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!”



Saluting Military Chocolate

by D. Prinz on May 26, 2014


Ration D Bar
Ration D Bar

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 emotional and physical sustenance in the military.
For instance in the Colonial period in North America, military chaplains were rationed a certain amount of chocolate, among other items: “Chaplain of a brigade shall be entitled to draw only six galons of Rum, either four pounds of Coffee or Chocolate … monthly.”

During World War II the U. S. military also put chocolate to good use in rations. Hershey developed its Ration D Bar to very clear specifications at the government’s request. These bars needed to be nutritious, portable, and temperature resistant, yet not so appealing that soldiers would devour them as snacks.18 The final ingredients included chocolate mass, sugar, skim milk powder, cocoa butter, oat flour, and vanillin. Sugar quantities were decreased and chocolate mass increased to give the bar a less pleasing taste than normal chocolate bars. The formula created a heavy paste that had to be pressed rather than poured into molds. A four-ounce bar contained six hundred calories. The original formula and shape of the ration bar were altered slightly when thiamine hydrochloride was added as a source of vitamin B1 to prevent beriberi, a disease likely to be encountered by troops in the tropics.

The calories and nutrition from chocolate also smoothed moments of liberation. Soldier Harry J. Herder Jr. connected with a very young survivor through chocolate at the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp. Herder pulled a chocolate bar out of his pocket, but the child had no recognition of what it was. While the child practiced the pronunciation “candy” and “chocolate,” Herder removed the chocolate wrapper. As he watched the youngster’s puzzlement, Herder realized that he had probably never tasted chocolate! Herder showed him how to break off a piece, put it in his mouth, and chew it. He slowly ate the entire bar “with wonderment” in his eyes. They drank hot cocoa from Herder’s K rations. At the end of his tour, Herder emptied his pockets of all of his candy bars for his new friend.

Survivor Mike Jacobs tasted his first Hershey bar at the liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp by American soldiers. Born in Konin, Poland, and named Mendel Jakubowicz, he was nineteen and a half years old and weighed seventy pounds in 1945. Having been sent to Mauthausen when Auschwitz was evacuated, he saw tanks approaching the camp and wondered why the Germans had switched the customary swastika to a star. Hours later, more star-studded tanks arrived, and a soldier tossed him a little package. “I grabbed it and run [sic] into the barracks and say, ‘Hey, guys, look—I got a bar of chocolate. And can you imagine! The name of the chocolate is Hershel!’ [Hershel is a common Yiddish name.] I didn’t read the wrapper properly, so the first American food I eat is a Hershel bar.”

I take this moment now to salute our American soldiers and their sense of duty and the chocolate that fueled them.

More about military, refugee and survivor chocolate in may be found in On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao.


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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“Did Jews ‘Invent’ Chocolate” Hits YouTube

May 27, 2013

“Did Jews ‘Invent’ Chocolate?” An Exclusive Interview with Deborah Prinz by Walter Bingam for his radio program “Walter’s World” at Israel National Radio about my book On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, published by Jewish Lights and now in its second [...]

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