Walk Down the Jewish Chocolate Trail

New Book Looks at Rich and Sweet History

Bean to Bar: Rabbi Deborah Prinz traveled to the globe’s chocolate meccas for five years in search of several-hundred year old tale of Jews and chocolate.
thinkstock
Bean to Bar: Rabbi Deborah Prinz traveled to the globe’s chocolate meccas for five years in search of several-hundred year old tale of Jews and chocolate.

By Leah Koenig

Published January 22, 2013, issue of January 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao
by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz
Jewish Lights, 272 pages, $18.99

If there is one attribute that all Jews across the spectrum possess, it’s the pride we feel when a fellow Jew accomplishes something noteworthy. Many of these achievements are easy to spot: Albert Einstein introducing the world to the theory of relativity; the critical role that Jews played in advancing the civil rights movement, or how a man named Morrie Yohai invented the beloved Cheez Doodle (true story). Others have been lost or concealed over the centuries. These are the stories that, for the sake of scholarship and our collective desire to kvell, need and deserve to be excavated.

Take Jews and chocolate. There are Hanukkah gelt, yes, and chocolate babka to consider. But a book by Rabbi Deborah Prinz, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao,” suggests that the connection between the Jewish people and the cocoa bean is much richer.

Prinz is a Reform rabbi by training and a self-professed chocolate obsessive by birth. She is the kind of person who will drive miles out of her way for an exceptional piece of chocolate. So when she read a brochure at a chocolate store in Paris that proclaimed, “Jews brought chocolate making to France,” her curiosity was piqued.

Her research was not immediately or unanimously encouraged. Early on, a colleague dismissed the project as futile — “like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Prinz pushed on anyway, and thankfully so. Over the course of five years, she played the role of both journalist and enthusiast, traveling with her husband, Rabbi Mark Hurvitz, to France, Mexico, Belgium, Israel, Spain, Switzerland and other chocolate meccas, in search of clues in the cobblestones. Her personal delight at the unusually good fortune of the task is apparent within the book’s pages. (“We had to eat more chocolate — for research’s sake” is a representative and envy-inducing refrain.)

And yet the resulting book is far from frivolous. It is the first book to tackle the subject of Jews and chocolate at any significant length, and Prinz didn’t shy away from intense historical research to do justice to the project. In between trips, Prinz spent ample time digging in archives for merchant ledgers, diary accounts, Inquisition records and other source material to lend historical heft to her on-the-ground findings. “On the Chocolate Trail” is at its most compelling during these moments of scholarship.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.