Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday. These days it’s a secular holiday associated with flowers, candy hearts, and, best of all, chocolate. I wasn’t expecting to find a Jewish connection to Valentine’s Day, but after looking through my copy of Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, I discovered the that Jews actually played a significant role in the history of the chocolate trade.
Chocolate is created by fermenting, drying and roasting the beans of the evergreen cacao tree. The Aztecs, in whose culture chocolate played a central role, drank an unsweetened chocolate beverage that they called xocolatl (bitter water). Considered to be an aphrodisiac, they flavored it with red chilies and vanilla.
Although Columbus introduced cocoa beans to Spain, it was Hernando Cortes around 1528 who brought back the knowledge of how they could be used. It was because of this knowledge that chocolate’s popularity began to spread in Europe.
Read More: @ jwa.org
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