Taste of a Better Life

I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan when everything changed. It was October, and I was like the trees of the college town—tall, proud and newly painted with the vibrant colors of transformation. I was a sight to behold—a woman with a heavy backpack and camera around her neck—proud, energized, and flush with the bright hues of an internal revolution. I glowed with happiness as the passing days brought life-altering change. I gave things up. I invited change. I stopped wasting time. I found a new way of writing. I found a new kind of love. I felt like a long-limbed Maple in full flush.

As pieces of my former-self scattered with the altering winds of November, I embraced the conversion. I begged for change. But by the end of December, I was stripped bare of all that I once was. I was as simple as a line drawing of a tree on a snowy hill.

In the austere simplicity of my new life, I realized I needed to live simply. Like a tree, all that I truly needed was food, water, and the all-powerful light from above. Without these things, I realized I could not thrive. And yet–before the Fall of change—I was living life on much less. Food, wine, and work was all that sustained me. Water and light were an occasional luxury. My roots were never tended.

But now, all of that has changed.

The most significant thing is how much light I have in my life now. And water. For what may be the first time, I seek out nourishment. Food fulfills me, rather than covers or mutes deeper problems. I’ve turned away from the numbing comforts of wine and cocktails and embraced being in the moment fully. I dedicate myself to plugging in, not checking out. I find inspiration everywhere. Now, I shy away from my blog’s stats page and listen to the analytics of my muses.

According to the voices of inspiration, it’s time I start writing about chocolate.

In the next few weeks, you’ll start to see some of the changes I’m making happen here. Past the cosmetic changes that my incredible website designer has done, I will be adding to my usual content with a series of essays I am writing on the topic of chocolate. I’ll explore history, science, personal stories, and will spend lots of time looking for the great flavored chocolate bars (and other chocolate-based foods) that make my head spin with flavor and inspiration.

I’ve been wanting to write about chocolate for a while. Ever since I read MFK Fisher’s book, Consider the Oyster and saw Fisher’s single subject blue print, I saw how she was able to tie together cultural and culinary histories and personal recollections in a collection of cohesive (and brief) narratives. I have to admit, however, that fear of measuring up to MFK or writing about a targeted subject matter outside of the hospitality business kept me from writing a single sentence. But the compelling need to write these essays reached an undeniable height this week when I realized that it was chocolate (the dark, rich food of the Gods) that sustained me–one small square at a time–through some of the most challenging moments of this winter.

So in the interest of being kept honest, I’m telling you now. I’m going to start writing a series of essays about chocolate. Rather than be scared and shut down, I’m going to push myself to do scary things that force me to be better. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I’ve already started work on my first chocolate essay. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned so far. My first essay will be about Shawn Askinosie, a former criminal lawyer who is now a specialty chocolate maker who is making a huge difference in the lives of kids in his Springfield, Missouri neighborhood and with cocoa bean farmers in small villages in Honduras, Tanzania, Ecuador and the Philippines.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about chocolate that you’d like me to research or have any stories about making/sourcing/eating chocolate you’d care to share, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

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Brooke Burton nominated for best food writing

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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

7 Comments

  1. February 23
    Reply

    Can’t freaking wait to read all your chocolate essays :) I will volunteer myself to test any chocolate that needs to be tasted during your research periods!!

  2. February 24
    Reply

    Good for you! I would find this project intimidating as well. Just remember, it’s the thought of writing it that’s the hard part, not the actual writing. The writing will carry you away. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  3. February 26
    Reply

    I pop over here to read your lovely bones again and again, but this is the first time I’ve commented. I love that you are doing this — I, too, have had the bug to delve deeply into a subject a la MFK, and it’s a little daunting. Different than sporadic posting. But exciting, too. I look forward to reading about chocolate — what bitter pleasure. In March, I am trying to do the same thing, only with blue cheese. Perhaps we can be bezzie mates, electronically. I always find comfort in knowing that no matter the hour, somewhere, someone else is tapping in the keys, facing the same darkness.

  4. February 28
    Reply

    I’ll be following along.

  5. March 1
    Reply

    On more than a few really late nights I would reach for a small, irregularly shaped cube of intensely dark chocolate and take a couple of minuscule bites. That was often enough to carry me over to another day, while I smiled in my sleep.
    I cannot wait to read your essays on chocolate.
    BTW, I’ve been to Ann Arbor and it is one of the most beautiful towns i have ever seen in the U.S. A perfect venue to start anew:)

    • Food Woolf
      March 5
      Reply

      Lana, I love the image of you reaching into a cabinet in your kitchen at some late night hour for some “irregularly shaped cube of intensely dark chocolate.” Thanks for your support and kind words.

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