Droolworthy chocolate and food studies events calendar

I was green with envy last weekend as tweets and Facebook posts poured in with updates from the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA. While I’ve never attended the festival, the largest gathering of bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the United States, it has been on my wish list since I started blogging. The schedule is packed with what look like excellent events — tastings, lectures, demonstrations, film showings, and just plain fun — many led by experts from the chocolate world. You can view the impressive line-up here [pdf]. Social media allowed many of us to experience the festival vicariously, at least in part. Check out the festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages or watch the trailer below to get a sense for the action.

The social media extravaganza surrounding the festival reminded me of how often I receive queries about chocolate and food events here at the blog. I keep a Google calendar of these events for my own reference and have decided to make it public via the “events” link on the top right of this page. There, you’ll find an ever-growing list of events in the chocolate and food studies world. A heavy emphasis is placed on events in the New England area where I live, but readers who live in other regions can still often find options closer to their own homes. Inclusion of an event on the list does not mean that I endorse the event or that I will attend it myself, but rather that I’ve identified it as a potential site for learning and research worth sharing with a larger audience. I strongly recommend double-checking all details with the hosting institution for each event, as I cannot regularly check for changes related to cancellations, etc, and some events do require entrance fees and/or early registration.

I’ll be working on the events page over the next few weeks to make it even more user friendly, hopefully with a dynamic map to aid in finding events in specific regions. In the meantime, I warmly welcome submissions of event recommendations. To fellow residents of the New England area — we’re fortunate to find ourselves in the midst of an especially vibrant food events scene. If you’re not hungry now, you will be soon!

Male-Female Relationships and Chocolate in TV Commercials

We’ve seen Women Being Seduced By Chocolate In Stock Photos and Women Alone With Chocolate in TV Commercials. Now, here are thirteen examples featuring male-female relationships as depicted in television advertisements for chocolate.

First up, there is the common theme of women sexualizing men with chocolate. These commercials tend to go something like this: Women check out an attractive man. The man is in possession of chocolate. Women decide they want the man’s chocolate. All hell breaks loose.

Lindt Lindor Truffles and Roger Federer “Airport” commercial:

3 Musketeers “Catwalk” commercial:

AXE Dark Temptation commercial, particularly disturbing for its play on blackface and cannibalism:

Second, there’s the related theme of women dissatisfied by men finding solace in chocolate. These ads often show men in embarrassing circumstances or failing women romantically while the women enjoy chocolate instead of the men’s company.

Here’s a suggestive FLING Chocolate dressing room ad. “It’s naughty… but not that naughty.”:

M&M’s 2012 Super Bowl commercial marked the debut of a judgy new female character, Ms. Brown.:

A Nestle AeroBar commercial from South Africa, where a pair of rowdy male sports fans make certain not to interrupt a special lady’s private chocolate time because “Everyone knows not to interrupt a lady and her AeroBar.”:

A Nestle “Voodoo” commercial, which manages to merge ugly stereotypes of gender and religion. “As it melts in your mouth, it’s melting your heart.”:

A DOVE Chocolate commercial where a woman’s boyfriend takes on the role of chagrined caretaker because she exists in some sort modern-day female hysteria characterized by orgasmic memory loss upon chocolate consumption.:

Third, we encounter a paired set of themes. The first and more common of the two is that of men selling women chocolate, romance, and sex.

This Laima Chocolate ad from Europe closely links chocolate and symbols of romance and promises of intimacy – a beautiful bed, flowers, doves, a handsome man, pajamas.:

This highly sexualized European commercial targets women by portraying a group of scantily clad muscle-bound men making cookies.:

This Turkish commercial for Biscolata Starz biscuits also aims to entice with erotic imagery.:

Less common is the second in the pair — the theme of women selling men chocolate, romance, and sex. Two examples come from Ms. Green, the first (and until this year, the only) female M&M’s character.

