I’m afraid that my participation in the arts and cultural activities has taken a rather profound dive in the past decade. Live theatre, music, museums… I just don’t seem to get out and do these things as often since the variety of on-demand and online entertainment readily available here in my home fiftupled (a word I invented that means “increased by a factor of fifty”). I’m not really ashamed by this turn of events, I’ve simply started expanding my mind in different ways, while in my ideal state – sitting in my underwear. Everyone wins.
However, I enthusiastically struggled into my jeans and put on a clean shirt when the Minnesota History Center invited me to tour their temporary exhibit, Chocolate. Honestly, there are few other exhibits that would get me into a museum faster these days. Perhaps a Natalie Portman retrospective, but that’s all I can think of.
Now if, like me, you took the time years ago to educate yourself about chocolate, then I’m afraid that this exhibit won’t add much to your knowledge base. It’s pretty high level, though in fairness any more depth would likely bore most visitors senseless. However, if the magical world of chocolate remains a mystery to you, or you have children, then it’s a worthwhile experience. The only way they could make it better, in fact, is if they gave away chocolate. It would have been really cool if they had little samples of chocolate to taste during various phases of production so people could appreciate the rather monumental task of producing chocolate. But I’m sure that chocolate, at some stages of refinement, is not particularly appetizing. Or safe to consume. So, we’ll let that missed opportunity slide.
One unlikely realization gleaned during our visit is that maybe, just maybe, chocolate can singlehandedly stop the decimation of rainforests. The cacao trees (pronounced kah-KAW! – the exclamation point and, ideally, a karate chop are required) need the protection of a forest canopy in order to thrive. No canopy, no chocolate – and, in my case, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Write your congressperson, because I am no fun at all when I’m crabby.
Another thing I learned is that wealthy Europeans used have a small sip of chocolate first thing in the morning in place of coffee, which was meant for the working class. According to the informative display, women often performed this daily ritual with at least one boob exposed. Ah, Europe.
The tragic absence of free samples is somewhat alleviated by the excellent chocolate for sale in the History Center’s basement gift shop. A variety of B.T. McElrath chocolate is on hand, but I strongly recommend you walk past that and approach the incredibly lucky person manning the fresh chocolate display case and make your purchases there.
Chocolate runs through January 2nd, 2011.
The Minnesota History Center
Tickets (allowing access to both Chocolate and the permanent exhibits)
$8 seniors (65+)
$8 college students (valid ID)
$5 children ages 6-17
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday;
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday;
12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday;
Closed Monday (open Monday holidays year round)