family

Chocolate House

"Have you ever had Grandma's chocolate?"

An example of looking in the rear view mirror to see what is on the road ahead

Even though I didn’t grow up cooking or having someone directly teaching me how to cook, much of my early influences related to food comes from my grandparents.

Especially my grandma.

My aunt Linda and I have a shared sweet tooth and there’s been a few times since my grandma has passed away when Linda asked me whether I’d ever had Grandma’s chocolate. I wasn’t sure what she’d meant the first time because I’d had lots of chocolate growing up and, yeah sure, some of it was Grandma’s.

I love telling this one story in particular.

But first, let me lay out the scene:

The kitchen in the house I grew up in was of decent size and laid out like a big square. There was no island, so the kitchen was quite open and on one wall, there was the door to the garage on the opposite side of the entrance to the kitchen from the family room. There was the stove to the right of the garage door, and turning the corner, the kitchen sink was under the small window facing the back yard. The last wall of the kitchen was to the left when you walked into the kitchen from the family room and it held the double-door pantry at one end and the refrigerator at the other end by the garage door, and in between the fridge and pantry was a small patch of counter space that had a single-door cabinet above and a pull-out drawer and single-door cabinet below the counter.

This is as close as you’ll get to seeing me at four-years-old. This is about a year early. You get the picture.

This is as close as you’ll get to seeing me at four-years-old. This is about a year early. You get the picture.

Before I do any further storytelling, do me a quick favor: Picture me at four-years-old. Have you got that image in mind? A four-year-old Morgan? Good. Keep that image in your head a bit. If you don’t have it, just picture 39-year-old Morgan only a bit shorter and not yet with glasses and bangs. That should suffice.

Back to the actual story.

One day, I was pulling open all the kitchen drawers (as you do), and I found the silverware, the ubiquitous junk drawer, the drawer the held rolls of aluminum foil and cling wrap. It wasn’t long before I found the holy grail. The golden treasure. Or rather, instead of gold, a familiar yellow and red bag that contained the true treasure. A bag of Nestle chocolate chips previously opened and now held closed by a clothespin.

That’s just bad security.

Really? A clothespin? In a drawer I could reach?

It’d just be rude not to take some chocolate chips!

I was a smart kid, though, and knew that I just had to take a few at a time and no one would be the wiser. I even knew that I could hold the bag shut with one hand while I release the clothespin with the other and quietly open the bag rather than let the clothespin wrinkling the bag and give away my position.

At some point, though, I ended up going to the well too many times because I could even tell that there was a pretty significant decrease in the amount of chips left in the bag. I overheard my grandma saying to my mom once that she thought I must be sneaking in the drawer and stealing some chips. I was hiding in the pantry at the time of that short conversation, so I still can’t tell if it was a trap or not as I’m not sure if they knew I was hiding there.

I got nabbed once.

It was the worst.

But, see, I was diligent and patrolled to make sure the perimeter was clear. I should have never been caught.

I crept up to the drawer that I had renamed in my mind as the chocolate drawer even though I guess there were other things in it who knows these things.

I slid the drawer open silently.

I did my trick to open the clothespin without noise.

I filled my tiny little hand with a whole bunch of chocolate chips and suddenly my grandma appeared around the corner from the family room.

I froze.

I could hear her working up to holler at me but I’d made a quick calculation that if I was already in trouble for stealing the chips, I may as well eat them.

I shoved them in my mouth in one go and turned to make my escape out the garage door but my mom had just appeared there from work and I was trapped with a mouth stuffed with chocolate and no excuses to articulate.

My grandma just hollered and went on about how those were her chocolate chips for making cookies. My mouth fell open in disbelief. I’d never seen a damn chocolate chip cookie come out of that kitchen.

I’D HAVE KNOWN!

An inherited sweet tooth with deep Southern roots

Despite getting caught and being lied to because seriously there were never any cookies, I love that there is a chocolate-loving-gene we all share. And it goes further back.

