Consider yourself warned: Reading On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, by Rabbi Deborah Prinz, could result in an irresistible urge to try something new and chocolatey.
It happened to me on page 42, after reading about U.S. colonial-era chocolate houses (like coffee houses, but with a different focus). On the adjacent page was a 217-year-old recipe for spiced drinking chocolate that sent me straight to my kitchen.
But instead of reaching for chocolate, cinnamon sticks and star anise – all of which I had on hand and considered using to concoct my own drink – I decided to open the Aztec Blood drinking chocolate that my husband bought on a whim before the weather turned cold. The solid chocolate, made by Chocosol, is blended with hot water to make a rich, spicy beverage that, for me, was the perfect accompaniment to the book.
I heard Rabbi Prinz speak at Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Synagogue on Tuesday night. An engaging lecturer who spent six years researching and writing her book, she cemented her chocolate bona fides with a confession about a stop in Turin, Italy. The rabbi and her husband – also a rabbi – were so caught up in their chocolate adventures that they left the city without visiting or thinking about the Shroud of Turin until their daughter asked if they’d seen it.
It was interesting for me to hear about bicerin, a layered drink with hot chocolate, coffee and cream that Rabbi Prinz tried in Turin, and again in Toronto, at SOMA, in the Distillery district. She said it’s available in only four cities in the world. I’ll have to try it next time I’m at the Distillery – one of my favourite places to take out-of-town visitors.
It was also interesting to hear about the intertwining of Jewish and chocolate history in Bayonne, France – both of which have connections to conversos who fled the Inquisition in nearby Spain and Portugal.
The rabbi’s talk, and her book, were/are filled with much information about chocolate’s connection to other religions as well as Judaism. Her book, released this year by Jewish Lights Publishing, is supplemented by recipes, copious footnotes, and a list of chocolate museums and factory tours.
I was delighted by the timing of her talk, which provided me with material for a Jewish-themed blog entry right in the middle of Chanukah. Plus, I won a lovely basket of chocolate that evening!
In a recent Huffington post column, Rabbi Prinz included the recipe for Peanut Butter Gelt Cookies from her book – simple, gluten-free cookies topped with chocolate Chanukah gelt.
For more information about Rabbi Prinz and her book, go to her website at http://www.jews-onthechocolatetrail.org/.