Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Chocolate Day

I woke up this morning, prepared some coffee and went out to the porch to join Janet for breakfast. On the table was a plate of pita, bowls fruit, and…CHOCOLATE! Three boxes of it – fudge cookies, mini-bars and a chocolate key! Yes, a chocolate key. Presumably to dear Janet’s heart! On the box it said, “Happy Chocolate Day” Not Happy Valentines Day. Happy “Chocolate” Day. I was feasting on cookies as Janet was leaving for work. “Save some for me,” she said.

This year, the Ghanaian Ministry of Tourism and the Ghana Cocoa Board launched a public relations campaign to change Valentine’s Day to Chocolate Day to boost cocoa sales across the country. Cocoa has long been one of Ghana’s biggest export products, but it’s not consumed much at home.

In today’s edition of The Statesman, a daily paper in Accra, the tourism minister blames the dieting industry for giving chocolate a bad name. “Ghana produces the best chocolate in the world,” said Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey. “We as a country have been very remiss at attacking the enemies of chocolate.”

He goes on to say that chocolate goes well with spirit of Valentines’ Day. It activates our endorphins, he said, the same that are produced when you are in love. “So if you eat lots of chocolate, you have the same glow that you get when you fall in love,” said the minister.

Many of the newspapers and radio stations are going along with the new theme. “Chocolate is the food of love,” reads the headline on the front page of The Statesman. At the top of every page, it reads, “Special Chocolate (Valentine’s) Day Edition.

The Heritage, another daily paper, wrote an editorial that said eating chocolate was a patriotic act. “Let the authorities utilize the chance well this and subsequent years. Today, as many as possible school-going children should be given chocolates to enjoy.”

The paper also talked about an added social benefit of phasing Valentine’s Day, which encourages young people to get a little too friendly with each other. “It would do our nation a lot of good, if we did away with the practice whereby out students and other youth…take their friends out for amorous acts most of which end up in unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases.”

I’m reluctant to make fun of this argument because this is a serious subject here, with half a million infected with HIV/AIDS. It just seems like a clumsy way of trying to manipulate kids into not having sex – but aren’t adults everywhere a bit off the mark in their well-meaning, but ill-considered efforts to keep kids in line?

One Ghanaian thought promoting chocolate on Valentine’s Day dishonoured the man who introduced the cocoa bean to Ghana – Tette Quarshie. He should get a day all to himself, said Nathaniel Davies in a letter to The Daily Graphic. “I humbly propose, as a more patriotic alternative, that Tette Quarshie’s birth date or some other significant date connected to him, should more conveniently and satisfactorily be made Chocolate Day. That, I think, would be more relevant and also serve to deservingly honour his memory.”

Let’s not quibble over which day to honour the cocoa bean and the legacy of Mr. Quarshie. Let’s make every day Chocolate Day.

- Mark


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark and Janet,
That is a great story Mark. Sounds like you had a yummy Valentine Day. I did not know about the history of Ghana and chocolate. Have a happy valentine day. We are having a big storm here. Very pretty.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

Anonymous said...

Happy Chocolate Day to you.
My wife and I don't celebrate Valentines Day because every day should be Valentines Day.
So why not Chocolate day? Every day couldn't be Chocolate day or we'd all burst. Once a year if just fine.
I love it.


Anonymous said...

Well Mark,
I would have loved to have a chocolat reminder at my door step because I did not do much for Valentine's. The next day I did my best to recuperate that "mistake" and bought chocolat at 50% but by feeling guilty I bought twice the amount not such a great deal. I enjoy learning about Ghana through your experiences.

Anonymous said...

I think that Ghana is very clever to push the "chocolate symbolizing love" idea. Look what love did for deBeers.
My Valentine Day was in fact chocolate filled like yours. But then again I like a little dark chocolate every day. I will have to keep my eye out for Ghana chocolate.

katie wallace said...

oops, I posted a chocolate comment off the funeral story....hmmm, 'death and chocolate,' isn't that a film?


Trevor said...

Hi Janet-

Just checking in and seeing how the Ghana blog is doing... This chocolate post really caught my eye because I've eaten that bar before - it's made by Lotte, the largest food conglomerate in S Korea. Good luck with the ESL classes.


Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Hi folks. Katie - did you have a question about fair trade chocolate? I found a story in a local paper the other day about a company called Divine Chocolate, which apparently gets its cocoa from Ghana. I'll look into it. It may be an interesting place to visit when you come here. A tasty visit too! - Mark