“The students have become the educators,” Kristy Leissle smiles standing in the middle of the lively second annual UW Bothell Chocolate Festival. The North Creek Event Center is packed with tables and displays that mark the end of a quarter for Leissle’s students in her Discovery Core class Chocolate: A Global Inquiry. The relaxed, warm atmosphere is uncharacteristic of most final presentations, but that might have something to do with the topic.
“We’ve covered the history, manufacture, nutrition, advertising, representation in media and literature, economics, and politics of the cacao bean,” Leissle explains. “These students have really gotten a deep understanding of chocolate as a commodity, but also its meaning across cultures.”
Grouped roughly into different geographical regions, the tables were covered with information and samples of dark, milk, white and flavored chocolate from all around the world. From the Aztec spicy chocolate, where it served as a food of sustenance; to the Hawaiian milk chocolate, a crowd favorite in the tradition of sweet chocolates.
“I expected it to be like a cooking class,” laughs Victoria Frawhert, presenting the intriguing white chocolate called Zephyr, reflecting on her experience during the course. “But it’s a very interdisciplinary course that showed us everything from the biology to economics of chocolate. I’ve come to see it as a very diverse food source, and the course has helped raise my awareness of the origins and processes of other foods.”
“I also only used to like white chocolate, but now I eat dark chocolate… almost every day.”
Joining in the festivities was Professor Leissle’s friend and chocolatier Bill Fredericks, known as “The Chocolate Man.” While he stated his primary motivation for joining in was “fun”, Fredericks also noted the importance of courses in this model. “A lot of people in this country have a lot of questions about food. It’s great to have opportunities like this to really explore what’s going on, and to gain the skills and perspective that can help people find answers to their questions.”