I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I recently read a book which made me think about a number of my food choices. Not of the "should I eat more ice cream?" choices (to which there is only one correct answer) but of the "should I go organic?" choices - and since I read this book, food and it's origin has been on my mind. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that even chocolate can have a conscience. Green and Black's chocolate, which is organic, is now certified FreeTrade. So theoretically you can eat as much of it as you like and not feel guilty about what you might be doing to the world.... although if you eat enough of it you might feel a smidge of guilt about what you might be doing to your thighs!

The Green and Black's company were nice enough to send me a number of products to try - milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Maya Gold (dark infused with orange) and white chocolate (infused with vanilla). I'd be lying if I said I didn't crack open the milk chocolate packet within seconds of getting it in my hot little hands. I ripped it open, broke off a piece, put it in my mouth...and was sorely disappointed. Admittedly I have a very SWEET tooth - meaning the more sugar is in something, the happier I am. So I had a look and it turns out that their milk chocolate is actually 34% cocoa - which is pretty high compared to most milk chocolates I've tried and perhaps it was the extreme sweetness I was missing.

The white chocolate was pretty okay, but for me the other 3 flavours had a unpleasant after taste. I'm not even sure how to describe it other than just "yucky" ... it had a strange, strong after-taste and just wasn't all that fabulous to eat in the first place with a very 'flat' flavour. Since I'm not a huge dark chocolate fan I had DH and DD2 taste it since they are both dark choc addicts (of the "If it's not 70% or higher I'm not interested" types). DH agreed it had a very strange taste and then after-taste, and DD2 thought it was the nicest chocolate she'd every eaten. Hmmm. Inconclusive.

So I took it to the next level and decided to bake with it. I used the dark chocolate to make an amazing Mocha self-saucing pudding, which got rave reviews from the various people lucky enough to get a piece.

I still wasn't convinced, though... so I tried a chocolate self-saucing pudding (so the coffee could not mask the chocolate taste.) The pudding was okay and there was no evidence of either the odd chocolate taste or after-taste. I'd happy use the G&B for cooking purposes... but I still wasn't convinced we'd reached any real consensus about if this chocolate was any good to eat. Ethically, it was great...but I can't eat ethics. So we brought out what was left at a recent family dinner and had everyone taste the milk, dark, and Maya.


Half the table spit it out and said, "What IS this stuff? It's terrible!" and the other half said, "Yum! Can I have another piece?" and then gobbled the rest up, offering to take home any spare blocks. I'm not sure exactly what it is about Green & Black's which causes such a divergence in tastes - certainly I've seen and heard many a Melbourne foodie really enjoy it and refer to it as their go-to chocolate, but my personal experience is not the same. For me, I love that even luxury items like chocolate are being produced with social responsibility, and I applaud their efforts to be organic and free-trade. Now if only they'll go certified sweet, we'll all be happy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beautiful Poverty

I've neglected emzeegee & the hungry three for a couple of weeks because we all headed off on a tropical adventure, and since we've come home I've been stuck with the head cold from hell. DH thinks I'm attempting weight loss by mucus, since it's surely impossible that one person can blow their nose as often as I am and not lose something. While the idea of fat morphing into snot and then disappearing sounds appealing, let me assure you that going to the gym is far more successful and kinder on one's nose.

We spent 11 days in and around the islands of Hawaii - first on a 7 day cruise through the islands and then a scant 2 days in Honolulu. Yes, I know that equals 9, and I said 11... but since I live at the ends of the earth, it takes a day to actually get anywhere and another day to get back.

What struck me about our time in Hawaii is the incongruity of it all. We took a number of different tours and saw all sorts of amazing things... and yet what stuck with me was how many times we saw poor people, saw homeless people, and heard stories of people with 2 or 3 jobs who are struggling just to get by. I took some time to chat to our various tour leaders, bus drivers and locals we met, and for everyone the story was the same. Hawaii is hurting. I found myself quite shocked at the state of some of the housing there - ramshackle houses which look as though they would not survive the summer breeze let alone the hurricanes that come to that area. Of particular shock was the homes we saw around the big island.

On the one hand, people are clearly struggling. On the other, I could not believe how inexpensive everything there was. Food. Drinks. Clothing. Souvenirs. Absolutely everything we came across was ridiculously inexpensive. Even tours - whole day tours for $75! Of the most shock - and joy - was the cost of clothing. I literally bought massive bags of stuff for my kids- pants, shirts, jeans, shoes, belts, sweatshirts... and the bill came to something like $130. School uniform pants for my son, for which here I'd pay upwards of $50, were $12.50. The shoes he loves (Keen's) are $200 here and less than $100 there. The exact same tennis shoes I bought for myself the day BEFORE we left Australia for a bargain of $80 (normally over $100, hence I thought I was the most fab shopper ever) were on sale at Nordstroms for $31.

$31. Less than a third of what I'd normally pay retail.

So in a country where everything appears ridiculously cheap.. why are people struggling so much? Is it the cost of housing? The cost of insurance? What? I just found it so difficult to marry the image of all those sad houses, and all those people sharing their stories of struggling - with the fact that I took my daughter out to lunch and both of us (with drinks) paid less than $10... and had plenty of leftovers. Why are these people not affording to live to a good standard? What is wrong with America? Why are Hawaiian pineapples now bearing a "grown in Costa Rica" sticker?

Hawaii, like Australia, suffers a little bit from being an island. So most things are going to be more expensive than on the mainland purely on account of transport. Not a whole lot is actually produced on the island, so most of it has to come from somewhere, and getting it there costs a heck of a lot. Australia has the same issue - so a lot of things here are crazy expensive simply because they are imported. Even accounting for "island living tax" - things were just crazy, crazy cheap. I bought my girls a hoodie at Gap for $11. I couldn't even get a hoodie for $11 here if I was at K-Mart AND it was on clearance.

Of course, not everyone is struggling - certainly as we left the tourist areas of Waikiki we saw some amazing properties. Huge, stunning, amazing villas. And we met people who are leading perfectly middle class lives and doing just fine... so it's not as though the entire place is falling apart or anything. It just seemed like there was this veneer of beauty and underneath was a struggling state. I have heard many stories from friends and relatives about the state of the American economy in recent months (years...) but Hawaii was truly an eye-opener for me.