“On The Chocolate Trail” perfect for your Hanukkah or Christmas gift guide

As most of you know, I’m fortunate to receive a variety of chocolate books and samples to review on this site. The book I received this week arrived just in time for Hanukkah (Chanukah), and as I have a friend coming over tonight to teach us a bit about this sacred Jewish holiday, I thought it was the perfect time to review “On the Chocolate Trail” by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz.


The second edition of “On the Chocolate Trail” by Rabbi Deborah Prinz was published in 2017 by Jewish Lights Publishing.

I really enjoyed this book. Deborah Prinz–nicknamed the “Chocolate Rabbi”–takes us on a delicious journey around the world, showing us how a love of chocolate can nurture our spiritual growth. Prinz says chocolate bridges different faiths with a unified voice to express love for the world’s universal comfort food that brings people together. Indeed, in my own chocolate travels, I have noted that no matter where you are, if you say the word “chocolate” (or an ethnic derivative of chocolate or cocoa) people will smile.

chocolate smiles

Paola of The Candy Bar in Toronto has one of the best smiles in the world of chocolate. Is it because she is always surrounded by all this great chocolate of the world? Or does working with chocolate attract happy people?

And smile I did, as I read this fascinating book about the world of chocolate. The author’s innate ability to sniff out tantalizing chocolate stories in her travels is referred to as her “choco-dar” (chocolate radar) that uncovers various facts and anecdotes to bring the stories to life in an informative yet light-hearted way.

the relationship between jews and chocolate is a strong bond

Prinz focuses on the relationship chocolate has had to various world religions–most notably, her own Jewish faith, and includes a number of Jewish recipes like Chocolate Babka and Israeli Birthday Cake in addition to world favourites like Chocolate Molé, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Cognac Truffles, and Bicerin–which I, too, enjoyed while visiting its birthplace of Turin, Italy.

jews and chocolate

On the Chocolate Trail contains a number of great recipes.

The book also contains an interesting chapter on world chocolate companies that discusses Milton Hershey‘s importance to the development of American chocolate. I would recommend “On The Chocolate Trail” to serious chocolate lovers regardless of faith, but especially to Jews who have long wondered why chocolate has always found a place at the table–during Hanukkah, Christmas, and at every time of the year.

You can learn more about Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz and her work at OnTheChocolateTrail.org.
















Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

52 Responses

  1. Donna Janke says:

    “On the Chocolate Trail” sounds like an interesting book. I’d not thought about spiritual connections to chocolate before.

    • There was indeed a very strong spiritual connection with the Mayan and Aztec people to cacao, Donna. I have participated in a sacred cacao ceremony in a couple of locations and hope to participate in more. So, yes, cacao is most definitely considered a sacred food to many, and that has carried forward to chocolate in some societies.

  2. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Interesting to hear of our different relationships with chocolate. I had not thought about this in the context of religion even though we all understand celebration.

    • Hi Janet. Yes, I found this book really interesting, as I was aware of the spiritual connection cacao had to more ancient cultures. But I hadn’t realized how important it was to the Jewish culture. Happy Holidays!

  3. Susan Cooper says:

    Chocolate has an amazing history. It’s fun to hear about the different traditions how it connects us.

    • I totally agree, Susan. I had no idea chocolate had and has such a significant impact around the world’s culinary and spiritual scenes. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that it includes lots of great chocolate. πŸ™‚

  4. Phoenicia says:

    I would guess Paola is smiling because she works with chocolate all day! How intetesting that a book exists on how one can connect spiritually with chocolate.

    The cake recipes sound delicious!

    • The possibilities with chocolate are endless, Phoenicia. But it does has very deep spiritual implications with many people. And, yes. The wonderful scent from pure chocolate is almost as intoxicating as earring it. So I’ bet that does contribute to Paola’s great smile! Wishing you a very blessed Christmas.

  5. Sounds interesting! I would love to read it and see her prospective. Happy Holidays!

    • Happy Holidays to you, too, Joe! I hope to see you at the International Chocolate Fest in San Mateo next April. I will be a speaker there, and would love to see you and Mignon Chocolate participating. πŸ™‚

  6. Catarina says:

    There’s more to chocolate than meets the eye. I learned so much from you today for instance that the Jewish people have a special connection with chocolate.

  7. Very interesting article. We love to meet chocolatiers in cities we visit, so this really added a new layer to our visits. On The Chocolate Trail is now on my Christmas list.

  8. Jeri says:

    On the Chocolate Trail sounds fascinating. I always enjoy books that can make a connection to an immediate topic and a greater topic. There is always more than meets the eye.

  9. I wasn’t aware of the Jewish connection to chocolate. Chocolate sure brings a smile to my face. I was at a Christmas fair the other day and someone was promoting chocolate. i tried a sample brownie and it was delicious. Bought two packages of Sher’s brownie-cookie mix (made with organic fair trade cocoa). Will make cookies for a Christmas Eve party I’m attending. I think Sher was actually there and makes the mix and her own chocolate syrup.

