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.
Recipe for Fancy Shapes in Dough
Recipe for Shaping Fancy Symbols from Dough: Shaping Dough INGREDIENTS: (from “Traditional Recipes for Korovai” by The Ukrainian Museum) 4 cups regular flour 2 egg whites 1 cup milk 2 tablespoons oil Mix all the ingredients into a dense dough and knead for about 15-30 minutes. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. WhenRead more ›
YEAST RAISED KHACHAPURI Recipe
YEAST RAISED KHACHAPURI Adapted from Darra Goldstein’s The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia Yield: serves 8 to 12 DOUGH 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast ½ cup lukewarm whole milk (about 105º) ½ teaspoon sugar ½ cup lukewarm water 2 teaspoons salt 1 egg, lightly beaten, at roomRead more ›
Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Challah Recipe
Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Bread Adapted from Rabbi Robert Sternberg’s The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthful Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews Yield: one large bread Allow time for the shaping of the various elements of this challah and enjoy the anise flavored liqueur in the dough. INGREDIENTS: 1 teaspoon plus 1Read more ›
Cheese Babka Recipe
CHEESE BABKA RECIPE Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes Yield: One large cake DOUGH 1 tablespoon active dry yeast Pinch sugar ¼ cup warm water (105º to 115º) ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted ¼ cup sugar 1 ½ teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract ½ teaspoon almond extract ¾Read more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- A Chocolate Cake for October's Tricks: Devil's Food
- A Shikker Challah
- Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
- Choco-Travel Tips
- Chocolate Exhibit Hits the New York Times
- Chocolate Trail Broadens: "Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate" Travels
- How About Some Mindful Chocolate Tasting?
- Is that coffee or chocolate?
- Jews on the Chocolate Trail
- Launching The Chocolate Babka Project
- Lunch & Learn: Central Synagogue
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
- On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
- Talking Chocolate in February
- Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes
- What? No Babka at Catskills Hotels? *