Posted by Rabbi Debbie Prinz
Little did I realize when working On the Chocolate Trail, how eerie the connections between Jews and chocolate might become. My choco-dar (internal radar for chocolate experiences) led me to a hauntingly personal story.
In 2009, a very kind scholar, learning of my chocolate interests, mentioned a Dutch archival collection of a Jewish scholar who had researched chocolate. I deferred tracking it then because plenty of material in English in American archives and libraries inundated me. The thought of yet another archive, in Jerusalem no less, and worse, in Dutch almost pushed me to forgo chocolate forever. Though I longed to sample the tidbits hidden there I expected that at some point that I would contend with the collection. I resigned myself that On the Chocolate Trail would not capture every story. This would just have to be an add-on to the trail.
Finally, with the On the Chocolate Trail about to be sent off to the printer, I could begin to explore more, especially since we were to be in Jerusalem anyway in 2012. I quickly scanned the online listing at The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People and found that the researcher’s name was Isak Prins, the Dutch variant of my last name. Our family tree does not yet include Holland and maybe it will. As I glanced at the substantial list of the Prins holdings, I speculated about whether this would be rewarding venture or not. Soon, Mark and I were trekking down a windy, hillside pathway, to a barely marked caravan, on an isolated corner of the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University (Jerusalem) to survey the Isak Prins collection of Joden en chocola, Jews and chocolate.
There we examined the Prins collection of chocolate wrappers, publications, photos and notes obsessively scratched on slips of paper. Deep in those 141 boxes we read that Prins wrote the following: “the present writer has written a book on ‘Jews and Chocolate – Explorations in Cultural History in the Diaspora’ and a history of Israel chocolate making is in preparation as the second part of the work.” (The Jerusalem Post of March 1, 1957). The flush I felt was a mix of surprise, disappointment, embarrassment, and jealousy that On the Chocolate Trail may not have been the first book about Jews and chocolate, as I had thought. And, happily, it also meant that there could be more stories to explore.
So began a hunt for the book. Since Prins had written to Brill Publishers, I contacted them. No, the acquisitions editor politely replied, they had no record of publishing such a book. I checked on line. Nothing. I queried libraries in America, Holland and Israel, including the HUC-JIR, the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, the Special Collections at the University of Amsterdam, and the National Library of Israel. No record of a book or a manuscript.
Then this past April my blog registered a comment from a distant cousin of Prins, a man named Henry Joshua, who confided that as a child he and his mother visited Prins at his home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Vegan in 1958. Henry recalled that Prins mentioned the book he was writing about chocolate. Joshua clarified, “Prins died in 1968 without finishing his book.” Also in April, I contacted Prins’ grandsons, David and Daniel. They were completely unaware of their grandfather’s research about Jews and chocolate and knew nothing of his book.
Not only do Isak Prins and I share a name, an interest in chocolate and Jews, oddly, we also claim the same birthdate, February 24. (He was born in 1887 in the Netherlands and moved to Israel in 1948.) My choco-dar had led me to a scholar with my surname, my interests, and my astrological sign. Mysteries remain: Is Prins related to me? Did he actually write the book? If so where is it? What did he really discover about Jews and chocolate? Is there a manuscript somewhere?
From Prins to Prinz, the chocolate trail of Jews and chocolate broadens.
(Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz is the author of On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, published by Jewish Lights. She speaks frequently on the subject of chocolate and religions around the country at scholar-in-residence or lecture opportunities. Currently located in New York City, Rabbi Prinz serves the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) as Director of Program and Member Services and Director of the Joint Commission on Rabbinic Mentoring. She blogs at Jews on the Chocolate Trail.)
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September 1, 2013 | 10:50 am
Posted by Rabbi Debbie Prinz
Mexican crypto-Jews not only took an active role in the cacao trade in the New World, they also secreted it into their undercover Jewish ritual life in the mid-seventeenth-century. Chocolate accompanied meals at the beginning and end of the fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). This may have been the most frequently observed of the Jewish holy days, so much so that many hidden Jews even risked writing down the exact date. The theme of atonement resonated for them, as they felt themselves constantly sinning through their public profession of Catholicism. Here are a few examples:
Gaspar Váez broke his 1640 Yom Kippur fast with drinking chocolate, eggs, salad, pies, fish, and olives.
Isabel de Rivera testified to the Inquisition on October 7, 1642, that a year before, on Yom Kippur, Doña Juana, sent “thick chocolate and sweet things made in her house.”
Around 1645 Gabriel de Granada and his family washed down their pre-fast meal with chocolate, having also dined on fish, eggs, and vegetables. Others reported that they preceded the Day of Atonement with fruit and chocolate and that they broke the fast with chocolate and similar treats.
Beatriz Enríquez, at the age of twenty-two, testified that when her husband left for long business trips, she took advantage of her sadness to hide her abstinence from chocolate and food on día grande (the big day), or Yom Kippur:
From the window she pretended to be crying over the absence of her husband and with this suffering she was able to hide from her negras (Negro servants) the fact that she ate nothing and did not drink chocolate that day.
In order not to eat on fast days such as Yom Kippur, Amaro Díaz Martaraña and her husband would stage a falling out with each other in the middle of the day. When chocolate was brought to them, they would pretend to be offended and spill it on the servants. They reconciled in the evening.
To offer chocolate at times when it was proscribed and to receive a refusal in response was to communicate through a coded language. Jews developed such sticky subterfuges to avoid being outed for drinking chocolate on Catholic fast days or for not drinking chocolate on Jewish fast days. This version of Mexican hot chocolate roots the Jewish story of chocolate drinking in the Inquisition in New Spain/Mexico. Try it at your Yom Kippur pre-fast and break-the-fast.
Mexican Hot Chocolate (a pareve version would have been used in seventeenth-century)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (or to taste)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Melt the chocolate in a large bowl over a simmering pan of water. In a separate heavy saucepan, heat the milk and cream on low until hot, but not boiling. Add 3 tablespoons of the hot milk to the chocolate in the bowl and mix well. Stir the rest of the milk mixture, sugar, chile powders, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla into the chocolate. Whisk chocolate briskly for 3 minutes, over the double boiler to thicken.
(Note: To make it less spicy, use less chile.)
Quantity: 8 servings
To read more about chocolate in the Inquisition see On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao published by Jewish Lights.