A Jewish Matriarch of American Chocolate Making
Rebecca, along with her husband, her brother-in-law, her son and her nephew had an appetite for the chocolate business in New York City. After the death of her husband, Rebecca ran the business and advertised her chocolate delectable in the local papers, “Rebecca Gomez at the Chocolate Manufactory Corner of Ann and Nassau-Street.” While there were about a dozen other women selling chocolate in the Colonies, Rebecca uniquely manufactured it as well.
Rebecca’s chocolate also had yichus in the Jewish community. Her extended Gomez clan led the Sephardi and civic community of New York. At New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, they enjoyed the most prestigious seats. The affluent Gomez family’s donation was the highest of any single contribution. The vast majority of the twenty-five Sephardi members of the leadership committee of Shearith Israel were Gomezes. The prestigious northwest gallery of the synagogue’s women’s section, called the banco, was reserved for the Gomez women, symbolizing their wealth and stature.
In those days chocolate was imbibed as a beverage, made from what were called “cocoa nuts” or “chocolate nutts” (cocoa beans). These dressed up a breakfast or a supper and sometimes comprised the entire meal. As a pareve (without milk) product, it could accompany any meal. Preparing chocolate required a lot of hand or primitive machine labor and was extremely time consuming. They or their servants likely roasted cocoa beans on an open fire, shelled them by hand, and then melted the chocolate on stone, similar to a metate. They may have used a hand snuff mill to grind the beans. This resulted in inexpensive, granular chocolate balls that were stored until mixed with hot water for yummy chocolate drink. There were no chocolate ice creams, chocolate candy bars, chocolate truffles, chocolate cakes or chocolate chip cookies in those days. The proximity of the colonies to cacao bean sources in Curacao and Central America kept prices reasonable. This meant that Colonial America had more chocolate per capita than Europe. Our Colonial matriarch, Rebecca, contributed to the popularity and availability of chocolate indulgences in her day.
From Rebecca Gomez to our beloved mothers today, we celebrate with the blessings of chocolate.
Zooming for Challah
Thank you to The Jewish Week’s Food and Wine for running my story, “Zooming for Challah.” The internet has been popping with real-time challah baking sessions since shelter in place began. These free pre-Shabbat meet ups nourish a hunger for recipes, relief, rituals, and relationships. Despite nationwide yeast and flour shortages, longtime bakers and novicesRead more ›
Celebrate the First Shabbat After Passover with a Shlissel Challah
Hasidic communities mark the first Shabbat after Passover with a special challah as they transition back to the world of chametz. They shape the first post-Passover Shabbat challah into a key. The key, or shlissel as it is called in Yiddish, is meant to symbolize openings, passageways, and transition. Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro of Kovitz (b.Read more ›
Atayef: Double Fried Filled Pancakes for Chanukah
Aka Ataïf, atayif, qata’if, qatayif, katayef, these pancakes may be filled with nuts or also prepared with cheese fillings for Chanukah or Shavuot. They are also popular at weddings spread with cream and rose petal jam or simply topped with pistachios or almonds. This recipe guides you through a nut stuffed option. Read my storyRead more ›
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 ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- Ambasha (aka Himbasha, Hambasha) Ethiopian Wedding Bread
- Boulou: North African Orange Bread
- Challah Dough for Shaping
- Cheese Babka Recipe
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Chronicles: Inventions & Elections
- Kaak: Recipe for Crunchy Yeast Biscuits
- Lachuch (aka Lahoh or Lahuh): A Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
- Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Challah Recipe
- Other Wedding Bread Customs
- Pan de Calabaza: Pumpkin Challah
- Panettone for Breakfast?
- 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