Wednesday a few of the Slow Food Saratoga Region members attended a chocolate workshop at the Chocolate Mill in Glens Falls, New York. It was a very interesting and informative workshop put on by Certified Master Pastry Chef. Frank talked a lot about the history of chocolate and some of the social and environmental issues associated with cocoa beans. We tasted different raw chocolate and watched Frank make some of his famous chocolates, YUM!
My brother Ian attended the workshop with me and on the way home we had an interesting conversation about chocolate. Now, I am certainly a chocolate lover and like coffee I understand that the acquisition of it is a bit on the sketchy side. Buying a bar of fair trade organic dark chocolate costs more than a Hershey's bar. I can comprehend that the externalized costs associated with a Hershey's bar are (hopefully) built in to the cost of the fair, trade organic bar ($1 vs. $4). That I can tackle, grasp, and make a conscious decision about.
The conversation I had with my brother was more about the chocolate workshop we attended, the consumption of "chocolates," and other expensive commodities; more or less luxury food items. These items are even associated with events, tastings and in this case a workshop (one I was able to attend because the cost was paid for by my organization). After operating in a four year institution that preached accessibility, social/environmental justice, saving the world, and existing in moderation, this "foodie" world I am currently involved in has me thinking quite a bit.
I am also aware of the small business owner, the chef, the brewer, the farmer, and the chocolatier who put their time and effort in creating something amazing. I love good beer, good cheese, good wine. I also prefer that most food items are organic and local. My food budget it the biggest of them all, and I believe it should be. I can also understand that those who have money can afford events, tastings, etc and in most cases the money is donated to a charitable cause.
My real question is how much is too much? How do these particular food items fit into an environmental food movement that advocates accessibility.
Last Saturday I attended another event held by Brown's Brewing Company in Troy, NY. The event was fun. We had our annual meeting there followed by a beer, cheese, and sweets tasting and finally a showing of the documentary Urban Roots. The film was amazing; Urban Detroit being revitalized by community gardens (right up my alley).
So I suppose that there was nothing wrong with the event. The beer and cheese were local and money went to the film makers. I just couldn't help but feel awkward about being there, enjoying really great food and beer with an exclusive crowd of people who paid a lot of money to get in to see a movie about people who have nothing.
Recently I feel like a snob. "Is that fair trade coffee." "Do you have any local beer on tap, and do you have a glass pint instead of the plastic?" (Never actually outwardly expressed) Deciding where to grab a bite to eat with friends is always difficult (I usually have a separate stop). Of course if those are the least of my problems I should not be conflicted at all.
I just feel like I walk around with an "I only eat the best" attitude. (I find myself inaccessible) I suppose, ironically, it is because what I think is good, is good for everyone and everything (ethically, environmentally).
my continued path of self-discovery...