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.