Labor Day in our Chocolate
Every day is Jewish Labor Day. Jewish tradition expounds the importance of work and those who do it. Even God worked for six days and only then rested on Shabbat.
Chocolate is one medium for uncovering themes of worker equity, food justice and ethical kashrut. Many cocoa farmers, those who tend the cocoa trees and harvest the beans, never taste the final product of chocolate.
Worse, thousands of children, some of them slaves, work cocoa production in West Africa’s Ivory Coast or Ghana, the primary market for much of the world’s cocoa beans. This past July the US Department of Labor released a study that estimated that 2 million children work in hazardous conditions in West African cocoa. It has designated $12 million dollars for programs to reduce these numbers. This builds on the Declaration of Joint Action among the ministers of labor of Ivory Coast and Ghana and the United States from 2010. Unfortunately in this regard, chocolate does not always mix well with Judaism’s value of oshek, honest and fair labor practices.
The Harkin-Engel Protocol, known as the Cocoa Protocol, an international agreement, sought to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the chocolate industry. While at least eight multinational chocolate producers have signed onto the Protocol including Guittard, Nestle, Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Callebaut, it has not yet been fully implemented.
In an effort to provide fair compensation to cocoa farmers, several chocolate companies use fair trade certification systems to establish a minimum price above market value for cocoa. Other chocolate makers prefer to sidestep that certification, claiming that their farmers benefit more from their direct contact and superior financial arrangements. Fair Trade Judaica’s Ilana Schatz offers Fair Trade merchandise and chocolate options. She also promotes guilt free Chanukah gelt produced by Divine Chocolate and Kosher for Passover Fair Trade chocolate from Equal Exchange.
This Labor Day may we choose foods, including chocolate, that honor these everyday Jewish values, enhance our precious resources, sustain our work, and enhance our rest.
An earlier version of this post appeared at ReformJudaism.org
Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
On the Chocolate Trail, I found amazing stories of mothers and chocolate from World War II. Immigrant Lisa Hoffman reminisced about how her mother insured she had the skills, including chocolate making, to survive. “I carried inside of me all of the lessons my mother had worked so hard to get for me. I could makeRead more ›
Chocolate Trail Broadens: “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” Travels
I am very excited that the NYCs Bernard Museum exhibit, “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” based on my book, On the Chocolate Trail, will now be forging new paths as it travels around the country. We selected On the Chocolate Trail as the book title for a number of reasons. First, it evokes the diffusion ofRead more ›
Talking Chocolate in February
Recent media featured projects on the chocolate trail in celebration of Valentine’s Day and “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” at the Bernard Museum, NYC. Of course, Florence Fabricant’s mention of the exhibit in the New York Times was a highlight. Now, these stories just within the last two weeks: In The Jewish Love AffairRead more ›
Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes
As temperatures drop, these three historical recipes for drinking chocolate beckon with rich warmth. Bicerin: This very unusual, rich, layered drink of chocolate, coffee and cream, a specialty of Turin, Italy, connects us with memories of the earlier days of women drinking chocolate at the time of Mass. Bicerin is still served at a caféRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- Announcing Second Edition: On the Chocolate Trail
- Bat Mitzvah Wants Fair Trade Israeli Chocolate
- Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
- Bringing Buckeye Candy to Experts
- Chocolate Exhibit Hits the New York Times
- Chocolate Expo
- Chocolate Made My Lunch: Nashville
- Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Me
- Election 2016: Winning Fudge Brigadeiros
- Hunting for Chocolate: Fancy Food Show, NYC, 2016
- Labor Day in our Chocolate
- Local Chocolate in the South
- No End to Chocolate Exhibits Part III: Visits #3, 4 & 5
- Of Chocolate Exhibits There is No End: Part 2
- On the Chocolate Trail in Brooklyn
- Seriously Tasting Chocolate
- Super Food Chocolate for Super Bowl Sunday: Three Recipes
- That Time Jews Smuggled Chocolate to France — and a Recipe for Basque Chocolate Cake