Atheist Easter Links

And two hours later, after I had bought a latte and a croissant at Relish:

As an atheist, I suppose I ought to have made this post on the vernal equinox. But who’s thinking about chocolate eggs then?

Cadbury's Creme Eggs

About 14 years ago a friend who was trying to give up cigarettes as he waited for a heart transplant told me that he had considered giving up cigarettes for Lent, hoping that the structure of Lent would make it easier for him. (Tobacco. Possibly the most addictive drug in the world.) Reciprocally, I told him that if he’d give up cigarettes, I’d give up crisps and chocolate. (I figured if I gave up one or the other, I’d just eat more of the one I hadn’t given up.) I was surprised to find that while I missed eating crisps, I missed chocolate like a physical need – not just the taste, but the unique texture of chocolate, solid at room temperature, melting at body temperature, so that your teeth sink into the chocolate and then it melts into a glorious chocolate swallow. I hadn’t realised how routinely I bought a bar of chocolate or accepted a piece of chocolate from a co-worker. I wanted chocolate.

About two weeks in my friend admitted to me that he hadn’t been able to quit cigarettes. But by this time I was so invested in not eating chocolate for six weeks that I wouldn’t give in. Fifteen minutes after midnight Easter Sunday, I ate my first bite of chocolate in six weeks and I knew it wasn’t very good chocolate but it tasted wonderful. I did it again next year, and found it wasn’t nearly as difficult… and the third year, I realised I didn’t really need to “give up chocolate”, because weeks at a time could pass without eating any. Chocolate and I had fought: and I’d won.

Lent’s an interesting period of time in which to relinquish habits. If you’re religious about it, the relinquishment doesn’t apply on Sundays: if you’re doing it for the sake of giving up a habit, going back to it every seventh day just makes it worse. (Which may be why the religious allow it on Sundays, to make their suffering worse.) Six weeks is long enough to break a habit and long enough to test an addiction.

So on the day when Christians gather together to celebrate the death of their God by eating chocolate, let me share with you some chocolatey/Eastery links.

I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began ‘Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen’. This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. – C. S. Lewis, 1958

Have you ever wondered how different The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be if instead of Jadis making Narnia “Always winter, never Christmas” it had been “always spring, never Easter”? For one thing, instead of Father Christmas showing up, would a giant Easter Bunny have hopped into the narrative, bearing magical chocolate? Speaking of which, let me generally recommend to you Ana Mardoll’s deconstruction of Narnia.

When you're sad just remember that it is the dementors fault

Serious Eats this year seriously examined the technique of eating a creme-filled egg. And the Independent, less seriously, published some creme egg recipes.

Cakespy’s interview with a Cadbury Creme Egg:

CS: And how is it that you are made?
CCE: Well, it all starts in a half-egg shaped mold, which is then filled with solid white fondant and a dab of yellow fondant to simulate the yolk. The two halves are joined very quickly and then immediately cooled to allow the chocolate to set. The fondant filling, while solid while the eggs are made, is then injected with an enzyme which causes it to liquefy into the gooey substance found in the finished product. The finished eggs fall onto a conveyor belt which transports them to the foiling machines and then to the packing and shipping area.

CS: That enzyme thing is kind of gross.
CCE: I won’t deny that. But does it make you want to eat me any less?
CS: (Pauses thoughtfully) Touché.

See also: Cakespy’s insane yet adorable Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict.

You don’t like regular hot-cross buns? Try them stuffed with chocolate and fresh strawberries.

Cupcake project: Hot Cross Buns Stuffed with Chocolate and Strawberries

Or, if you have a deft hand – fairy cakes baked inside an eggshell.

Cupcake Project: Easter cupcakes baked in real egg

I don’t eat jelly (gelatine is not vegetarian – and I find the vegan “substitutes” don’t really work) but these jelly eggs are pretty. Someone should make them!

Rainbow jelly easter eggs

If you wondered what LibDem MPs actually do when they’re not voting with the Tories to destroy the welfare state and privatise the NHS, Jo Swinson is monitoring how much wasteful packaging goes into boxing up a commercial Easter egg:

Commercially produced Easter eggs generate an estimated 3,000 tonnes of UK waste each year, according to the government’s waste advisory body, Wrap. But despite some improvements, many Easter chocolate products remain over-packaged and unrecyclable, according to a report by the Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, a long-standing campaigner against excessive and wasteful packaging.

Her 2012 Easter Egg Packaging report found that, on average, only 38% of what is in an Easter egg box is an egg – the same figure as last year. It also criticises some manufacturers for failing to ensure their packages are made from widely recyclable materials, which means that much of the packaging still ends up in landfill sites.

