The fact that the Women’s Breakfast (8 March) talk by Naomi Hutchinson on the theme of chocolate took place during Lent didn’t stop the women of St Andrew’s from enjoying both an inspiring and fun talk and tasting some delicious chocolate.
Naomi worked for many years for the luxury chocolatier, Hotel Chocolat. She began her light-hearted yet instructive talk with an interesting exercise. We were given some delicious chocolates to taste and followed Naomi’s instructions to assess the chocolate with all our senses. We were encouraged to look for sheen, feel for smoothness, smell the chocolate and then finally taste it. Naomi asked us to describe the chocolate and to guess the percentage of cocoa solids in the different types of chocolate and finally guess the names of the chocolates – the guesses of the audience were uncannily accurate!
While many of us have spent a lifetime consuming chocolate, it was fascinating to be given an insight into the process of transforming chocolate from the humble cocoa bean into the kind of mouthwatering confections produced by Hotel Chocolat. However, Naomi caused us to ponder how the process of making chocolate can be reflected in our lives. She broke down the chocolate-making process into three stages: the drying of the bean, the grinding and then the conching, or refining, of the bean.
The first stage sees the bean left out to dry. Naomi related this stage to a period in her own life when a chronic illness left her unable to work. This period of inactivity ironically gave Naomi her richest experience of God when a performance by an African children’s choir reminded her that she was not forgotten and that God knew her name. The second stage, grinding, can be equated to the daily grind in all our lives. Naomi asked us to remember that while God is powerful he also became human and knows what our lives are like. The final process, refining, perhaps sees the most change and during this time we must remember that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
All in all an entertaining and inspiring start to a glorious weekend.