Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Exploring our Racial Subconscious: Dark May be King, but Milk Chocolate is Making a Comeback

In the spirit of my impetuous and impulsive post on Flash Gordon and bad movies let's see where this one goes...

I am a firm believer in the existence of a collective consciousness. No, I don't mean an energy field that binds us together and penetrates us (a la The Force), but more of a collective spirit of sorts. This is something less than zeitgeist, but more than a political unconscious. When we add in the particular ways that systems of racial superiority and inequality have impacted all Americans --yes, white folks too--we are left with a collective set of symbols, images, as well as a language, which speaks both to our racial (in)securities and how we choose to think about (or not) our interactions with others.

[And if you really want to test how race, prejudice, and racialism(s) (yes, that is a word) have impacted your decision-making and subconscious mind, take one of these online tests for implicit racial bias]

I stumbled upon the following article last week and it continues to speak to me. My thought: Is this about chocolate or about something else? Is there something in our collective racial subconscious which is being spoken to in this dialog regarding the merits of white chocolate versus dark chocolate? Or is a cigar sometimes just a cigar? Accordingly, here is your assignment:

The Great Chocolate Test

The exercise: substitute Obama/black people wherever there is a reference to dark chocolate. Likewise, substitute Hillary/white people wherever there is a reference to milk chocolate.

Please share your findings with your classmates at the end of the exercise.

The entire article,"Dark May Be King, but Milk Chocolate Makes a Move" from the New York Times, is found here.

Here are some choice excerpts (my emphasis added):

CHOCOLATE’S dark mood is lightening at last. Until recently, midnight-black, bittersweet bars with punishing percentages of cacao were, like coffee and wine, on a quest for brooding intensity. Milk chocolate was left behind, dismissed as child’s play, an indulgence in sweetness and nostalgia.

Now, some chocolatiers are fighting back, with expensive, suave “dark milk” chocolates that reinvent milk chocolate by increasing its cacao content, reducing its sweetness and carefully refining it to give it the snap and velvet of dark.

“Personally, if I had to choose one or the other, I prefer dark chocolate,” said Joseph Whinney, founder of Theo Chocolate, a small producer based in Seattle. “But there is no product on the planet that can match that lush, melted-chocolate mouth-feel of milk chocolate.”

“Producing milk chocolate,” said Andrea Slitti, a chocolate maker in Tuscany, “is much more complicated than producing dark chocolate, as you can see in the marketplace: there are far more good dark chocolates available. At each step, we have to work to keep the clean taste of milk and not overwhelm it with the strength of the cocoa mass, then balance them both with sweetness.”

“These pure origins are because we chocolatiers want people to think that chocolate is serious and adult like wine, but underneath it is not,” said Stéphane Bonnat, whose family began making chocolate in 1884. “The first thing we have when we close our eyes and taste must be the pleasure we remember from being 10 years old.And that pleasure, almost invariably, was from milk chocolate.

“Fundamentally, the problem is that milk chocolate does not have the respect it deserves,” Mr. Whinney said. “When you have a brown, sweet commodity that people expect to buy for cheap, you are not automatically going to find interest in flavor nuances.”

Your final thoughts?

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