Adventures in South Africa, pt. II
February 17, 2015
In which I work in a chocolate factory and find bandmates who can not play any instruments.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Thorin (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien)
Indeed, food and music appear to go well together in my life. As you might have read, while in Cape Town I learned from Ollie how to improve my music through coffee.
Now imagine a perfectley grilled, grass-fed, well-matured T-Bone steak, cooked medium rare and infused with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.
Imagine the one and only perfect Pizza Margherita with all fresh ingredients, nice and crunchy on the outside, soft and subtle on the inside.
Imagine the perfect croissant. The perfect pasta. The perfect chocolate mousse cake.
The smells, the textures, the flavours.
Imagine the dedication, the skill and the years of hard work one has to put in to achieve these masterpieces, each of them indeed describing a traditional discipline of their own.
The fiercely passionate Italian Giorgio Nava inspired me with his conviction about how to prepare food properly. His passion and commitment captivate me as much as his attention to detail and insistence on doing it the way he wants. The path is not just as important as the goal – it is the goal. His dishes are so delightful that they transport you into the Now, they force you to live the moment consciously.
Giorgio fought for many years to have it his way: An Italian restaurant, a temple to the cow, a Milanese-style cafe and a fine pizza shop (those links are videos I made about him – check them out to get inspired.)
Insist and insist and insist
To meet people like Giorgio keeps me sane and on track. His work reminded me of my own journey with Blood and Souls. In his view there is no value in giving in or watering down your vision. “I always ask myself,” Giorgio says, “If I compromise my food, what would my mama say?”
Indeed, in the end we are all alone. Yet it is encouraging to see kindred spirits struggling beside us, facing their own challenges that are so different and yet so similar. In that sense we are connected. We are one.
It is not surprising, therefore, that when we meet we immediately sense our deep spiritual kinship.
Making chocolate and making friends
What could possibly go wrong when you find yourself reading the words “Chocolate Factory”, “Tour” and “Tasting” in one breath?
While in Cape Town I stumbled across the Cocoáfair chocolate factory and was excited (another video of mine.) As a social business they are going far beyond fair trade and organic: They are driven by the urge to create one of the best chocolates in the world while improving the living and working conditions for everyone along the way.
Through this lure and my love for good food, I met Heinrich, the driving force and visionary behind the operation. As stated before, kindred spirits easily recognize each other and we soon became friends.
Perseverance = vision + priorities + diligence
Heinrich is one of the most impressive personalities I have ever met. With enviable endurance he overcomes challenge after challenge to keep Cocoáfair on track in South Africa, quickly making the company a force to be reckoned with globally. He learns, absorbs, internalizes and solves any problem. And there are plenty of obstacles to overcome in this country.
Again, it is unfaltering perseverance that is the source of his success.
Yielding and succumbing to the flow often appears reasonable. It is the easy way out, the path of least resistance and pain. Let someone else take care of the hard stuff.
But where is the fun in that? None of us would be here today if our ancestors had not fought to go where no one else had gone before.
Heinrich and I found that just knowing there is someone else around with the same mindset gives us support and keeps us going. Inspiration rubs off and grows exponentially. That is how I came to work in his chocolate factory and to roast cocoa beans with him. Certainly my coffee-expanded palate helped. This is one unforgettable experience, including the smell of chocolate all over your body and clothes hours after you have gone home.
The band that can not play
Just like Giorgio, Heinrich is my perfect bandmate. Alas, he can not play any instruments (yet) and so my quest goes on.
That is what I am traveling for, after all: To meet kindred spirits. I love them all dearly and regret none of my adventures, unfortunate and fruitless trips notwithstanding.
If one day I stumble upon one such spirit with musical skills, I will jam with it and enjoy it all the more. If not, an open mind allowed me to meet these beautiful people and friends.
If you believe in something, stick to it and in the end you will have your reward.
To be continued – my adventures in South Africa are far from over.
Read previous parts in this series: