The Queer Chocolatier: Interview, and Her Curated List of Top 10 Worst Halloween Candies
If Muncie was missing one amenity, it was a Queer Chocolatier. ENTER MORGAN RODDY. Read on for some insight into the making and proper enjoyment of chocolate, some dainty drolleries, and a definitive list of what not to give trick-or-treaters.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your path to becoming a chocolatier, and how you selected Muncie as the optimal location to launch your unique business?
My journey to becoming a chocolatier starts from a love of chocolate at an early age. I tell a cute story of when I was around 3 or 4 years old, about how my grandmother used to keep her bag of baking chocolate chips in a drawer at counter height, rather than a pantry shelf, and I used to sneak handful of chips but inevitably get caught! Fast forward to my high school and college years, I became an artist and majored in Fine Arts as a college student, and creativity and making things with my hands was a big part of my identity. Upon graduating and getting jobs that were not remotely art related--including working as a stockbroker for many years--my passion for art shifted toward cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. The first time I'd spent any amount of effort in the kitchen was in my mid-twenties and it was around then that I made my first truffle by shear happenstance as my roommate at the time had a bag of chocolate chips with a recipe for truffles on the back. I immediately recognized the truffle as a perfect canvas to play with flavors and aromas. And it's funny that it is chocolate chips that connects my love of truffles and all-things-chocolate to that younger Morgan pilfering my grandma's chocolate stash!
Regarding Muncie, my wife and I met in our Sociology graduate program at BSU. After we graduated and each went our own way, we reunited in 2015 back in Indiana. We got married in December 2015, moved to Minneapolis for my wife to do some research for an upcoming book and podcast, and we realized that returning back to Muncie would be a good financial decision as well as one that would allow us to be more impactful in our community. Moving to Muncie allowed us to make new friends, build meaningful relationships and, ultimately, jump into starting the business. Muncie is incredibly community-minded--particularly in doing business--and has been a safe place for me to explore the life as a business owner.
What are some of your specialty items and most popular products?
My offerings are exclusively truffles. Chocolate truffles are confections that are named after the mushroom because of the similarities in appearance (i.e. cocoa powder on chocolate looks quite similar to mushrooms covered in earth). The basic truffle is chocolate, cream, butter, and cocoa powder. Adding flavors to that is where creativity can make each truffle unique. But what I have recently started is making dairy-free, vegan truffles. This is done out of solidarity with my friends who have dairy allergies or vegan lifestyles that prevented them from sampling my truffles in the past. In the case of making vegan truffles, I'll use coconut cream or other nuts in the place of dairy to emulsify my ganache. And, I make sure that my vegan truffles aren't treated "separate but equal"; every flavor I have available for Classic (re: dairy) truffles is also made available in a vegan option with no additional cost.
Up until now, the runaway favorite truffle is my Burnt Caramel w/Sea Salt Truffle. This truffle plays to the primal tastes we seek as it is salty and sweet and dark. I've yet to hear someone say they haven't enjoyed it. Following behind that favorite is a close race for second between my Bourbon Pecan Truffle, Dirty Chai Truffle, and the Lavender Menace Truffle which is a combination of Lavender and Vanilla and is named for the queer women in the second wave of the feminist movement who were not initially welcomed into the National Organization of Women!
For those of us who are challenged in the vocabulary of confections, what's the difference between how your products are crafted, versus what one might find in a regular store?
First of all, I love for anyone to come up and ask me any questions they can possibly think of when it comes to chocolate! It is an incredibly complex and evocative food and I love waxing poetic about it like no other topic! But to a consumer, my truffles will be both something on once familiar and new; chocolate is something nearly everyone has tasted, but it may not have been a chocolate made from quality beans or supplementing ingredients. I use as my source chocolate a company called Chocolates El Rey, which is one of the oldest chocolate companies in Venezuela, and their beans are prized for their genetic profiles. For fear of getting too wonky, I'll briefly explain that most cacao (which accounts for about 70% of the world's chocolate) is grown in West Africa, is categorized as "Bulk" cacao, and is grown for mass-produced chocolate having a mild flavor profile. The Caribbean, Central and South America, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia also produce some of the mild cacao for mass-production, but those regions also produce what are called "Fine or Flavor" beans which can range in flavors wildly, much like different kinds of wines. Some of the terms describing both chocolate and wine overlap into each other, in fact. So, all of this is to say, it starts with the source chocolate that I use versus what folks might buy in other shops for their impulse buys. From there, I make truffles as close to the date of consumption as possible so that the ingredients are fresh and the flavor, aromas, and textures are optimal. The shelf life of my truffles (which I'm still surprised I'm asked because I rarely allow a truffle to survive more than a day!) is around a week on the counter or two weeks in the refrigerator. Contrast that with any bar of chocolate you find on a shelf and the difference is immediately apparent.
How has the local landscape changed for the LGBTQI community in recent years?
