The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
The largely illiterate and opportunistic Spanish conquistadors could not get their forked tongues around the Aztec word xocolatl so they bastardised it as chocolate.
From a legendary reinvigorating brew of the Aztec elite, made with raw cocoa beans, the plant has had an astonishing trajectory to the point where it is now a much-desired global commodity we all know well.
Orla Ryan has lived for prolonged periods in both Ghana and Ivory Coast - the world's greatest suppliers of cocoa beans - and wrote this extended reportage in the days before the Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, was put before the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, torture and kidnapping - all in order to keep himself in power for a decade.
What is missing from the indictment is the cycle of poverty and ruthless exploitation he visited on his fellow Ivorian cocoa farmers on behalf of the multinationals which among its numerous calamities includes trafficking of child labour.
Although Ryan records vividly all the different murky aspects and often heart-breaking consequences of this lucrative trade she disappointingly doesn't appear to connect the final dots. The clue is in the index where words like neocolonialism and multinationals, never mind imperialism, are notable by their absence.
Yet they are the sole reason for the present sorry state of affairs and the wilful inertia displayed by all concerned - including international bodies - bar a few random idealists who never get anywhere fast.
After formal independence British and French colonialisms never left, easily morphing into neocolonialism, and the corruption continued apace debilitating and ultimately defeating noble efforts by Ghanaian rebels Kwame Nkrumah and Jerry Rawlings.
The French simply settled for their man in Abidjan - the feudal overlord Felix Houphouet-Boigny - always ready to protect the interests of his European masters, his family and friends.
Nestle, Kraft, Mars and Ferrero and Cadburys, before being swallowed up, never looked back. That's worth thinking about as bitter-sweetness captivates the taste buds.