(JTA) — At Tsion Café in Harlem, visitors can order a vegetable injera, an Ethopian sourdough flatbread topped with vegetable, lentil and chickpea stews. There is traditional shakshuka, a dish common in Israel and the Middle East where eggs are cooked in a hearty tomato sauce. And then there’s the scrambled eggs with caramelized onions and lox.
Jews have had an appetite for chocolate for generations. A tin of Barton’s Almond Kisses. A stretchy yellow pouch of Elite Gelt. Imagine the intersection of Jewish life and chocolate, and those are the markers that likely come to mind. Less likely, but no less pivotal, is the liquid delicacy that Inquisition-era Sephardi Jews introduced to France.
The last time I was in a gallery that smelled distinctly and deliciously of chocolate I was in Barcelona visiting Museu de la Xocolata. That is, until this week, when I entered the Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanu-El on New York’s Upper East Side (where my grandparents were members), to check out the exhibit “[Semite] Sweet: On Jews And Chocolate.” Co-curated by frequent Forward contributor Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz, the exhibit offers a fascinating, immersive account of the Jewish history of chocolate making and merchandising, and the significant role Jews of the Diaspora played in bringing chocolate to France, America, and other places around the globe.
Valentine’s Day isn’t exactly the most Jewish holiday.
Our family likes to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which I realize isn’t a Jewish holiday, but makes for harmless fun, especially when the grandkids are involved. Some of the best times are when we cook together. The children feel proud of their efforts and wind up with something delicious. I get to pass on a zillion bits of wisdom and, hopefully, some good memories of their Grandma for down the road.