Linda clarified what she’d meant when she’d asked if I’d ever had Grandma’s chocolate. My grandma would make for her kids something she’d call “chocolate” for breakfast. Linda said she’d make it every Saturday morning and began to describe it for me.

After she told me what it was, I asked if she’d had a recipe for it. Linda said no.

I decided to hack the recipe and made a version of Grandma’s chocolate for me and Cheri to try. Neither of us knew quite what to expect and Cheri was particularly skeptical. But it was delicious and new, even though it was an old creation.

20180709_213611.jpg

My grandma and grandpa are from Tennessee and since I don’t know anything of my dad’s side of the family, I have a tendency to simply describe my family as Southern (even though I could be a whole lot of some other origin on the unknown side of my family). Apparently, “chocolate” or “chocolate gravy” was a mainstay in the Tennessee mountains, spreading throughout Appalachia, into the Ozarks, and the rest of the South.

Grandma’s chocolate is now going to be served at the Chocolate House in Muncie, Indiana for brunch.

On Saturday mornings.

Just like she used to do.

What is chocolate gravy?

So, just what is chocolate gravy? It can be made in a couple of different ways but it comes down to the process that is followed by making any gravy: mixing dry ingredients with a liquid fat and thickening to the desired consistency. For the recipe I have developed, I use sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and chipotle, and I mix this combination with milk and butter, vanilla extract, and more chocolate to finish. Yes, it is sweet, but it is not like chocolate syrup. It has a richness and body that leaves you satisfied without feeling empty/full from just having sweets.

The biscuits I use are not sweetened and I have now honed in on a dairy-free biscuit that has won over omnivores in blind tasting. They make for a great canvas to pour all the chocolate gravy you can stand and, when paired with bottomless cups of Flying Rhino Coffee, the brunch hits a perfect balance.

The idea of making something my grandma made brings me a wave of joy and pride I can’t always articulate. But it also opens a doorway to be creative and continue to evolve with different interpretations of chocolate gravy; for example, I am excited about developing a white chocolate gravy and pairing it with the dark chocolate gravy to make for a “tuxedo” plate! The white chocolate replaces the butter in a traditional gravy and I use buttermilk to add a bit of tang to the sweet gravy. I feel like Grandma would approve of this version, too.

Come join us for brunch!

If any and all of this sounds good to you, come see us for brunch! We will be offering brunch on Saturdays from 9a-2p. Our Chocolate House is growing more and more each day. We can’t wait for you and someone you unapologetically love to be a part of that growth and have Grandma’s chocolate, too!

Small Business, LGBTQIA

Expanding my business has introduced me to Shadow Morgan

I feel like a walking shadow version of myself.

I think folx generally like to fancy themselves as good people, good friends, and good partners. Include me in that camp. But, deep down, we all know the few times we could have all been a better friend to someone (letting a call go to voicemail instead of answering) or a better person (I don't pick up every piece of litter I see, but I sure as hell take back my shopping cart to the space it belongs because I'm not a monster).

What I mean by Shadow Morgan, though, is I feel something different and shifted in addition to not feeling like a good friend or wife or person.

  • My energy is shifted. I feel less extroverted than what I usually feel.
  • My home-cooking is different and uninspired, mostly because of a lack of appetite.
  • My interest in anything new, unless it is complete escapism, has waned.

But I don't let calls go to voicemail anymore. Mostly because a lot of those calls have rightfully just stopped coming through.

Is it worth it?

I have this very question in my head that works like a nagging snooze alarm. It's nagging in the sense that it comes around way too often, but irregularly so. Usually at times when I am feeling particularly low.

Funny how I don't often ask this of myself when I have good moments and days.

It gets increasingly difficult to remember and focus on those good, solid wins and it isn't fair to make my wife the Keeper of Good Memories when I am the one who needs to have them in my back pocket. It also isn't fair for me to look externally for the answer of "Is it worth it?" when I am actually living out what I know is a dream.

The honest answer is a begrudging yes. Yes, sigh, it is worth it. Gosh!

What to do with Shadow Morgan?

