Jews Make Chocolate a Revolutionary Option: Happy July 4
Sephardi Jews contributed to the availability of drinking chocolate when that became a very popular substitute for politicized tea in North America around the time of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. The Gomez family members (NYC) and Aaron Lopez (Newport) were among the several North American Jews who engaged in the manufacture, retail, and consumption of cacao and chocolate in this period. Indeed, many of these pioneering Jewish chocolate ventures preceded the beginning of the Baker’s Chocolate Company, which has billed
itself as “America’s Oldest” and “evolved into the first branded ‘Baker’s Chocolate’ product in 1780.” Jewish trading of chocolate began in New York where the business record of the Jew Isaac Marquez shows that he imported twenty-five pounds of chocolate in 1701.
Two generations of the Gomez family enjoyed chocolate connections in New York City. In particular, Rebecca Gomez stands out not only for her retail advertising but also as the only known woman to manufacture chocolate in the colonies. Rebecca plied her wholesale and retail chocolate made at the “Chocolate Manufactory,” at Anne and Nassau streets in lower Manhattan, through newspaper advertisements. When her husband, Mordecai, died in 1750, he left several chocolate accoutrements in his estate inventory, including “16 chocolate cupps, whole and broken, 1 chocolate pott; 2 boxes Chocolate 50 lbs each and 6 Surnis (840 pounds) Coco [Surinam],” suggesting that his chocolate was for both personal and commercial purposes. The Gomez family endeavors in chocolate exemplified the general popularity and availability of chocolate during the period, as well as Sephardi interests in this market.
Aaron Lopez used chocolate at Passover and distributed it as tzedakah (charity) gifts. Lopez’s expansive business interests included the cacao bean trade and chocolate manufacturing. As historian Jacob Rader Marcus put it:
Aaron Lopez … saw food-processing as ancillary to his involvement in the coastal and West Indian traffic…. The chocolate he secured through outwork was destined for local and North American consumption.
In 1779 Lopez described the Revolutions’ hardships on the inhabitants of Leicester, Massachusetts, and Newport, noting that they lacked basic food but at least had chocolate:
The Jews in particular were suffering due to a scarcity of kosher food. They had not tasted any meat, but once in two months. Fish was not to be had, and they were forced to subsist on chocolate and coffee.
These eighteenth-century North American Jewish entrepreneurs dipped deeply into the chocolate concerns of their day and they relished their chocolate. They reflected the commercial interests and technological advances in chocolate, contributing to pioneering cacao and chocolate enterprises. On July 4th, drink a chocolate l’chaim
to our ancestors and their patriotic commitment to it.
Panettone for Breakfast?
While we tend to think of panettone as a Christmas bread, Jewish food writer Edda Servi Machlin shared this version of panettone from her childhood experiences in Italy of eating it for breakfast. She provides an authentic yet simpler process than most panettone recipes and a very tasty one at that. Enjoy it whenever youRead more ›
Kaak: Recipe for Crunchy Yeast Biscuits
Eat kaak all year round or save them for special celebrations, as do many communities of the Middle East and Sephardim (Jews descended from Spain). Kaak (kahk, ka’ak) are ubiquitous, multi-faith and multi-cultural doughy treats eaten throughout the Middle East where they take on regional flavors. In Arabic kaak means cake or baked good.The EgyptianRead more ›
Boulou: North African Orange Bread
Almost cake-like, though not a cake, this orange tinged bread enhances any holiday table. Read my story about diasporic Rosh Hashanah celebratory breads at the Jewish Week, “Beyond Challah and Honey.” Prep time: 2-2.5 hours Rising time: 40-45 minutes Baking time: 30 minutes Yield: 2 small loaves adapted from Jewish Food Experience, Leah Hadad INGREDIENTSRead more ›
Pan de Calabaza: Pumpkin Challah
This bread brings fall ingredients to your festive meals and reflects the longtime usage of pumpkin among Sephardi Jews. See the Jewish Week for my story about unusual Rosh Hashanah breads, “Beyond Challah and Honey: Rosh Hashanah Breads From Around the World.” Prep time: 30 minutes Rising time: 1 hour 45 minutes Baking time: 45Read more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- Ambasha (aka Himbasha, Hambasha) Ethiopian Wedding Bread
- Cheese Babka Recipe
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Chronicles: Inventions & Elections
- Is that coffee or chocolate?
- Lachuch (aka Lahoh or Lahuh): A Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
- Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Challah Recipe
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
- Other Wedding Bread Customs
- Pan de Calabaza: Pumpkin Challah
- Recipe for Dabo: Ethiopian Pan Cooked Shabbat Bread
- Recipe for Fancy Shapes in Dough: Shaping Dough
- Saluf (aka Salouf or Saloof): Recipe for a Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
- Seeking A Shikker Challah
- What is the Chocolate Babka Project?
- What's a Key (shlissel) Challah?
- What? No Babka at Catskills Hotels? *
- Yeast Raised Khachapuri Recipe
- Yemarina Yewotet Dabo: Ethiopian Honey Bread