The Chocolate Spa at Hershey PA—I spent my last vacation there and I still have chocolate on the brain! Since I am eternally curious I had to learn more about chocolate and Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars. How little I knew about a treat I love so much! As with everything, chocolate has lessons for us:
1.) Nothing worth having is ever easy. I had no idea how hard it was to figure out how to make chocolate and once figured out, how difficult to turn it into the amazing treat we now love! The beans only grow in a certain part of the world, and the trees are very fragile and hard to cultivate. Once you manage to grow cocoa trees, the beans are harvested, roasted and shelled, then ground to form cocoa liquor. The liquor is pressed to squeeze out the cocoa butter. Later the cocoa butter gets put back in (if it’s good chocolate). A few other things are added, then the mixture is conched (or mixed with a conching machine) for up to 3 days at temperatures between 140 and 167 degrees! Then it has to be tempered (or cooled) just right—and then molded. Mess up at any step and the whole batch is ruined. Holy cow! Who knew?
2.) Persistence is a key to success. Milton Hershey failed in his first two candy making ventures. He blew it, lost everything—twice! If he quit then, we’d never have had a Hershey Bar or a Hershey’s Kiss!!
3.) Have a passion—something in your life or your work you are excited about. Milton Hershey became passionate about helping young boys whose parents could no longer care for them. Profits from the chocolate business helped these boys have a better life. His school still operates today. Forrest Mars wanted to build an empire—he was passionate about selling his products all over the world. The number one selling chocolate bar worldwide today? The Mars Bar. Passion keeps us engaged and passion fuels all great accomplishments. What are you passionate about? If the answer is nothing, you need to get connected to something. Otherwise you’ll miss out on being everything you can be and enjoying your journey there.
4.) Stop eating and start tasting. I love chocolate (actually I love most food), and I’ve been eating it since I was a kid. But I never really tasted it. I went to my first chocolate tasting at Hershey (which is much like a wine tasting) where I was told to use all my senses; even listening to chocolate as we snapped tasting squares. The darker the chocolate, the more distinctive the snap. Milk chocolate is too soft to really snap. I learned that a cocoa tree grown by an orange tree can actually absorb some of the citrus flavor which may be tasted in the resulting chocolate. Chocolate from different regions has different flavors. Who knew?
But here’s the bigger lesson—we go through life eating and not tasting. We’re in such a hurry to get to the next step—the next big deal, the end of the day, the wedding—whatever it is, that we miss all the nuance, all the rich detail of the current moment. Spring is a great season to really taste—notice the flowers, the birdsong, this gorgeous world we take for granted. Eat a piece of fresh fruit and savor the juice, the color, the texture. There is more to everything than meets the eye—and we are usually in too much of a rush to notice.
5.) Go deeper. I am always amazed by people who don’t read, who visit the same places, who pretty much have quit learning anything new about themselves or about the world. To me this is like going through life with your eyes closed. The minute you learn something new, your world expands. And it’s exciting! Now when I eat chocolate, I think of Milton Hershey and his struggles in making it, or I eat an M & M and remember how hard it was to get Americans to buy them at first. I try to really savor what I eat and understand what “mouth feel” means when a Lindt truffle melts in my mouth. Pick anything that interests you and go deeper—learn about it. If it’s a person, ask them about their childhood or what their dreams are—there is so much more to the world and everything in it! Don’t let the demands on your time keep you in the shallows of life.
6.) Have fun! I can’t help but associate chocolate with fun. I didn’t see any sad faces at the World of Chocolate in Hershey. Adults and children alike were having a blast - it was like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory without the creepiness factor. Somehow we have come to think of chocolate as bad (except limited quantities of dark chocolate for the health benefits), and we’re just too busy to have fun. Who can waste time at a chocolate tasting where there is e-mail to check? Right, who can waste time living where there is work to do? Trust me—there will always be work, but real fun is getting harder and harder for us to find. Or maybe allow ourselves to find. Sitting in the theater in the World of Chocolate as bubbles came down from the ceiling and 3D Reese’s Pieces flew off the screen—I was laughing with delight. When was the last time you laughed with sheer delight? If you can’t remember, it’s been way too long.
7.) Don’t take things for granted. Did you know that the regions in which the cocoa trees grow has been experiencing drought and over harvesting? That some types of cocoa beans are almost extinct? Can you imagine a world without chocolate? Now, clearly that is far too horrifying to contemplate for long. And Milton Hershey would be aghast—his vision was to make chocolate affordable, not just something for the very rich—and that was what he did with his original Hershey Bar. We take many things for granted—our loved ones, our health, chocolate. Nothing is forever—savor it now. Seize the day—eat chocolate!