I might not be the best person to answer this as I am still digging my roots into the community as a new resident, but I can tell you that there are some incredible people and organizations within the community of Muncie that are beyond positive and welcoming. To name one, Muncie OUTreach is an organization that focuses on LGBTQ youth and provides a safe space, mentoring adults, peer support, resources and more. Prior to opening the business, my wife and I have made a group of friends that we've been craving to have for a long time; our friends have similar experiences in terms of identifying as among the LGBTQ community but we each have something that we all can share with each other. Cheri and I didn't really have this type of core friend group in other places we lived, either before we were together or since. Muncie really was the place we found our tribe. Since opening the business and being very visible as a queer businesswoman, I have had nothing but support and my business has grown our community in some way that I never even imagined. Every time we are at the market, someone who we have never met will approach us and either tell us their coming out story or the story of someone they love having come out to them. People see us and walk to us with a story to tell, and hopefully they even try our chocolate! But ultimately it reflects that people locally are craving a space for conversation, community, openness, authenticity, and somehow my chocolate shop is providing that! I couldn't be luckier if I tried!
According to the Internet, there's a proper way to enjoy wines, foods, and even certain temperatures at which I should've been doing my laundry all this time. Are there any guidelines for how one should enjoy chocolate?
I recommend enjoying your chocolate prior to washing your laundry! I tend to get cocoa powder on me in predictable fashion. But, regarding chocolate-consumption guidelines, yes there are some pointers to consider and, as I mentioned before, chocolate and wines do have similar "grammar" for tasting, if that makes any sense. You can follow pairing suggestions that are similar to how connoisseurs present wine and beer; you want to have something to complement the chocolate you're eating, not to clash against it. However, the important thing is to simply know what you like and eat that, and try as many chocolates as you can in order to grow your "vocabulary" for chocolate. Even keep a notebook of sorts to jot down "Oh, I loved this dark chocolate because it was fruity, not acidic, and had a smooth mouthfeel" for example. Personally, I don't like flavors that go too far in the realm of bitter, so I eat chocolates that will range in the 60-70% cacao content. But that's just my taste and no one's taste is wrong, you just got to figure out how to translate what you taste into words so that you can look for more things to taste.
Generally, if one is eating chocolate say from a bar, one should snap a piece from the bar and hear an audible snap. That will indicate whether the chocolate is properly tempered and hasn't been poorly stored or handled. After that, if one doesn't mind getting a little messy, rubbing your thumb and forefinger on the chocolate to melt it just a touch will allow you to smell the chocolate prior to eating it. Smelling the chocolate should get you to anticipate the flavors more and allow you to be primed for detecting some subtleties that you might otherwise miss. Chocolate melts at a temperature below body temperature, which is a blessing because once chocolate melts, many of its aromas are released and contribute to the tasting experience. Once you put the chocolate in your mouth, you're guided to not immediately begin chewing but to place the chocolate on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth and allow it to melt further. As a confession, I can only do this step for a short while before I become undone. But it is important to try this action as it will allow your mouth and nose to paint a clearer picture of what the chocolate you're eating actually tastes like.
For my truffles in particular, I always recommend eating them at room temperature in order to get all of the flavors to come out and also to get the creamiest, smoothest texture from the truffles. You can store chocolate truffles in the fridge, but let them sit out for at least ten minutes or so before eating them. The other caution I give about storing chocolate in the fridge (in addition to wanting chocolate at room temperature to eat) is that chocolate has a lot of cocoa butter in it, which is a fat, and fats are sponges for ambient odors in a refrigerator. If you store any chocolate in a fridge, make sure that it is in an airtight container.
The truffles I make have a range of intensities when it comes the the flavors I create. Some flavors are very mild and allow the source chocolate to shine. Other flavors are quite intense and the chocolate is not the star any more. But I always go for flavors that will complement the chocolate, which luckily are many! Chocolate and coffee are a classic pairing as is chocolate and berry flavors. A new to me combination is chocolate and herbs such as rosemary, which will be a truffle I release in the springtime.
For the main event, now that we know where to get really wonderful candy, could you share your curated list of worst Halloween candies?
If candy corn isn't on the list of worst Halloween candies ever, then there is something wrong with this world. My top (bottom?) 5 worst Halloween candies will probably have candy corn repeated at least three times, but here are some others that would cause me to come back and play a trick on that house that doled such a mess:
1. Candy Corn
2. Anything black licorise
3. Circus peanuts
4. Anything extremely over-the-top sour
5. Anything root beer flavored, like those waxy soda bottles or root beer Bottle Caps. I love Bottle Caps, but only the grape, orange, and cherry flavors.
And as much as I love fresh fruit and veggies, please don't make a point to give that out on Halloween. I'm as liberal as you can get and advocate regularly for food policies that incentivize healthy eating, but for one night a year, kids and adults alike should be getting as much delicious sugar as possible while wearing costumes and knocking on doors.