Holiday Tour Day 6: The Elysian and Fjåk
This is what they drink in the Elysian Fields
To dream, perchance to write… to think, perchance to read. Today’s pairing fills us with the heady potential that bubbles deep within each one of us. Potential we could spin into reality if we just… gave it some good, serious thought, and molded that thought into action.
How do we do so? We begin by doing what so many of you already are: writing. You’re not just thinking, you are committing those thoughts on paper, digital or otherwise. You are sharing your words with other thinkers, writers, creators. From the written word rises the will to act, to change, to realize those dreams and thoughts that inspired the words.
This is the purpose and intention of the Cacao Muse Holiday Tour. To connect you with other minded writerly souls, whether like-minded or not. This is what writers like Elle Griffin exhort us to do. If she gives us wings, it’s up to us to take to the skies.
No Holiday Tour would be complete without a stop in an enchanted forest, snowy mountains, or the long lost seas beyond the mountains. Or discussions about culture, philosophy, technology, economics, and democracy.
All that and so much more is the world that Elle Griffin has built.
The only way to enter The Elysian is on your wings—and for strong wings you need good chocolate.
TCM Holiday Tour Day 6 pairing:
THE ELYSIAN and FJÅK
Elle doesn’t know this (till now), but she was one of my first impressions of Substack when I first dove into this ocean earlier this year. I came across a comment of hers on someone’s Substack, and while I don’t remember the exact words, I do remember she was exceedingly helpful and giving to the person whose question she was answering. This established a sentiment baseline for me for the kind of community Substack is. It has been consistently reinforced by the numerous other writers I’ve met and connected with here, and Elle was one of the first. She was also one of the first whose work resonated with my own purposes to plant a garden here on Substack—we come here because, as she says, “we need thinkers more than we need journalists.”
So for that, Elle, thank you. Know that these are things I do not forget, and it’s the reason I wanted to bring you along for the Tour.
For those of you who may not yet know Elle, this is the lady herself:
And this too, a snapshot of a reflective moment reminiscent of a scene in a period film—wonder which A-list actress would do Elle justice, any guesses?
Please welcomeand .
The Cacao Muse: Welcome to the Holiday Tour Elle! What’s your favorite chocolate?
Elle Griffin: Ritual drinking chocolate. They are based out of Park City, Utah. My husband and I frequently go up for a flight of their sipping chocolates after skiing. It’s as decadent as it sounds: rich melted chocolate in a tiny cup, the same chocolate from several different locations around the world.
Birgitte: Mmmm… rich melted chocolate in a tiny cup. Et après-ski no less.
TCM: You’ve traveled quite a bit; we’re guessing you have an equally multicultural palette.
Elle: Fondue is my favorite food. I have a pot of cheese fondue for my birthday every year and a pot of chocolate fondue instead of cake! Dark-chocolate morsels melted with flakes of salt dusted across the top are pure decadence!
Birgitte: Goodness, that sounds like heaven. There was no time to order Ritual for the photoshoot for this story, but! I do have something very special for you. “Rich melted chocolate in a tiny cup,” on your command! The porcelain here is from my set that I bought in the Czech Republic years ago, the most gorgeous set of porcelain I’ve ever seen, and I got it for a song back then. The tablecloth is a white damask I have from my mother, and I set it up to recall the snowy mountains of Norway, which is where Fjåk, the chocolate I have chosen for you, is from.
My only regret, as with all of these stories on the Tour, is that we can’t do the tastings in person, but dreams are made to be made real… I’m cooking up ways to do that too. And I do want you to know this chocolate did not go to waste :)
Fun fact: I bought this container of Fjåk drinking chocolate at the NW Chocolate Festival in Bellevue, Washington, and the two cookies, from a small company here in the Bay Area called tinyB, at the Fall Holiday Chocolate Salon in San Francisco.
Chocolate: Chilli Dark Drinking Chocolate
Origin: Chanthaburi, Thailand
Ingredients: Cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cacao butter, chilli.
Price: 180 kr (~$17.00)
Tasting Notes: Drinking this chocolate is the equivalent of taking a mineral salts bath after strenuous exercise. You just melt away. The peppery zing of Thai chilli peppers awakens your tastebuds, your mind, and your body. Hints of rum and pineapple too.
TCM: You write about the things that everyone else dreams about. Tell us about your work.
Elle: I write The Elysian, essays thinking through a better future and utopian fiction bringing it to life. My goal is not to point out all the problems with the world, but to think through the solutions and dream up a better future.
One thing I’m very interested in exploring is how we can continue to enjoy resources like chocolate, which are grown in areas outside of our control, while taking care of the workers who are harvesting it and the land where it is being harvested.
TCM: What do you find most concerning about the chocolate supply chain?
Elle: The exploitation of chocolate workers. It’s estimated that 2 million children are still growing cacao in West Africa where two thirds of the world’s chocolate is grown. “Mars, maker of M&M’s and Milky Way, can trace only 24 percent of its cocoa back to farms; Hershey, the maker of Kisses and Reese’s, less than half; Nestlé can trace 49 percent of its global cocoa supply to farms.”
Birgitte: This is by far the industry’s darkest side. It strikes me that so many of the authors participating in the Holiday Tour are voicing very similar concerns. But it’s not surprising—these issues have been going on for decades, and mirror problems in many other food industries. It’s not just chocolate that’s been sucked into the agricultural-industrial complex.
Elle: Yes, I’d rather see a future where chocolate is a luxury that does good by everyone in the supply chain than have it mass-produced, causing harm around the world for our pleasure.
Birgitte: I hear you. I can imagine a story on The Elysian about a forest garden, perhaps in South America, or Mesoamerica, or Hawai’i, where cacao abounds and forms the backbone of a thriving circular economy. It would be fiction, sadly, and yet, and yet… you have to dream it first to make it real. I’ll share a little open secret… many of us in the chocolate sector are working to make that story non fiction, and relegate the current realities to the dusty annals of history. We’ll be covering that journey here on The Cacao Muse.
As always, a chocolate tasting in Utopia never lasts quite long enough. And so it is that we bid you adieu for the day. There is so much more to discover on The Elysian, from essays to fiction to resources and insights from a writer who embodies a veritable garden of literary delights of both the imagined and the real.
COMING UP! DAY 7 of the TCM HOLIDAY TOUR
No Utopia is complete without a proper travel guide to navigate it. What’s that, you say, why bother with such mundane things?
Well, because guides and maps are efficient and pragmatic, and you need logistical support even if you live in an ideal world.
Plus, these maps are really a sight to behold, and the cartographer a world onto himself. You’ll see. Tomorrow.