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
A Chocolate Cake for October’s Tricks: Devil’s Food
Heading into October and its culmination in Halloween, I find myself hankering for Devil’s Food Cake, despite its initially derogatory name. Supposedly in 1690 Pilgrims traveled to Plymouth Rock via Amsterdam. They stayed in a house near the city’s biggest chocolate houses and called that chocolate “the Devil’s food.” Later, a chocolate cake, perhaps simplyRead more ›
How About Some Mindful Chocolate Tasting?
These days comforting chocolate seems more necessary than usual. You could just grab a bunch and stuff yourself to help (maybe?) you feel better. Of course, you could add the chocolate in to your cookies, cakes, and ice creams. Or, you could taste chocolate with a mindfulness that focuses your attention solely on the chocolate,Read more ›
Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
When needing a new word for ice cream for the revitalized Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben Yehudah turned to the Torah. Actually, he opened the Aramaic translation of the Torah by Onkelos to Exodus 16:14. There the Aramaic uses “glidah” in the passage that describes how manna fell in the desert like a fine, flaky frostRead more ›
Choco-dar first erupted on our multi-country circuit of Europe in a VW van. That adult onset, self-diagnosed radar for chocolate experiences led us serendipitously to many wonderful chocolate discoveries and surprises. In the process I learned some chocolate travel tips. Chocolate travel generated the book and the website that I came to call On theRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- Announcing Second Edition: On the Chocolate Trail
- Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
- Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
- Choco-Travel Tips
- Chocolate Exhibit Hits the New York Times
- Chocolate Trail Broadens: "Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate" Travels
- Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Me
- Election 2016: Winning Fudge Brigadeiros
- Hunting for Chocolate: Fancy Food Show, NYC, 2016
- Jews on the Chocolate Trail
- Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
- 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
- Super Food Chocolate for Super Bowl Sunday: Three Recipes
- Talking Chocolate in February
- That Time Jews Smuggled Chocolate to France — and a Recipe for Basque Chocolate Cake
- Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes