Can’t Live Without Chocolate?

by D. Prinz on August 22, 2014

Good for me! Good for me!

 

It seems a given that many of us depend on chocolate. Everywhere I speak about On the Chocolate Trail (Jewish Lights), people confess: “I can’t live without it.” And they want reassurance that the popular headlines about chocolate’s health advantages are true.
Whether my body temperature slowly melts a mouthful, or, I am chomping on a chocolate lollypop, or, I crack off a bit of a bar to smooth the tasks ahead, I find it comforting as well. That is why my pantry is well stocked with chocolate mostly from our travels. When I run low, I will resupply from local sources such as 2Beans, Dean and Deluca, Fairway, or Zabar’s.
At the moment I could choose among Caotina hot cocoa packets from the Geneva airport, a bar of British Duffy’s 72 % dark chocolate from Honduras, an Endangered Species Dark Chocolate bar with cacao nibs from the local health food store, a bar of Olive and Sinclair Stone Ground Mexican Style chocolate from Nashville purchased in Columbus, Ohio, Equal Exchange Swiss style minis from Massachusetts, homemade Cayenne Kicks (see the recipe in On the Chocolate Trail) See’s chocolate lollypops from Los Angeles, a slab of Mexican chocolate for drinking (we do not remember where we picked that up), a tube of Ülker chocolate spread made in Turkey acquired in Oxford, England, and, a box of Frango mints from Chicago. One could say, a chocolate for every season and every mood.
Just to be clear, we eat a little bit at a time. Like insurance, it is reassuring to have on hand in case we have company, or I need to bake or I want a nosh.

And, research of course has to be done.
It was my research indeed that led me to Gary Wenk’s book, Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings, (Oxford University Press, 2010). Wenk, with his very impressive credentials–Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience & Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University and Medical Center–affirms several positive effects of chocolate consumption and jokes that he hopes that the FDA will not ban it as a result. Chocolate’s pleasure resides in its psychoactive compounds, a stimulant- like amphetamine, resulting in euphoria. Chocolate is also estrogen-like and marijuana-like, Wenk reveals. He cites research noting longevity among men who eat it. And, the anti-oxidants in a bar of chocolate equal those in a glass of wine. No wonder we all like it so much.
Now, I just need another little nibble as I continue to investigate some of the other health claims for chocolate: heart health, diabetes protection, memory strength and more.

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Smiley Chocolate

by D. Prinz on June 13, 2014

Chocmelos from A Mercantile Novel Chocmelos, A Mercantile Novel

We hit the mother lode. This chocolate factory came to us from Columbia, unlike the others we were fortunate to trek to in Belgium, England, France, Israel, Mexico, Spain, and Switzerland. To be precise to the David Zwirner gallery near the High Line in Chelsea. Oscar Murillo’s performance art installation, A Mercantile Novel, mashes up NYC with Columbian chocolate, importing a factory line and its workers, culminating in a treat packed in foil decorated with a smiley face and the Columbina Candy Company logo.
Murillo’s novel plot of commerce and relationships features his tribute to his mother in blow up photos of her work in the factory in South America. Video of the chocolate equipment enrobing marshmallows (the Chocmelos©) along with shots of visitors to the Gallery streams from the Mercantile Novel website. Instagrammers are eligible for prizes by documenting their gifting forward of the thousands of freebies dispensed at 19th Street.
While the exhibit includes some pieces molded from melted chocolate and tennis balls, (I have not figured out that story) not unlike many other uses of sculpted chocolate, (which I generally find wasteful of good chocolate) here we see happy candy makers on their break chatting with visitors; happy tourists grabbing samples before, during and after viewing; and, happy stories of sharing the goods around town.
From Murillo’s core experience with the factory through his beloved mother’s labor, to the chocolate interplay between continents, to the melting of roles of recipient to gifter to recipient, one can only happily unwrap the smiley packet, and, as it reads: “Have a nice day!”

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Saluting Military Chocolate

May 26, 2014

  Memorial Day recalls the tangible and serious sacrifices made by members of the US military. Chocolate has played a part in that here, as well as in Israel and Britain. When I came across these stories as I was researching On the Chocolate Trail, I was surprised at how important chocolate was for both [...]

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Think Chocolate in Preparation for Passover’s Discussions and Eating

April 12, 2014

Several publications picked up my pieces about chocolate and Passover recently — Huffington Post, Jewish Journal and Jewish Telegraphic Agency — and I share them here, along with A Haggadah for a Chocolate Seder and related rabbinic texts from responsa literature: A Haggadah for a Chocolate Seder (free download!) This Haggadah provides an entry point [...]

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Chocolate Love Lessons for Valentine’s Day

February 5, 2014

Love lessons pulsate through Denise Acabo’s chocolate shop, A l’Etoile d’Or, Montmartre, Paris. Baby-faced Denise, who may be in her 80’s, has tended to customers and chocolate for the last 40 years costumed in her braided hair and school-uniform kilt skirt. Against the backdrop of her carefully curated chocolate offerings, she preens for the camera: [...]

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Chocolate Coated Mallomars Turns 100

November 13, 2013

Do you want to eat a 100 year old chocolate covered, cookie framed marshmallow? The iconic Mallomars turned 100 today. That calls to mind its sibling concoctions from other countries and times, such as the Krembo in Israel. Other similar classic chocolate-covered marshmallows recall the colonial empire roots of some European chocolate traditions. Chocolate makers [...]

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From Prins to Prinz: The Mysteries of the Chocolate Trail

September 19, 2013

Little did I realize when writing On the Chocolate Trail, how eerie the connections between Jews and chocolate might become.  My choco-dar (internal radar for chocolate experiences) led me to a hauntingly personal story. In 2009, a very kind scholar, learning of my chocolate interests, mentioned a Dutch archival collection of a Jewish scholar who [...]

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Jews Make Chocolate a Revolutionary Option: Happy July 4

July 4, 2013

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 [...]

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Louis Kwechansky and his Chocolate Factory: A Father’s Day Tribute from Alex Kwechansky

June 8, 2013

In 1939, well before I was born, my father, Louis Kwechansky was already into chocolate production in Montreal. He had patented a machine to make a product that would seal his fame. He invented a chocolate lollypop on a stick, called a “Chocolate Pop.” He hired the best known intellectual property firm in town to [...]

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Prayers for Chocolate Work

June 2, 2013

Yes, they do, according to a story told by our colleague and friend, Rabbi Mo Salth, first recounted by radio commentator, Paul Harvey. A mother decided that her family should eat more healthfully and alerted her children that she would no longer be purchasing sugary snacks. She took her 3-year-old son to the grocery store [...]

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