I can’t think of a single holiday when chocolate confections weren’t served in our home. It was the Sephardic relatives, not the Ashkenazim, to whom it mattered most. It had to be on the dessert table, or some kind of self-imposed shame would befall the hostess. Not in the recipes, mind you. On the side. Boxed chocolates, and the fancier the better.
I’ve only occasionally dwelled on that distinction between the two groups of relatives, probably precisely because we don’t incorporate chocolate into very many of our traditional recipes. But when you stop to think that Spanish & Portuguese Jews and conversos were among the earliest (and most active) traders during the Age of Discovery, a strong historical link between Sephardim and chocolate seems fairly obvious.
That history is one of the many topics explored in a new book by Rabbi Devorah Prinz, called On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, which sounds like an informative, entertaining, and potentially mouthwatering book. For the cook in you, there are some recipes, too – and Rabbi Prinz claims to be a lifelong chocoholic.
The book was recently published, so the tour is on. Rabbi Prinz has a few lectures coming up in the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State Area (the next is on April 26), and will head west to California and Calgary in August. The link above on the book title leads to ordering information; this link leads to her recent interview in The Jewish Week.
It’s 6:00 p.m. for me, time for tea and a cookie. Chocolate, of course.
4 responses to “Chocolate counts.”
Hmm. Of course Sephardim were the great traders of the Atlantic world, but I always associated chocolate more with the Jesuits. I’ll have to get that book (and get the ‘whole picture’ of the links between Sephardim and chocolate!)
Chocolate & Jesuits? Care to elaborate, Mark? I think Rabbi Prinz is right about the spread of chocolate (unavoidable pun) worldwide through Sephardic trade hubs – Amsterdam, London, etc. Not just as traders, either. Jews were so prominent as confectioners in pre-Expulsion Spain that 1st & 2nd generation children of conversos were banned from the (luxury) trade, which became the dominion of Spanish convents. Still, the rabbi may have used the word “Sephardic” a bit loosely. Not all conversos were automatically crypto-Jews, and the word is about identity, not blood lines. Without having read the book, it’s hard to comment further.
Hrm. It’s interesting what you say about Jews and crypto-Jews being confectioners. One of the first clues I received of my Jewish ancestry was when I realized one of my father’s ancestors, named “Abraham”, had his race listed as “Austrian Hebrew” (to my great surprise!) in multiple census records and his occupation listed as “confectioner”. Apparently he worked as a confectioner in London before heading over to the States. I look forward to the book.
No meal is complete without chocolate. Really. lol
What could possibly be better than Biscocho de Almendra con Chocolate?