I figure Shadow Morgan is not just a phase, and isn't just a contextual phenomenon that is tied to the expansion of the business. Yes, I'm sure stress is manifesting itself in some ways. I've certainly become grayer, but I actually like that (and it helps that Cheri likes it, too). But I think the truth might just be a bit beyond the stress of this stage of the business.

I think I may actually have depressive symptoms. 

And, purely speaking for myself as I do not care to speak for anyone else who experiences depression, I kinda think coming to this conclusion is a good and healthy step for me (although a confirmation rather than my amateur diagnosis would be wiser). I can explore more clearly my moods and thoughts as they come to me and I can practice a bit more reflection as to how I come to feel the way I do.

Do I intend to go on any steps to medicate myself or pursue therapy or eat nothing but turmeric for a month? 

Maybe.

I don't care for the mockery of those who rely on medicine to cope with their day-to-day lives. I also don't particularly care for the mockery of those who follow acolytes who peddle snake oil. 

I care for people. 

I know that lots of folx are hurting and experience that hurt in a myriad of ways. I know that a lot of people seek refuge in whatever way they can. To that end, I know that there are others who seek to take advantage of those who are seeking help.

Those manipulative assholes can go jump in a lake.

Depression in the LGBTQIA2+ community

Our community experiences significant mental health issues at a greater rate than the general population. Much of our mental health stems from society's treatment of queer and/or trans* folx. Yes, we can get married now, but that was never the main issue for the diverse queer and/or trans* community as much as it was for cis gay men. We still face stigma and discrimination, both on the micro and macro levels (see Oklahoma's new bill signed for "faith-based" agencies to discriminate against LGBTQIA2+ couples from adoption).

Major depression is one of the two mental health issues queer and/or trans* folx experience, along with generalized anxiety disorder. Which means it shouldn't really be too much of a stretch for me to come to understand that I may be experiencing depression that is just manifesting at a time that is also coincidentally stressful.

  • I've isolated myself more than I would care to, but I don't have the spoons for a lot of company either.
  • I find confirmation of my failures rather than my successes.
  • My overall self-esteem is lower than what I would call usual for myself (although, to confess, it was quite high to start).

But, ultimately, coming to see this for what it is will allow me to make adjustments in my life, to communicate these adjustments, and to better manage my own expectations of myself and others.

Shadow Morgan adds another dimension to Morgan, it doesn't replace me altogether, nor is it something to "cure" or "push through" to "get over." That language is fairly violent. It can cause a lot of self-harm to someone who hears those words as a constant message. 

Our happiness/comfortable-driven society can go jump in a lake, too, for all I care because we need to address mental health with the dignity and respect it deserves.

New expectations, but same end goal: Open a damn fabulous chocolate house

Opening the Queer Chocolatier Chocolate House is still worth it. I need to say it more emphatically, in all honesty. And the reasons are countless in number. One of them is pertaining to this post: I care for the well-being of myself and for our queer and/or trans* family. 

I'm no doctor, although on my way to becoming an entirely different sort of doctor (which I totally and thankfully bailed on), I learned over and over again the importance of communities, spaces, and places and our personal connections to them. Queer Chocolatier is more than just tasty, ethical chocolate. We are queer and we demand to have a space carved out for queer and/or trans* folx and for those who stand in solidarity with us. 

  • We will post access to resources, both in our chocolate house and on our website for the days you just can't quite leave your own home.
  • We will create a library for folx to hear stories that more closely reflect their own.
  • We will have Homo Decor pieces to warm your own spaces.
  • We will provide ways of connecting folx so that bonds can be created and strengthened.
  • And we will keep making damn fine chocolate along the way.

Reminding myself of the things Cheri and I plan to do with our chocolate house, and reminding myself that no one else is building what we are building, is a way for me to peek my head above the fog for a moment and keep in mind that, yes, this is all worth it. 

And even Shadow Morgan agrees. Albeit, begrudgingly. I'm okay with that.

LGBTQIA

Getting Ready for the Holigays!

Getting Ready for the Holigays!

It's the middle of November and I am now contractually obligated as a small business owner to talk about the holidays.

Or, holigays!

