The Weiser Kitchen - Blog - Karen Berman
When you think about foods traditionally labelled as Jewish, chocolate probably does not come to mind. Chicken soup, potato pancakes, bagels, gefilte fishall the Ashkenazi greatest hitsconstitute what we typically call Jewish food.
Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz begs to differ, and she makes a strong case for the chocolate–Jewish connection in her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao (Jewish Lights Publishing). In a volume that combines historical research with an account of her adventures following what she calls her "choco-dar" (for chocolate and radar), Rabbi Prinz examines a legacy that goes far beyond chocolate Chanukah gelt (although she devotes an interesting chapter to the much-loved gold-foil-wrapped coins: chocolate gelt, she writes, recalls the distribution of coins by the victorious Maccabees to widows, soldiers, and orphans, and the gifting of coins that figured in later Chanukah traditions. Chocolate coins emerged in more modern times.)
Yet, as Rabbi Prinz demonstrates, the chocolate–Jewish connection is much broader. The book explores the role of Sephardic Jews in the chocolate trade of 16th-century Spain (where chocolate was introduced to Europe), and how, despite the Inquisition's murderous anti-semitism, Sephardic merchants contributed to the spread of chocolate in Europe and North America. It goes on to chronicle how later waves of Jewish immigrants helped shape the chocolate industry in the U.S.; the role of chocolate in World War II; and how established chocolatiers aided Jewish refugees to find a foothold here after the war. One lovely story: a Jewish survivor of the Mauthausen concentration camp received a chocolate bar from an American soldier during the liberation of the facility. As he recalled later, he grabbed it and ran to show his fellow survivors, telling them, "Hey guys, lookI got a bar of chocolate. And can you imagine! The name of the chocolate is Hershel!“ She also tells how Jews of the Diaspora brought chocolate to Israel and established that state's chocolate industry.
Nor does Prinz stop there; she devotes several chapters to the ways that other peoplesfrom ancient Aztecs to European Christians to Quaker Utopianshave used chocolate in their religious rituals, their daily lives, and even their taboos and political intrigues. Chapters on kosher, ethically produced and traded, and environmentally sustainable chocolate; recipes; a timeline; a travel guide; and extensive notes round out the book. If there is an aspect of chocolate Rabbi Prinz hasn’t covered, I can’t imagine it. On the Chocolate Trail takes us on a fascinating journey.
San Diego Jewish World - Sheila Orysiek
If one needs a reason to get on a trailsearching for chocolate is a better reason than most. InOn the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2013), Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz and her rabbi husband, Mark Hurvitz, explore the history of chocolate. The journey begins with its pre-Columbian cultivation in the Western Hemisphere to its worldwide conquest as a unique and ubiquitous delight.
Through the centuries it has assumed many forms and fulfilled many needs.
Initially consumed as a liquid, it has now evolved into many other shapes and consistencies such as a powder, chip, morsel, bud, bar, flake and kiss. Baked, boiled, melted, cooled, iced, crumbled and chunkedit is beloved in every form. Used for religious purposes by the people inhabiting the Western Hemisphere, it was also incorporated into the rituals of the Catholic Missions.
The Sephardic Jews of the Iberian (Portugal/Spain) Peninsula were heavily involved in the business of chocolate, using their commercial contacts to ship it across oceans and continents (all the while consuming it themselves). After the Expulsion from Spain, they took their business involvement with chocolate with them to Europe and on to the Ottoman Empire.
Prinz recounts her trips in search of this history, includes recipes (both old and new), and considers the cultivation, manufacture and purchase of chocolate in light of some less than desirous business practicessuch as the use of child laborand other social justice issues.
The book is a quick and tasty journey which was helped along by the Elite (from Israel) bar of dark chocolate in my hand.
From the Publisher
"Bravo! ... Takes us on a roller coaster roll through the history of chocolate, from the beginning when it was only used as a drink to the present day.... A great read."
Joan Nathan, award-winning cookbook author, Jewish Cooking in America; Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France; and other books
"A joy for history and chocolate buffs.... Traces the exciting and curious aspects of the evolution of chocolate. The reader is rewarded with fascinating nuggets of chocolate lore, as well as several yummy chocolate recipes."
Carole Bloom, CCP, author, Intensely Chocolate and Truffles, Candies and Confections
“Meticulously researched and whimsically presented. Fascinating facts, amusing anecdotes and mouth-watering recipes.... An instant classic for chocolate devotees of all faiths!”
Francine Segan, food historian, chocolate expert and James Beard nominated cookbook author of Dolci: Italy's Sweets
“Yes, separate milk from meat. And wool from linen. But do not separate Jews from chocolate. They shall be yoked together for all time. And now we have the definitive book on the topic, an eloquent and astutely researched history.”
A.J. Jacobs, editor-at-large, Esquire magazine; author of the New York Times bestseller, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, and other books
“This engaging journey into the extraordinary past of a much-loved product is packed with fascinating stories and thrilling bits of information.”
Claudia Roden, food writer and author of almost twenty classic works on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cookery; most recently, the award-winning The Book of Jewish Food
“Calling all chocoholics.... I devoured this book. Readers beware! Stash fine chocolate in your pack before setting off on this delicious journey across time and space.”
Pamela S. Nadell, Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History, American University; author, Women Who Would be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination, 1889–1985
“A treat! Part history, part travelogue, part cookbook, [it] ... will tantalize all readers and delight chocoholic ones.”
Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University
“A knowledgeable, surprising and, of course, delicious book. Chocolate lovers (and that includes just about everyone) and Jewish historians alike will be delighted.”
Leah Koenig, author, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook
“Fascinating and entertaining ... if you’re interested in Jews or chocolate, you’re gonna like this book. If you’re interested in both, you’re gonna love it :-). Like chocolate itselfwonderful as a gift, or you could just get one for you yourself.”
Nigel Savage, founder, Hazon: Jewish Inspiration, Sustainable Communities
“A fascinating ramble through the history of chocolate and the rolessometimes central, sometimes peripheralthat Jews have played in bringing it from the forests of Africa and Spanish America to your table. The recipes are a tasty bonus.”
David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, authors, A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews
“A delightful, fascinating read full of history, religion, ethics, anecdotes and recipes that will make you hungry.”
Paula Shoyer, author, The Kosher Baker: 160 Dairy-Free Desserts from Traditional to Trendy