Here’s an ad from the Middle East, showing the female green M&M, Ms. Green, being coy and flirtatious, with two other male M&Ms vying for her attention. The song is Baddi Doub, by Lebanese singer Elissa, and its highly suggestive lyrics include lines like “Let me drink of your love” and “I want to melt.”:

And finally here’s an American commercial featuring Miss Green sensually selling Mint M&M’s Premiums, rendering her male M&M counterparts senseless.:

Watching all of these ads one after the other like this really drives home the old maxim “sex sells” (or “sexism sells,” in several cases above). In the case of chocolate, the marketing is heavily geared toward women yet also disconcertingly focused on stereotypical gender roles. I admit that while some of the ads make me chuckle, I’m mostly bored by their similarity. C’mon now, marketing firms. Let’s see something different for a change!

More chocolate TV advertisements — with still other approaches to traditional gender roles — to come in the next post.

Women alone with chocolate in TV commercials

The blog lives! :-) It’s been an exciting few months behind the scenes, resulting in this extended absence from posting. More on recent developments soon.


In February’s Women Being Seduced By Chocolate post, I explored the heavily gendered and sexualized images of women consuming chocolate in stock photographs. As a follow up to these still images, I’ve been exploring moving ones — specifically images of women in television advertisements for chocolate. TV commercials offer a slightly more nuanced (though just slightly) approach to chocolate marketing and stereotypical gender and sex roles.

Here are nine examples featuring women alone with chocolate in commercials. Variations on this theme are to come next week. These ads were produced within the past five years (most within the past two or three), and some are currently running on TV where I live.

Most of the ads depict women craving, testifying, or dreaming about chocolate, then eating it, all in various states of sensual arousal. The ads also frequently portray chocolate as a guilty pleasure or consolation prize, thus toying with societal norms surrounding abstinence and gender performance. In a space of time as short as 15 to 30 seconds, a woman is introduced, caricatured, and titillated by chocolate consumption, depending on how we, the viewers, choose to interpret things. See for yourself:

Russell Stover cuts right to the chase with this ad, called “Women Love Chocolate”:

Previously featured in the Chocolate Rooms post, this Kellogg’s Special K ad depicts chocolate cravings as a woman’s guilty pleasure that can make dreams come true without expanding waistlines:

DOVE Chocolate’s “Only Human” commercial offers chocolate as a consolation prize for the physical and emotional challenges of femininity:

This US ad for Werther’s Original Caramel Chocolates gets more suggestive about what chocolate can do for a woman. “I just want to sink into this sofa with a bag of these…”:

The UK Werther’s Original Caramel Chocolates ad takes the suggestion even further, showing a woman having a strong, if bizarre reaction after trying the sweets:

Ghirardelli’s “Rendezvous” commercial has a simple message. A woman + chocolate = a sensual love reward:

Two more DOVE ads, the first from the US and the second from Russia, suggest that eating chocolate is a total body physical pleasure:

Perhaps the most boldly obvious is York Peppermint Pattie’s “Get the sensation,” a series of commercials with similar content. In this example, a woman takes a bite with sensuously parted lips, goosebumps rise on her skin, her pupils dilate, and her breath quickens. Subtle, it is not:

What do you think?

Wacky World of Choc Wednesdays: Cadbury Dairy Milk Thumbs Up

How’s this for the wacky world of choc?

Cadbury Dairy Milk brand, which has a long history of trying to outdo itself with lively stunts and advertisements, recently launched a fan appreciation campaign in celebration of reaching one million fans on its UK Facebook page. So what did they do this time? They commissioned a crew of trademarked-Cadbury-purple-clad sculptors to fashion a giant thumbs up version of the Facebook “Like” button out of 3 tons of Cadbury Dairy Milk bars. Then they broadcast the whole shabang via Facebook livestream over the course of fourty-eight hours.

Here’s a short video (just over one minute long) detailing the building process:

Cadbury donated all the chocolate to a company working to develop renewable fuels, where scientists will use it to continue their research. Clearly, research on chocolate is where it’s at.

Itching to see more of Cadbury’s stunts? You can head over to the brand’s UK Facebook page to check out the 30 foot tall Magnificent Musical Chocolate Fountain they’ve got going on in magical Joyville right now. Or check out this past Bittersweet Notes post on Chocolate Stop Motion Videos for an example of one of Cadbury’s stickier ad campaigns.

