Chocolate in Crisis?

In mid-November, Barry Callebaut (world’s leading chocolate manufacturer) and Mars, Inc. (a massive American chocolate producer) issued an ominous warning: by 2020, the world could see a 1 million ton chocolate deficit. This means that people will be consuming 1 million more tons of cocoa than farmers produce in a year. The trend of demand outpacing supply would have significant effects on the chocolate market, both in terms of prices and product quality.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.00.49 AMIn a nutshell, we eat more chocolate than is grown. “In 2013, the world consumed about 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced,” the Atlantic reports. Part of the explanation for this is the recent, rapid rise of chocolate demand in Pacific Asia, especially China. Another factor contributing to the intensified consumption of cocoa is the increasing popularity of dark chocolate, which requires far more cocoa per unit volume than milk chocolate. Meanwhile, cocoa supplies have been suffering from diseases such as witch’s broom and frosty pod (which has sabotaged an estimated 30-40% of global cocoa production) and, more significantly, climate effects. Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia are the world’s top three cocoa producers hit by a drought that could persist through the coming months.

What is to be done about this increasingly-imbalanced demand-supply relationship? The obvious solutions would be to raise the prices of and/or shrink the sizes of chocolate products. Chocolate manufacturers have already raised their prices in response to cocoa’s 60% price jump since 2012. An alternative strategy for confectioners is to fill chocolate bars with more nuts, creams, etc. or combine cocoa with vegetable fat and flavor chemicals to stretch supplies.

Another option currently being explored involves growers, rather than manufacturers – genetic engineering. Farmers are experimenting with new strains of cacao, such as CCN51, which produces up to seven times as much cocoa as traditional plants and is resistant to some common diseases. The main flaw of CCN51, however, is its bitter flavor. Testers have likened its taste to “lead and wood shavings” and “astringent and acidic pulp,” which don’t sound like very appetizing candy bar varieties. In discussing these findings, Bloomberg writer Mark Schatzker says chocolate could suffer the same fate as store-bought tomatoes and strawberries: going “from flavorful to forgettable on the road to plenitude.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.01.02 AMIt might seem that our intense love of chocolate will lead us to ruin it, but there is still hope! The Central American agricultural research organization Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE) has developed three strains R-1, R-4, and R-6 with very similar traits to CCN51 as well as delicious flavors. R-4 and R-6 even won prizes in the International Cocoa Awards for having, respectively, “sweet, floral, and fruity notes” and “nutty and woody notes.” Although newly-planted cacao seedlings take at least two years to bear fruit. It will also take a decade of observation to determine whether their traits deserve to be preserved. These strains are quite promising and could save the world from a cocoa shortage without depriving us of the chocolate flavors we adore.

The world isn’t in a cocoa crisis, and researchers are working hard to make sure one never develops. Yet, if you feel moved to do something after reading this, consider buying fewer hot chocolates or gifting tins of gingerbread cookies rather than boxes of truffles this winter. And, of course, don’t dare throw any chocolate out!

Ever the chocoholic,


Ferdman, Roberto A. (The Washington Post) – The World’s Biggest Chocolate-Maker Says We’re Running Out of Chocolate

Garber, Megan (The Atlantic) – The Race to Save the World’s Chocolate

Javier, Luzi Ann et al. (Bloomberg) – Chocolate Eaters Drive Record Cocoa-Output Deficit: Commodities

Leberfinger, Mark – Worldwide Chocolate Shortage Linked to Drought in West Africa, Indonesia

How to Enjoy the Holidays: Don’t Overeat was last week, and most Americans gorged themselves on delectable dinners of turkey, various rich vegetable sides, and sugary pies. While holidays like Thanksgiving are wonderful occasions to bond with families and friends over delicious meals, many people quickly find themselves regretting how much they indulged on food. Even though one day of gluttony is not enough to pose serious concerns to a generally healthy person, the ‘food coma’ feeling of being stuffed to the point of extreme tiredness and intense stomach discomfort is something everyone would like to avoid.

