolate version seems to somewhat arbitrary, but no doubt the Peter Paul company did some sort of market research into the situation.
I enjoy both milk and dark chocolate, so I find both delicious. If he hasn't heeded my warning and is still reading, poor Patrick is now shuddering. He loathes and despises coconut, but I LOVE it. I prefer Almond Joy to Mounds, since the almond adds that toasty, nutty crunch to the experience, but I have never had a problem eating a Mounds if that's all there was left in the Halloween bag.
I don't know if I'll ever eat an Almond Joy again. Or a Snickers or MnMs or a genuine Toll House cookie. I recently read some shocking news on Bitsy Parker's excellent blog (links will come when I get home). Hoping what she'd written wasn't true, I did a bunch of independent research, and I can now confirm her report.
Have you ever wondered why chocolate is so cheap? Why you can dash into a 7-11 and buy a chunk of cocoa-filled goodness for less than a dollar? Maybe you haven't; maybe you've just taken inexpensive deliciousness for granted as a basic human right.
But speaking of human rights, it turns out that virtually all mainstream chocolate--that produced by the Big Four: Mars, Inc., The Hershey Company, Cadbury Schweppes, and Nestle--is made at least in part with cocoa beans grown, harvested, and processed by slaves in West Africa. A little more research revealed that my beloved See's is also a buyer of slave-produced cocoa.
Worse, many of the slaves are children, children who have been sold by their parents to the plantation owners for a few dollars. Or they've been lured off the streets with promises of bicycles and high wages, but once they reach the cacao farms, these children are horribly abused and malnourished and live short, horrifying lives of backbreaking work and despair.
Reports by UNICEF and the International Labor Organization confirm this. The BBC did a documentary on the problem in 2000, and the next year The Philadelphia Inquirer put out a series of articles on the horrors of slave chocolate as well.
After some limited public outcry, the Big Four agreed to a four-year plan called the Harkin-Elgin Protocol to eliminate child slave labor from the cacao industry. But according to many human rights groups, that deadline has come and gone, with the big chocolate doing little, if anything, to keep their agreements. Crocodile tears have been shed, but not much has changed.
What are we chocolate lovers to do? The only way to be sure that your chocolate hasn't come to you at the expense of slave labor is to make sure it says "Fair Trade" on the packaging. Fair Trade cocoa has been produced by workers paid a living wage and who are housed decently.
Believe me: I know this news is depressing. When I first read about it, I wanted my ignorance back, because knowledge brings accountability. It's tempting to make a disconnect, to try and forget about the tragic reality so that I can satisfy my base desire for sensual gratification in the form of an Almond Joy.
Then I think about the cotton plantation owners in this country 150 years ago, living with the evils of slavery but unwilling to make changes to their lifestyles because they didn't want to sacrifice their comfortable way of life. We look back at those slaveowners with horror and disgust, but are we any better when we support the slave industry one step removed? In a way, it's worse to be the disconnected consumer, because we then add hypocrisy to our list of sins in the matter. Most of us would never beat a child or force him to sleep on a wooden plank in a padlocked shack with a tin can for a urinal. But how many of us will continue to turn a blind eye when a craving hits us?
Again, l'll post all the links to the reports I've read once I'm home. Until then, do an internet search of your own, if you feel up to further shock. It's not pretty, and you may never be able to look an MnM in the eye again--at least not until drastic change comes to the chocolate industry. Which will not happen until you and I stand up and vote with our dollars.