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Armchair Field Trip to Grenada: Chocolate!!!

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Oh, God bless the Grenada Chocolate Company, makers of the world's best organic dark chocolate (the Guardian agrees with me on this). I learned one particularly interesting factlet on the tour of the darling factory, which claims to be the world's smallest -- a fact so surprising that I almost hated to check it, lest it turn out to be untrue. But Yahoo backed it up:

Because of the ingredients, many people (including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) don't consider "white chocolate" to be chocolate at all. ...

The highest quality chocolate comes from cocoa beans that are dried naturally in the sun for a week -- shorter, artificial drying yields inferior chocolate. Next, the beans are roasted, and the shells are removed. Then the cocoa is ground, resulting in a thick liquid called chocolate liquor (it's not alcoholic). This liquor is used to make unsweetened chocolate.

For other chocolaty purposes, the liquor is pressed to extract the fat, which is called cocoa butter. With the fat removed, the liquor becomes a powder that is blended with the cocoa butter and other ingredients to make different kinds of chocolate. Plain chocolate is made of cocoa powder, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and sugar. Milk chocolate, of course, has milk added. White chocolate is made of cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. ...

Because white chocolate has no cocoa solids from the chocolate liquor, the FDA doesn't classify it as chocolate. However, the organization is working with chocolate manufacturers to establish a standard definition for white chocolate. Until a standard is published, check labels and beware of "white chocolate" that contains vegetable fat instead of cocoa butter. The quality and taste are inferior.

I can guarantee you, however, that what the Grenada Chocolate Company makes is the exact opposite of inferior... (shovels chocolate bar into mouth...)

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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

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YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
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YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?

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