Overeating on the holidays is largely psychological: when you see huge amounts of food before you and are surrounded by people eating, it can be hard to tell yourself to stop. You don’t realize how full your stomach is getting until it’s too late, at which point you feel terrible. Although the past can’t be changed, these are some suggestions for making sure your next holiday festivities don’t end in painful regret:

  • Don’t starve yourself beforehand! The growling in your stomach will only cause you to lose all self-control once the food is served. It’s especially important to eat breakfast to stimulate your metabolism, so that your body burns calories leading up to the meal.
  • Remember leftovers: the food isn’t going to disappear if you don’t immediately eat it. If there are really enough people partaking in your meal that leftovers aren’t guaranteed, then remember a) that this is not a fight for survival, you don’t have to take all you can get, b) that it’s an annual holiday, there’s always next year to enjoy basically the same food, and c) to be courteous of everyone else – don’t take it all for yourself!
  • Consider all of your options: if everything looks delicious, take small portions of everything, rather than loading up on one or two things with the intent of adding more later on. In fact, you’ll get more pleasure from a diverse plate of flavors than from a huge portion of one food.
  • Drink water, rather than calorie-laden beverages. This will also help your digestion.
  • Not all vegetables are light. Casseroles, for instance, are typically packed with fats and starches that will feel like lead in your stomach. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t eat them, just that you shouldn’t trick yourself into thinking that these can be enjoyed in larger portions because they’re vegetables. Guiltless options would be leafy greens with minimal dressing.
  • Watch your condiments. Sauces can be packed with sugar, salt, and fat, so prioritize getting full on real food over filling yourself with add-ons.
  • Don’t eat quickly. Savor the flavor of every bite, drink, talk to the people around you, and, most importantly, give your body time to notice that it’s getting full.
  • Pause before taking seconds! Your brain can take up to half an hour to register the stomach’s fullness, so don’t assume that you can keep piling it in.
  • Don’t forget dessert! Even if it isn’t on the table immediately, or no one is eating it yet, dessert is coming, and chances are you’re going to want some. Don’t get full on dinner if you have a sweet tooth. That being said, don’t let yourself go and undo all of your hard work once dessert starts, either.

In case you still end up in the dreaded ‘food coma’:

  • water or herbal tea to calm your stomach and flush your system.
  • Go for a walk, rather than sitting down and letting all of the food settle at the bottom of your stomach. Light stretches, like raising your arms above your head and leaning side to side, will also help your stomach feel less weighed-down.
  • If you really feel unwell, lie down and apply heat to your stomach to relieve bloating. A warm towel or heating pad across your abdomen feels incredibly soothing on an aching stomach.

With all this in mind, be grateful that you had the opportunity to eat all of that delicious food. These tips should help you to enjoy your meal and foster fond holiday memories (rather than binge-remorse).


Thanksgiving Waste

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is a time to eat delicious traditional food, surround yourself with family and friends, and be grateful for what you have. Whether it’s the history, the food or the being grateful, this can be considered the best US holiday.

Thanksgiving FactsUnfortunately, it is also a pretty wasteful one. After the friends have gone and the food is too much to eat, a lot of turkey meat ends up in the garbage. In fact, 35% of the holiday turkey, valued at more than $282 million, is wasted per year. On top of the nutritional and financial losses, it also leads to environmental ones.

Organic matter that decomposes in landfills anaerobically (without oxygen), produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 21 times more potent at trapping heat inside the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Besides that, it wastes all resources that went into growing the food. For instance, one pound of turkey requires 468 gallons of water to produce, and releases 12 pounds of CO2 emissions. With many US families producing more than one pound of wasted meat, it’s obvious that Americans need to be more grateful and less wasteful.

The Environmental Working Group says that wasting the meat is like driving the car for 11 miles or taking a 94-minute shower. Swapping the turkey waste for a real adventure or a long warm bath sounds like a better option. The choice of which a family can afford depends on the leftovers they produce. Looking at the millions of wasted dollars, Americans can save a lot more at home than through sales on Black Friday.

Let’s eat well, do well and be thankful!

Don’t Waste – It’s Thanksgiving!

The Spirit of Thanksgiving: Don’t Waste Those Leftovers

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.39.56 PMIf you’re American, live in the United States, or are aware of American culture to any degree, you know that Thanksgiving is a mere two days away. Distant relatives and friends are excited to come together to share a huge, delectable meal in celebration of the founding of the US (controversy aside) and, much more importantly, in recognition of what we have to be grateful for. Do we truly appreciate all that we have, though? I’m not so sure.

Somewhere between one-third and half of all of food produced in the US goes to waste. This translates to around 34 million tons of discarded food per year, in which each American is responsible for at least 200 pounds of annual food waste. Meanwhile, over 49 million Americans experience food insecurity: an insufficient or lack of reliable access to food. Not only do Americans not value all the food at their disposal, but heaps of food that is shamelessly, largely unknowingly, thrown away could be put to greater use feeding people in need. The sad truth behind Thanksgiving is that people feel obliged by tradition to express how thankful they are for their meal, but most are ignorant of humbling facts on food waste and insecurity.

