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.
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