Twelve Word Tuesday: Medjool Dates

Cup_of_coffee_and_dates Creative Commons יעל י

Photo Creative Commons יעל י

 

Dessert’s Platonic Ideal. What Snickers want to be when they grow up.

Have you ever bitten into something so sweet, so cool, so wonderfully chewy that you just had to stop everything and just enjoy?

I have. It’s called a medjool date.

I always liked dates. I could occasionally get my hands on cubed, sugared dates as a kid. They were great, back then. When I went vegan a month and a half ago, I started eating pitted dates, and they were so much better. I really thought I’d hit the date jackpot.

Yesterday, I found un-pitted, medjool dates in the refrigerated section of Sam’s. Each date was about three times the size of any dates I’d ever had before.

I couldn’t wait to get home and try them.

No, seriously. I couldn’t wait. I bit into one on the way home, and I almost ran off the road it was so good.

Medjool dates are so much better than regular dates, I think they should introduce themselves as “dates, medjool dates” and have their own theme song and favorite drink.

I ate eleven of them on the way home (to be fair, it was a long drive). Numbers 1 through 10 were nothing short of divine. Number eleven was probably a date too far.

They were so rich, with a taste like caramel, but so much more real.

Candy bars are made in factories, with lots of additives and chemicals and such, and though they’re very sweet, you can taste the artificiality. These dates grew, and you can taste that, too.

If you’ve heard the story of Plato’s cave, he explains the difference between the world of mortals and the world of ideals, the world beyond, this way: we are all in a cave, watching shadows cast upon a wall. We can tell a lot by the shadows, but we can’t turn around to see what’s casting them.

Well, when I bit into that date, I got to turn around. That’s what every date and every candy bar (going back to the dawn of desserts) wishes it could be.

Now, excuse me while I go eat some more dates, medjool dates.

 

Little Hershey’s Kisses, Big Child Labor (Wrestling the Chocolate Angel)

Face of Jesus stamped onto a chocolate candy

Human Trafficking and Idolatry…it’s One Stop Shopping

My friend Billy calls my push to abstain from factory farmed meat and eggs “Freeganism,” which is a pretty cool term (he knows about these things; he’s been a vegetarian for over a decade). I’m trying to reduce my dairy consumption, too, because dairy cattle aren’t really treated any better than meat cattle. But I can only go so far so fast.

The thing is, I may have forgotten one tiny little thing in my tepid one-man animal cruelty crusade: people. You see, chocolate, dearest chocolate, is made with cocoa beans. And cocoa beans are all too often made with child labor. These are not only slaves, they’re also often slave labor (bought and sold, like they were 200 years ago here in Mississippi), and they’re often trafficked as well.

Thanks to almost ten years of consciousness-raising, boycotts, and petitions, several of the big chocolate companies are moving toward certified cocoa, which by definition does not allow child labor or slavery. But none of them are at 100%.

The question is not, “do we do something?” That’s ridiculous. As Christians, we can’t just keep paying money to support child slavery. Not once we know what’s going on.

The real question is, do we go will 100% fair-trade companies like Green & Black, or do we support the big companies who are trying to do the right thing? By ‘the right thing,’ I mean companies that have clear programs with specific dates to eliminate child labor and slave labor from their supply chains, and who regularly report on their progress in a spirit of transparency.

I’m choosing to vocally and financially support the large chocolate companies that are in process of transitioning from slave-labor cocoa to fair trade cocoa (Mars, and to a much lesser extent Nestle and Kraft/Cadbury).

This is a judgment call, to be sure, but I’m hoping that the remaining big dogs (Hershey, especially) will follow suit. I think we’re at a tipping point where they entire industry could go either way. There is already real progress, as shown by Just Act’s 2012 fact sheet.

I see this as a “necessary evil” because I’m technically still buying into a system built on slavery, but with the goal of shutting it down. If the world’s biggest chocolatiers refuse to deal with plantations that use slave labor and child labor, those practices will become economic suicide – as they should be – and will vanish.

That said, I completely understand and admire the desire to stick only to fair trade chocolate, to refuse to give any money or sanction to the evils of child slave labor. I took that same path when voting this year. Whatever you do, keep this in mind while you’re stocking up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can make a difference, one purchase at a time.