The holiday teaches us that a way to show appreciation is through mass-consumption, buying and eating all that we can simply because we can. This seems entirely backwards, considering that value is derived from scarcity. But, on the other hand, at least the whole idea of reflecting and ‘giving thanks’ is emphasized. In other words, it feels wrong to celebrate humility with excess, but at least people are being reminded, albeit superficially, to be grateful when they might not otherwise count their blessings.

If this seems confusing, it’s because it is; Thanksgiving is quite paradoxical. So, rather than weighing the rights and wrongs of celebration, the easiest ethical way to approach the holiday is to minimize waste. Someone truly thankful for food should know better than to throw it out. The tradition of serving gravy already enables cooks to save meat drippings that would otherwise be wasted and put them to a tasty use. Vegetable juices and scraps can also imbue other dishes with flavors, such as when stuffing a turkey. What poses the biggest challenge to many families, however, is the notion of leftovers. I personally love mixing bits of all of the Thanksgiving leftovers together on a plate, but many people are put-off by the idea of eating ‘remnants’ or simply tire of having the same meal over and over again. In the same spirit as last week’s vegetarian post, I decided to compile another recipe list – this time, creative re-workings of some common Thanksgiving remnants.

Miscellaneous Leftovers

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.39.42 PM1. Sandwiches and wraps.
The simplest leftovers solution: pile as much as you want of whatever you want on a couple slices of bread or in a tortilla. For example, you could drizzle gravy on one side of a slice of bread, smear on some mashed potatoes, add a few green beans and some turkey, drizzle one side of another bread with cranberry sauce, and sandwich everything together. Feel free to also add other ingredients from your kitchen, such as using cheese for a turkey quesadilla.

2. Crostini.
Cut up some baguette and top the slices with whatever leftovers you like to make dainty appetizers.

3. Salad.
Pairing any leftovers with leafy greens will alleviate some of the post-feast guilt.

4. Pizza.
Swap tomato sauce for cranberry (or gravy) and toss whatever else you’d like on a pizza crust.

Mashed Potatoes

1. Loaded Mashed Potato Cups.
Use puff pastry or Pillsbury dough to make adorable tartlets filled with mashed potatoes and typical baked potato toppings.

2. Potato Pancakes.
Soft, fluffy, and cheesy latke variants. These are closest to American buttermilk pancakes.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 1.40.10 PM3. Mashed Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Waffles.
Transform your potatoes into a comforting weekend brunch.


Muffins: Mix the remaining stuffing with an egg or two, fill it into a muffin pan, and bake at 300°F for 20-25 minutes to make a nice batch of snacks.


1. Croutons.
Cube the bread, drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, or other desired spices (such as rosemary), and bake on a cooking sheet at 400°F for 15 minutes. They will keep well for a couple weeks and spice up any salads.

2. French toast.
Slice the bread and soak it in a mixture of eggs, milk, and any desired spices (such as nutmeg and cinnamon) overnight, then cook it in a pan the next morning for a sweet breakfast.

3. Bread pudding.
There are thousands of other bread pudding recipes that are also great for leftover bread, but this one will also help take care of those leftover sweet potatoes.

Let’s really show how thankful we are for our food by not wasting it!


Party and Give Back

Dalai Lama said: the meaning of life is to be happy! This aligns with findings of researchers who say: when you give back you receive joy. For concrete instructions, follow these 3 steps by engineers at Google. The list includes logging 3 moments of gratitude from your day, and will help introduce happiness to your daily life.

Living in a stressful city like Washington, D.C. can drain us of energy and fog our memories of joy. This is why we need to get out of our daily routines. Disco Soupes help us do just that! With all the positive feedback we’ve been getting, we asked one volunteer to share their experience from the event. This is what she had to say:

   “In August, my husband and I attended a Disco Soupe event to support Say No to Food Waste in Washington, DC. At the event, we cleaned and prepped vegetables to be made into soup for the hungry. The produce was donated to this event, rather than where it would have been heading – to a landfill.  It was older, bruised, vegetables that many of us would most likely throw away.  From this less-than-perfect produce, we processed over 600 lbs of vegetables that headed into soup pots, to be cooked and distributed to those who are hungry in the DC area.

