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Molecules for the Nose

Molecules for the Nose

Hello and good day!

Whichever way you think about existence and consciousness, whether it is the result of a creator, or billions of years of mutations and natural selection, the way the smell of roasting cacao effects your brain is marvelous.

Somewhere in a jungle near the equator, on just about every continent, there is a baby cacao pod growing out of the side of a tree. See the picture to get an idea about what that looks like.

It starts off tiny and then grows and matures until it is the size of an American football. The impetus for its growth is genes, nutrients in the soil, and photosynthesis. Once it is big enough and ripe enough, a farmer will cut through the thick stem, removing the cacao pod from the tree.

The pod will be broken open and the seeds scraped out. The cacao seeds will be fermented and dried and then shipped on a truck over roads and then on a boat across oceans to a chocolate making factory.

In the factory, there will be an oven for roasting the cacao.

In small scale chocolate making operations, there might be ovens that look just like the oven in your home. At the Swiss chocolate making factory where our chocolate is manufactured, there is a big dome roaster.

Inside the roaster is a long metal arm that rotates around a rod in the center of the dome. The arm bends up at a 90-degree angle near the wall of the dome, and this rotating arm is what keeps the cacao moving around in the oven, thereby producing an even roast.

When cacao is roasted, odor molecules are released from the cacao into the air. Those molecules float into our nostrils and come into contact with olfactory receptors. The olfactory receptors gather information about the molecules and transmit the information via electrical impulse to our brain.

Neurons fire in our brain that determine what we are smelling, in this case something that smells like delicious, toasty chocolate, and also a whole web of associations are created.

We feel feelings about the smell. Memories are triggered. We form an opinion.

Also, physiological changes in our body are triggered, our mouth starts to water, and our stomach starts to grumble. Our instincts may pull us against our will towards the smell to investigate it and to inhale it ever more deeply, thereby intensifying the experience.

However, through our intellect and an exercise of discipline, we may decide to fight against our instincts.

Maybe there is work we need to do, and we don't have time to go breathing in the smell of roasting cacao. Or maybe we are dieting, and the smell of roasting cacao will tempt us to demolish a big bar of chocolate, and that isn't what we want.

You might just find yourself in the middle of a raging internal conflict, with the proverbial angel on one shoulder, and the proverbial devil on the other.

One wants you to be good. The other wants you to indulge.

Eventually you will decide, coming down on one side or the other and this will trigger off a whole cascade of feelings, positive or negative, depending on how you choose.

A lot is at play here. Chemistry and physics and biology and psycology. Despite how complex all of this is, it mostly happens automatically.

The heat releases the molecules from the cacao.

The nose perceives it.

The brain processes the information and starts interpreting the physical world. The physical reactions start to occur. You don't have to do anything for all of this to work.

It just does. No matter how you come down on questions of how we came to be and why we exist, I think we can all acknowledge that our bodies and brains and the environment we live in are quite magnificent.

It takes a cacao tree 2-3 years to start producing useable fruit out where we operate. After that window, a cacao tree will continue to produce fruit for another 20 - 100 years.

Out in campo there are trees that have been there since people started homesteading. We've had folks point at trees and tell us that this particular wild cacao tree has been there for the farmer's entire life. And the farmer was quite elderly.

Those trees are tall and knotty and have big old, thick, gnarly cacao pods growing from them. That tree just keeps on growing, all by itself, day in and day out, year after year.

Same with kids.

A baby is born, and as long as certain preconditions are met, that child will grow and mature and morph. You don't have to do much other than meet some minimum requirements for this to occur.

All of this is wonderous and mysterious.

What is so beautiful about this whole line of thought is that no matter what is going on in the world, whatever good or bad stuff is happening around us, you can always look at the natural environment and ponder it and be in awe.

Anyhow, that is just a little food for thought.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!