This time of year is a pressure cooker of emotions inside a frenzy of motion wrapped underneath a pretty paper wrapping and bow. Memories, both pleasant and decidedly not, flood us wave after wave in unrelenting fashion until we've turned the corner to January.

And this is for all of us.

Not just those of us in the LGBTQIA2+ community.

Our wedding announcement in December 2015.

Our wedding announcement in December 2015.

Holidays Since Marriage

For me, since marriage, holidays have meant something different. Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I'd spent holidays with my aunt or my family of choice (friends who I'd adopted, you see). I'd throw a big meal around Thanksgiving (before "Friendsgiving" as a term had legs) and I'd crash someone's home for Christmas.

No muss, no fuss.

But now I have in-laws and my idea of family has grown. I have a mother-in-law who loves to bake, a father-in-law who can make nearly anything by his hands, sisters-in-law who have brought me into the fold more quickly than I ever expected (to the point where I often can't keep up!), a delightfully charming 9-year-old nephew, and a beautiful bouncing baby niece who will be 6 months old on my and Cheri's second anniversary.

I love each of them. But our queerness has been the rainbow elephant in the room during our family get togethers.

I didn't have to deal with that in my 20s and 30s because I didn't have holidays with my own parents, having never known my father and having no relationship with my mother after my grandparents passed away. 

The very definition of privilege. I never had shouting matches or conflict or violence or eviction from my family over my sexuality or gender identity.

My wife's parents lean hard conservative in their social views, but I honestly believe they love me as an individual. That doesn't necessarily translate to a love of having me as a daughter-in-law by way of being married to their lesbian daughter, however. But, I'm still sheltered by my own privilege in that this is not something that I have to battle directly as a) it is Cheri's parents who have to come to their own reckoning and b) I've aged into adulthood and independence and have no threat of economic or emotional relationships being withdrawn or turning toxic.

In a week, though, we are northbound for Wisconsin for Thanksgiving and we are set for the holigays to commence, in their full tension-filled and passive-aggressive glory!

It's always warm and welcoming at Queer Chocolatier!

It's always warm and welcoming at Queer Chocolatier!

Queer Chocolatier Celebrates YOU during the Holigays!

I know that many other folx have more challenging times during this part of the year and I want to let you know that I am here for you.

I am here for the moments that memories overwhelm or nerves take hold.

I am here for the times you feel you have to steel yourself for going back into battle over dinner trimmings.

I am here for you when you don't feel validated in who you are or who you love by the people who you were surrounded by during your early years.

I am here for you.

Queer Chocolatier sells crafted chocolate truffles, yes. But we also stand in solidarity with those who need neighbors and friends and family but may be lacking during the moments we are most vulnerable. If you need a moment to chat, near or far, send me a message or visit our shop. The only darkness I want you to experience during these last couple of months of 2017 is the darkness of my chocolate confections.

23549983_10155203208438753_1379144958662209334_o.jpg

Show Someone That You Love Them Unapologetically

If you aren't queer and/or trans* (or even if you are), and you know someone who is and has a rough time during the holidays, let them know you love them. Reach out to those around you who may not have a great experience with going home to visit family or doesn't go home at all because of what has happened in the past.

This is the time of year that allies can actually do allyship work and not simply label themselves as allies.

Some things that you can do include making sure you hold yourself accountable to any microaggressions you might accidentally commit. During the holidays, the following microaggressions can be among the most common and the most painful:

  • If you misgender your friend, work through it to do better but don't turn the attention back to yourself on how hard it is to remember pronouns or names.
  • Stand up when someone deadnames a friend or relative. Let that person know that such an act is harmful and violent. 
  • Never, under any circumstances, out someone in front of others, including the family or friends of that individual. Your friend may trust you with that knowledge but may not be in a place in their life to be out fully and that is okay.

Let me help you in showing your friendship and love by providing gifts that can affirm or comfort those you adore. Consider a piece of art from our line of Homo Decor for their home or any one of our selection of truffles, in Classic or Vegan.

Let's all do a better job of taking care of each other during the holigays!

Love,
Morgan