  10. I always enjoy your chocolate postings, and the truffle recipe in this books sounds worth the price of admission.

  11. Irene Levine says:

    What an interesting angle for a book about chocolate! No less written by the “Chocolate Rabbi.”

  12. Carol Colborn says:

    Nice book review for this niche you have developed. I am in Cozumel at the moment and will, therefore, do a chocolate tour!

  13. Nice to know that there is this wonderful book written on chocolates. Chocolate is indeed a comfort food and people from all countries in the world can connect with it. No matter how much diversity exists in food habits, this is one thing that everyone has indulged in at least once in life.

    • Right on, Moumita. I think that chocolate is the universal bond that binds us. I had my very first chocolate bar made from Indian cocoa this past week and it was incredible! I will, have to seek out more. Wishing you all the best for 2018. πŸ™‚

  14. Glad to be introduced to this book. Of course I’m glad to take a peek at the page with recipe, and wow, that ribbon candy necklace is pretty spectacular:) Best to you this season.

  15. Karen Warren says:

    How interesting – I’d never thought of chocolate as having links to any religion. This book would make a great gift!

    • Hi Karen: Indeed, I knew that the Mayans and Aztecs felt the spiritual side of cacao. And there are many people around the world who partake in a new-age style ceremonial/spiritual cacao ceremony. But I believe the Jews are the first modern-day organized religion that holds chocolate in high esteem. Have a great holiday season. πŸ™‚

  16. Fascinating Doreen. Like many others here it never occurred to me there would be a religious connection so I’ve learned something new. Thanks!

  17. Nice to see Paola’s smiling face on your post. Her business was booming when I dropped by a couple of days ago to get my Christmas supply.

  18. A wonderful post. I do know, because it is mostly a bean, it is kosher. I wonder though, if through the process of making the chocolate if it makes it not kosher.
    I am not totally aware of the technical point, but I remember once they sold Callebaut as kosher, but I believe that they sell it now almost exclusively to chocolate manufactures now.

    • Hi William. I’m really not sure about that. I think that the cocoa or cocoa beans have to blessed by a Rabbi or Jewish holy person to make them kosher, but I will check into this. Hopefully, we can get Rabbi Prinz to chime in.

    • Dear William, Thank you for this question. Generally, the kosher seal marks that the chocolate facility has been inspected by an appropriately trained rabbi
      to ensure that it has not been contaminated by pork products,
      shellfish, or their derivatives. The kosher label identifies
      whether the chocolate may be eaten with dairy meals or meat
      meals. Some producers kosher certify some of their products.
      Other companies kosher certify every product. I hope that this helps. Of course, there is much more about religions and chocolate in “On the Chocolate Trail.”

  19. Dear Doreen, Thank you very much for writing about my book, “On the Chocolate Trail.” I love that different religions and peoples (Mayans/Aztecs, Catholics, Jews, Quakers, Muslims) come together through the love of and the business of chocolate. Enjoy your chocolate trail and travels.

  20. Kemkem says:

    The book sounds absolutely delicious. I would never have thought it a spiritual thing. I happen to think that chocolate is the true nectar of the gods, so l’m sure l would enjoy it :-).

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Kemkem, and welcome to Chocolatour! If you are a true fan of chocolate, I hope you will considering to subscribing to this site. You will find chocolate stories from around the world. πŸ™‚ Happy Holidays to you.

  21. Sounds like an amazing book. It seems like there’s a connection between chocolate and everything in the world! Certainly it makes us all smile. πŸ™‚ Loving your posts even if I don’t reply to each. Happy Holidays to you and all your readers!

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Suzanne. I totally agree. Chocolate is definitely the glue that binds us all. Glad you’re still enjoying the post after all these years. All the best to you for a wonderful 2018.

  22. Food always brings people together and surely chocolate is no exception. My favorite cookbooks are the one that have a travel and historical slant to their recipes.On The Chocolate Trail sounds like it would be right up my alley. A good chocolate babka can is heavenly!

  23. Patti Morrow says:

    Without a doubt, chocolate is the perfect gift for Hanukkah or Christmas, or really any holiday. Next time I give chocolate, I’m going to include that book — how fascinating to learn the history and importance of chocolate in so many cultures!

  24. Sue Reddel says:

    Super interesting Doreen! I didn’t know there was such a strong connection between the Jewish community and chocolate. Sounds like a great read.

  25. Hi Doreen. We are overwhelmed with the kind of information you provide about chocolate. This is my favorite cookbook from now. The information provided is so helpful and professionally provided, too.

  26. Medona Steve says:

    I am very keen to get knowledge about chocolates because i love chocolates. I would love to read these kinds of informative posts in future too. Please keep updating us about chocolates.
    #chocolatelover πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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