For Rabbi Deborah Prinz, a serendipitous discovery whilst on vacation in France, spawned a new purpose driven career in chocolate. In all her years of studying Judaism, she'd never encountered the link to Jews in chocolate. Her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao. brings to light the stories before overlooked in the history of this prized and beloved ingredient. She counts almost thirty years in congregational work, almost 20 as Rabbi Emerita of Temple Adat Shalom, in San Diego County, California. She was awarded a Starkoff Fellowship and a Director’s Fellowship from the American Jewish Archives as well as a Gilder Lehrman Fellowship from the Rockefeller Library to do this research and hopes to continue her work on the chocolate trail with an emphasis on women's past and contemporary role in chocolate. She currently lectures about ethical chocolate and religion around the world.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- Chocolate as a migrant food, the brief history of how cacao and the craft of chocolate traveled
- Jews as chocolate experts in France's culinary history
- Rebecca Gomez, who may have been the first female manufacturer (chocolate maker) in the American Colonies
- Women in chocolate throughout history, from Mesoamerica to today
- Chocolate in life and death, and rites of passage
- Ceremonial aspect of chocolate; such as Jews in New Spain (chocolate traders) whom welcomed the Sabbath on Friday night with chocolate, and in Curaçao they used chocolate for bris services (brit milah)
- Trade routes, how cacao/chocolate traveled via commerce and human resettlement
- Modern day enjoyment of chocolate on the Jewish table, as Jewish food & how Rabbi Prinz educates her congregations about finding ethical chocolate
- Traditions mimicking one another; appetite for chocolate through a universal set of stories, Passover & Easter similarities
- Easter eggs; were they first introduced by Jews?
- Chocolate in the form of deities, both lauded and controversial
- For makers: Gaining certifications for Kosher chocolate or Passover specific use (2 available, Ashkenazi and Sephardi versions, i.e. one that permits soy lecithin and another without)
Links from the episode:
- 1662 decree from Pope Alexander VII that permitted drinking chocolate during Lent (see this link from Dr. Carla Martin's 'Chocolate Class' discussing this same topic)
- Chocolat film (2000) directed by Lasse Hallstrom
- Chocolate sculptures as art and controversy; Cosimo Cavallaro's Chocolate Jesus, and a blog post on the subject with videos
- Equal Exchange certified Fairly Traded Kosher for Passover chocolate, via the Jewish Fair Trade Project organized by Fair Trade Judaica & T'ruah: Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
- Barton's Bonbonniere from Vienna to New York; via The Atlantic "Barton's, or Barton's Bonbonniere as it was known under its original owners, is mostly remembered fondly as that chocolate from Passover" and a fun homage to the mid-century retro look at Modern Kiddo
Where to find more from Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz
- Visit the website On The Chocolate Trail
- Buy On The Chocolate Trail 2nd edition via Amazon
- Rabbi Prinz's guide for Passover celebrations; A Haggadah for a Socially Responsible Chocolate Seder
- Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate, museum exhibit co-curated by Rabbi Prinz and Warren Klein
Facebook Rabbi Deborah Prinz
Alma Chocolate in Portland, OR
Chocolate Flourless Fudge Cake from Yotam Ottolenghi
Perfect for Passover Recipe; 'Forgotten Cookies'
(posted with permission from the 2nd edition of On The Chocolate Trail)
The chocolate bud, or "kiss," that tops each of these cookies created quite a stir among chocolate makers in the late 1800s and early 1900s as unraveled in the chapter.
To ensure a good result, as our friend Rabbi Marianne Luijken Gevirtz said when sharing this recipe, "Don't peek while the cookies are in the warm oven!"
2 large egg white
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chip, cocoa nibs, or both
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30-40 chocolate buds or kisses
Quantity: Makes about 35 cookies
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff. Gently fold in the chocolate chip, and/or cocoa nibs, and nuts. Add the salt and vanilla. Drop teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets. Cap each cookie with a chocolate bud or kiss. Place the pans in the oven; after about 1 minute turn off the heat. Leave in the oven several hours or overnight. Carefully peel the cookies off the paper or foil using a spatula.