We recently visited the National Gallery of Art in DC where Rembrandt's windmill reminded me of Don Quixote so, naturally, I began thinking about chocolate. As we moved from the Dutch Masters on to the Impressionists gallery - the renegades of their time - I began to consider how their revolutionary movement of so long ago related to the American craft chocolate movement of today.
Before Impressionism brush strokes were precise and deliberately blended into the canvas to hide the artist's hand. The use of color was restrained and toned down even further by the addition of an amber varnish finish.
The Impressionists, on the other hand, did not abide by the rules of academic painting. Instead, they essentially created a different way of seeing - a way of uncovering the essence of their subjects with looser brush strokes and lighter palettes of pure colors. Rather than painting life-like details, they captured the ephemeral quality, the fleeting beauty of everyday life - each from their own perspective, their own point of view.
We do the same thing as chocolate makers. We reveal the essence of cacao beans based on our individual perceptions. The Impressionists transformed the same three primary colors - red, yellow, and blue - first onto their palettes and then into their paintings, For the craft chocolate maker, cacao beans are our primary colors. Their sourcing, roasting, and refining become our palette - the tempered bars are our masterpiece.
I like thinking of the craft chocolate movement as a radical one. The word is defined as "relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough : a radical overhaul of the existing regulatory framework." Fundamental change is necessary in the cacao industry if our planet, and farmers, and chocolate lovers are to thrive.
Edgar Degas said, "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." The art behind craft chocolate offers a new vantage point from which to view chocolate. It challenges how it's made, how the ingredients are sourced. It also places the cacao farmer in the foreground which elevates him and his beans. By doing so, we are slowly, but surely, affecting change. Real and positive change. And every time you by a bar from any of the amazing bean to bar makers out there, you become part of that radical change too.
Chocolate is so much more than a mere confection. It's an ancient and spiritual food that allows you to taste the flavors of a particular region from a particular chocolate maker's point of view. That alone is pretty amazing.
Go on, you little rebel, go grab a bar.