On Friday I posted what I thought was a cut-and-dried April Fool’s joke: “Valrhona Outed: Remelting Mast Brothers Chocolate for Years.” But people believed it! I tricked at least two chocolate makers, a handful of people in the chocolate industry, and several journalists (food writers!) and regular folks.
This has taught me two things: First, the chocolate supply chain is so eclipsed that most people don’t have any way to understand it.
Second, and more important, we don’t trust the people who make our food anymore.
That kind of goes without saying for big companies like Monsanto, which have been highly criticized for its corrupt business practices. From where I stand, that corruption and disregard for our health and the environment created the artisan food movement: People wanted to eat real ingredients, made ethically and honestly by other people, not by machines or giant corporations.
But now the distrust has spread to even those small artisan makers. The Mast scandal didn’t help, but it goes much deeper and broader than that. On an elemental level, we don’t trust that people are doing what they say they’re doing. They might poison us, ruin the environment, or sell us something strange. Sadly, it's a given in this day and age. Valrhona has been around for a long time, but it's not a big company. Yet people immediately jumped to the conclusion that it could and would deceive them.
I don’t have an easy answer for this, but I’d love to hear what you think. In the meantime, here are my two favorite responses to the April Fool’s joke:
“MEGAN YOU ARE A CHOCOLATE DETECTIVE”
— Paula Forbes, Facebook
“I always thought that there was a Brooklyn-y sort of funk [to Valrhona] and now the red hairs make sense ... travesty. No wonder they are so secretive.”
— John Cunin, email