The event taught us that good, edible, food can be harvested from not-perfect vegetables by simply cutting away the bruised parts. The communal process of preparing the vegetables with complete strangers also strengthened our belief that there are good people out there who care about taking care of others. It was uplifting to see so many people from different walks of life coming together to help those in need.

This event had a lasting effect on how my husband and I purchase and consume food in our home.  We used to do our food shopping once a week. We would buy all of our food on a Sunday and then, on the coming Sunday, throw away all the food we didn’t consume before we went shopping again. It was a dreadful cycle of over-consumption and waste.

Now, we shop more often and buy less when we go. Heading to the store two or three times a week allows us to buy more fresh food and to waste less.  We are much more aware now of the value of food, our consumption patterns, and are also finding clever ways to ensure all of our food gets used. Say No to Food Waste first inspired us, then educated and changed us, and today we are happier and healthier for it!

If you are curious about the event and wish to experience it for yourself, join us tomorrow at Bread for the City from 6-9PM. It will be an unforgettable evening of volunteering, giving, community building, and being happy! If you attended past events and want to share your experience send us an e-mail at:

Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

 Disco Soupe DC. Saynotofoodwaste.

How to Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Don’t let the turkey centerpiece fool you – Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a meat-centric holiday. In fact, most of the traditional side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, cornbread and stuffing, are vegetarian in their standard form. A vegetarian should be able to fill themselves up quite nicely on non-turkey fare. However, many cooks, striving to serve unique interpretations of the holiday classics, use meat to liven up their feasts. One might find that bacon has wormed its way into the cornbread, mashed potatoes are served submerged in authentic gravy (made from meat drippings), and a horrific turducken sits at center stage. I go on, I should admit that I am not a vegetarian. I often feel that I ought to be, given the deplorable consequences of the industrialized meat production system, but that is a long discussion that can be saved for a later post. Nonetheless, I love vegetables, and I find many dishes tastier when the diverse flavors at play aren’t overpowered by the taste of meat. Since our readers are definitely food-conscious, presumably environmentally-conscious, and probably health-conscious, I thought many could benefit from a list of vegetarian dishes that could yield a delicious and inventive Thanksgiving dinner.

Entrée: Carving the turkey out of the meal

  • Vegan shepherd’s pie (or a sweet potato version). If veganism is irrelevant to you, feel free to use butter instead of oil and dairy milks. Either way, the hearty mix of lentils and vegetables topped with whipped potatoes are sure to be satisfying.
  • Pumpkin Pot Pie. Pumpkin, kale, and carrots are just some of the vegetables held together by a lovely flaky crust (which could also be bought in a store, if time is short).
  • Butternut Squash and Asparagus Torta. Preparation might be a bit challenging, but the creative combination of squash, asparagus, and cheeses is very rewarding.
  • Kale and Sweet Potato Gratin. This casserole-like dish is rich, creamy, and surprisingly simple to make.


Mashed Potatoes


Sweet potato



  • Vegetable stock gravy. You probably already have all the ingredients – it’s that straightforward.
  • Onion gravy. Essentially the same as the other gravy, only with the tang of diced onions.

Vegan Desserts* (since desserts are normally vegetarian anyway)

*These all happen to be gluten-free as well, but there’s really no need to bother with that complexity if you don’t have gluten sensitivity.

  • Apple Crisp. Gluten-containing substitutions can be made to simplify this already easy-to-make spiced treat.
  • Pecan Pie. Maple syrup, dates, and cashew butter allow you to skip the eggs to veganize this timeless dessert.
  • Pumpkin Pie. For many, this classic is the single best thing about autumn; and it’s just as delicious vegan.

Reference: many of these recipes were drawn from this list.

Eat up, my friends.

Hunger isn’t pretty

A world that throws away 40-50% of the food it produces must be super healthy and wealthy, right? No, not at all. Our world is filled with millions of people who are hungry and malnourished. In the USA, close to 50 million people are unsure about their next meal. They have to choose between paying their bills and buying food.

A new series looks at this problem in the UK. “Britain Isn’t Eating” was created by the Guardian newspaper. Through short videos, viewers take an honest look at what it’s like to have nothing to eat. Or have food, but no electricity to cook it with.

Hunger isn’t pretty, and some need outside assistance for proper nutrition. When will governments and supermarkets realize that $165 billion worth of food should be on the table, not in the landfill?

Here’s to being the change we want to see!

Rediscovery of Food


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