And while you’re at it, readers, visit Bittersweet Notes’ fledgling Facebook page and “Like” away for chocolatey updates in your News Feed. I promise to do something insane when the page reaches 1 million fans.

A Chocolatey Harvard GSC Mini-Course

chocolate sticks by chotda

Happy Monday to all!

Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers an interesting selection of short term courses, panel discussions, and workshops every January. As part of this robust programming, a number of mini-courses taught by and for graduate students are chosen and sponsored by the Harvard Graduate Student Council.

This month, I’ll be teaching a course entitled Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food to a group of fellow graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines. The description and a brief outline of what we’ll cover is below.

Class begins today and I’m optimistic that we will have a delicious first meeting. Updates to come over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, do let us know what you think of the course description.

Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food
This course will examine the sociohistorical legacy of chocolate, with a delicious emphasis on the eating and appreciation of the so called “food of the gods,” the focus of course instructor Carla Martin’s blog, Bittersweet Notes. Course participants will learn about the history of cacao cultivation and the present day state of the chocolate industry; the science behind cacao and chocolate; the diverse cultural constructions surrounding it; the economic forces that have come to largely control it; and the implications of international politics, the food movement, and alternative trade models for its future. We will ask questions of chocolate related to racial and socioeconomic injustice, responsible development, honesty in production and marketing, hierarchies of quality, and myths of purity. Participants in this mini-course can also expect to learn to better identify chocolate that suits their individual tastes, cravings, cooking ambitions, and ethics. Course participants will be asked to contribute approximately $20 to cover the cost of chocolate for tasting (this dollar amount will depend on enrollment).

Course details
Our main reference text will be The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes (2009) by Maricel Presilla. Optional supplemental readings will be made available, with directed recommendations from the instructor. All course meetings will involve multimedia presentation and discussion, with special attention given to the utility of digital research tools, blogging, and social media for learning and research on chocolate.

In addition, we will taste chocolate at each course meeting, working to train our palates to begin to recognize different types, origins, and compositions of chocolate. It will become clear that sociohistorical context is most often inseparable from the resulting flavor and quality of chocolate. Our sixth course meeting will combine presentation and discussion with visits to local chocolatiers and chocolate makers in the Cambridge area. An optional seventh meeting for a tour and conversation at Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville will be scheduled at a time convenient for the group.

The course is divided into six two-hour meetings, each devoted to one part of chocolate’s story:

1. Sociohistorical legacy of cacao and the rise of the global chocolate industry. Chocolate in culture: as food, currency, medicine, royal privilege, aphrodisiac, entertainment, luxury, etc. Examples will be drawn from history, literature, music, art, and film, and will highlight chocolate’s relationship to social issues like race, gender, sexuality, post colonialism, and international politics.
Tasting: single origin, single bean Latin American chocolate.

2. The science of growing and identifying cacao varieties, geographic and environmental requirements, chemistry and physics of chocolate making, and health benefits and concerns in chocolate.
Tasting: single origin chocolate from around the world.

3. Chocolate industry monoliths, scandal, and intrigue. The ongoing saga of big agriculture, multinational corporations, international relations, commodity trading, labor rights and abuses, and enormously powerful brands.
Tasting: some of the world’s most popular chocolate bars.

4. Pastry chefs, chocolatiers, craft chocolate makers, and chocolate connoisseurs. The food movement participants driving current innovations in chocolate and working to preserve some of the world’s heritage cacao varieties.
Tasting: industry-changing, cutting-edge craft chocolate bars and artisanal bonbons.

5. Chocolate, food advocacy, and social media – where international politics, the food movement, food politics, and alternative trade models meet.
Tasting: chocolate marketed as fairly traded and ethically sourced.

6. Chocolate in the Boston area, from the revolutionary era to the present. The history of Baker’s Chocolate in Dorchester (first to produce chocolate in the United States), NECCO’s candy row in Cambridge (do you smell Tootsie Rolls?), and a visit to local chocolatiers and chocolate makers.
Tasting: chocolate from local chocolatiers and chocolate makers.

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    Bittersweet Notes is an open source research project on chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. I invite you to join me as I explore the story of chocolate and the life stories of those involved with chocolate at its many stages of production and consumption.

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