by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Sweet Speaker
What do chocolate and President Abraham Lincoln have in common?
They have honesty in common, when the chocolate is made with real ingredients and fairly traded cocoa beans.
Why the “Honest Abe” comparison at all?
Because I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time in sprightly Springfield, Illinois, 200 miles from my home in Chicago, where I gave a chocolate wellness talk, and where Abraham Lincoln lived much of his adult life, practiced law, campaigned for office, and was returned for burial after his assassination.
I traveled to the Illinois state capital at the kind invitation of an influential ladies philanthropic organization to speak about chocolate wellness, and we had a marvelous and delicious time. Of course I also took some time to re-visit one of the best museums in the US – the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum – and to do some Springfield “chocolate scouting.”
One of the elements of my talk involved playing a game I created called “Sometimes, Always, Never: What’s Really In Your Chocolate.” The way it works: I explain which ingredients and origins to look for in chocolate bars, and which to avoid. Then we have audience members read the labels on a variety of chocolate bars I’ve brought, and we talk about where the cocoa beans came from, and what the ingredients are in each chocolate bar are. Knowing the health, labor, and environmental benefits or risks, the group decides whether each chocolate bar is one that they might sometimes choose for themselves and their families, one that they can always feel good about choosing, or one that they would never want in their household.
The game resulted in some surprises as it does every time, and then of course we ate the chocolate bars that the group decided to put into the “Always” pile! This included delicious, healthful, fair trade chocolate bars by Alter Eco, Dick Taylor, and El Dorado. The latter is made in Ecuador and is not yet available in the US, and this group was my first group to sample it!
I was impressed with the group, and moved by the glowing testimonial I received:
“Valerie is an exuberant and extraordinary speaker who superbly involves the audience as she presents such interesting facts about chocolate and wellness. She is very friendly and personable, yet a cylinder of dynamite showering listeners with delightful energy! The manner in which she shares her heart, soul, lively humor and vast knowledge makes her presentations quite enjoyable. Valerie is highly recommended as a speaker to your group!”
Janie Rast, Ladies organization, Springfield, IL
Thank you, Ladies of Springfield! I appreciate your hospitality, eagerness to hear about chocolate’s health benefits, and openness to my Chocolate Freedom Project to raise awareness of child slave labor on West African cocoa farms and of fair trade alternatives that are healthier and more delicious. “Keep eating real chocolate!”
There’s even more deliciousness to this sweet Springfield story:
I arrived in Springfield the day before my talk and checked into the Inn at 835, a captivating antiques-filled bed-and-breakfast. The rooms were lovely, breakfast was delicious, wine and cheese hour at night was a charming touch, and the chocolate chip cookies at bedtime were the ultimate!
From the Inn, it was a short walk to the Abraham Lincoln Museum. This was my third trip to Springfield since this exceptional museum opened 10 years ago, and I’ve visited the Lincoln Museum each time. I continue to notice additional details in the exhibits, such as the pile of legal papers in the re-creation of Lincoln’s utterly disorderly law office marked “if you can’t find it, look here.”
The exhibit that shows the 4-year Civil War in 4 minutes, using a video map of the US, music, and a running tally of the dead, but no spoken words, always makes me weep. And the exhibit in which the late journalist Tim Russert broadcasts about the 4-way presidential race “Campaign 1860” always makes me smile.
I followed my museum visit with some chocolate scouting – of course! – and some sightseeing, and enjoyed every element of my sweet Springfield visit.
Your friend in “honest chocolate,”
Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen
CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift