While travelling on a train yesterday I overheard a little girl say to her friend, ‘You can have my chocolate. I hate chocolate.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Did this young girl have any idea how unique she was? Has there ever been another in the world who did not enjoy the creamy texture and soothing sweetness that brings immense comfort as it melts slowly into a cocoa dream on the tongue? I’m willing to admit that my love for anything cocoa related renders me perhaps a little biased. You will understand then why ‘The Chocolate Wars‘ has been on my reading list for some time.
The book is written by Deborah Cadbury, a direct descendant of the Cadbury dynasty, in the wake of the company’s takeover by American food giant Kraft. As expected, the reader is taken on a journey through the history of Cadbury’s success; from the struggles of early days to becoming one of the largest chocolate producers in the world. It details the company’s Quaker roots and how this influenced early decisions, the founding of the town of Bournville and the general good ethics that permeated the foundation of the firm.
Most interesting to me was the parallel between the portrayal of Victorian England and the plight of many poorer countries in our time. To read about the slums, the terrible working conditions, the poor pay and lack of education for children, I thought about the number of times I have read and heard the same description of conditions in so many places today. I began to marvel at the repetitive nature of crises and how it is possible that we face the same issues almost 200 years later.
Oddly, the book left me with a feeling of hope for the world’s poor. If England could so drastically improve the situation for most of its population – today it has the world’s sixth largest economy – then surely we can expect this for those who still live in extreme poverty today.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this book is a ‘page-turner’ but it is interesting nonetheless. I learned a bit about the Quakers and about the history of my favourite food, as well as gaining insight into the way shareholders do not always have the best interests of a company at heart.
If you do choose to indulge in this book, be warned: it will induce immense chocolate cravings. I think Green & Blacks‘s sales increased tremendously while I made my way through the chapters. So settle in with a good cuppa, a copy of The Chocolate Wars and a bar of your favourite fair trade chocolate treat. Then take a moment to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.