I don’t mean to be sarcastic. It’s a good thing that some LibDem MPs are finding positive things to do with their time in Parliament in the last three years before their party is wiped out.

It’s not just the packaging. It’s also what’s inside it.

Cocoa is the essential ingredient for making chocolates. A significant proportion of the world production of cocoa is grown and harvested on plantations by African slaves.

These slaves are on cocoa plantations in remote rural areas in West Africa. Some of the chocolates and drinking chocolate which we buy is made using slave cocoa. The slaves are beaten by the overseer. They are not fed properly. They work long hours. They are locked up in a slave barracks at night. They are beaten and often killed if they try to escape. Anti-Slavery Society

In 2012, it should be an easy moral choice for everyone to say they’re against slavery. I volunteered for Oxfam in 1994, the year FairTrade was launched. The concept behind FairTrade is something plain, simple, and worthwhile: most of us in the exploiting countries don’t actually have the ability to tell corporations and governments “Hey, we don’t want you to do that” to the people in resource-rich countries that get exploited (well, we can tell them, but we can’t make it stick), but we can express our preference against that behaviour by buying Fair Trade.

Democracy, accountability, and “nnoboa” or working together – all key characteristics of a successful co-op – all of which Divine Chocolate is delighted to be celebrating this year – the UN International Year of Co-operatives. Divine, the chocolate company co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana, is partnering with other co-ops and co-op associations this year to help highlight the benefits of this model of business. Divine Chocolate, February 2012

It isn’t perfect – supermarkets endorse FairTrade because they can put a higher markup on FairTrade products and keep most of that extra margin of profit for themselves:

Cynics claim their devotion to the cause is less than altruistic, however, pointing to the higher profit margins some Fairtrade products enjoy and the fact that the goods provide a useful marketing tool as supermarkets attempt to paint themselves a greener hue.

Tim Harford, author of The Logic of Life, who first highlighted that some chains were profiteering from Fairtrade, said: “At the UK consumer end, some companies have charged a far higher mark-up on Fairtrade products than ever goes to producers. Fairtrade is about a promise for fair value to the producer, not a fair price to the consumer.”

Research this month by the consumer group Which? found that Fairtrade products were 9 to 16 per cent more expensive per gram than their non-Fairtrade equivalents. Philip Booth, at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free-market think tank, said: “How much of that higher price finds its way back to the grower?”

But no system is perfect. If I buy ethically sourced chocolate and coffee, at least part of the profits go back to the producer: it’s better than supporting this:

It’s difficult to tell exactly how much child labor there is in the Ivory Coast. We have read all from 200.000 to 800.000, and can’t find an exact number. The problem is probably that the companies using child labor don’t want people to actually know the numbers. Children working in quarry
But some organizations, like ILO that fights for the rights of workers, want everybody to know how these kids are been used. Another reason to that we can’t find an exact number is that many of the children working in the Ivory Coast aren’t from the country. A lot of them have been tricked to work on the cocoa farms, because their families are in debt. The farmer will tell the children that they can help their parents pay of the debt by working on his farm. He then promises them a payment for the work, but in many cases the children never even see the money. Sometimes the children are sold to work on cocoa farms, because of the family’s debt. The child will then move away from his/hers family and live on the cocoa farm. In some cases the family don’t see the child again, and the likelihood of that the children are getting paid is extremely low. Some of the farm owners are even abusing the children. Sometimes it’s a beating if they don’t work hard enough, and other times it can be sexually abuse against the children.

If you’re unemployed and you save up all your lavish government-provided income for 133 weeks you could afford to buy the world’s most expensive chocolate egg.
World record: most expensive chocolate egg
Of course, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, because you would have starved to death by then.

The hand-made [50 kilo] egg took three days to make by seven artisan chocolatiers at Curley’s Twickenham production kitchen. Its shell is made from Amadei chocolate sourced from the Chuao region of Venezuela, which is often heralded as being the best chocolate in the world by food experts. The filling includes muscovado caramel, Japanese black vinegar, rosemary and olive oil, toasted sesame, juniper berry, cassis and a hint of edible gold leaf.

If you’re religious and you insist on Jesus with your chocolate, you could ask Cosimo Cavallaro to make you another My Sweet Lord – a life-sized Jesus made out of milk chocolate. (The exhibit had to be closed down after death threats from Catholics. I wish I was joking.)

My Sweet Lord - chocolate jesus

Or just get yourself a mouthful of chocolate Jesus or a crucifix lollypop.

But for an Easter present that will run and run (squawking as they go): Funky Chicks are only £14.

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Filed under C. S. Lewis, Chocolate, FairTrade, Religion, Supermarkets

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