Never Eat Chocolate Like Bread

My parents in the Valley of Destroyed Communities, Yad Vashem

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What’s it like to be the child of Holocaust survivors?”

The answer?  I don’t really know.  But, wow, do I have some stories!

My father was from the small town of Nyirbator in Hungary.  He was interned in the Mauthausen labor camp.  My mother came from the hustle and bustle of Vilna in Lithuania, and ended up in Bergen-Belsen.  My whole childhood was spent under the shadow of the Holocaust, but that was the childhood I knew.  I could only begin to compare it to a typical American childhood after I began visiting my friends’ houses and seeing that not every family has those horrific years coloring every moment of their lives.  Some days I envied them.

In the oh-so-many stories that I could tell, the one that came to mind recently was when I recently watched one of my daughters eating a bar of chocolate.  She bit into the bar, chewed it, swallowed it.  And then I heard my mother’s voice in my head, “She eats chocolate like a piece of bread!”  How many times did she say that to me while I was growing up?  I can’t begin to remember.  In my mother’s world, you did not take a bite, chew and swallow.  You placed a piece of chocolate in your mouth and let it sit there, letting it melt with the heat of your body, the heat of your thoughts, running down your throat.  Chocolate is meant to be enjoyed, not eaten as if it were a piece of bread.

My mother on the left, with her sister and brother who didn't survive

My mother used to tell me Holocaust stories the way some parents tell their children fairy tales.  One story she touched upon often was how,from the time the Nazis invaded Vilna in 1939 until her liberation from Bergen-Belsen, she never had a piece of chocolate, until the 15th of April, 1945, a day she would celebrate more than any birthday or anniversary, when she said a British soldier came into the infirmary where she lay, and gave her a piece of chocolate.  She could have quickly scarfed it down, but she lay it on the back of her tongue and let its chocolately wonderfullness fill her mind and her body.

That story always stayed with me in the back of my mind, brought forth every now and again, usually when I hastily ate some chocolate, feeling guilty about the calories, feeling even more guilty that I wasn’t appreciating it, taking it for granted.  And then one day about nine years ago I was in the Recipezaar chat room.  A woman in New Zealand was asking me about my parents since she had just met a lovely woman with a number on her arm.  As I was explaining the number, another member called Dancer entered the chat room.  And the rest of the conversation went something like this:

Dancer:  What are we talking about today?

Miriyummy:  Just talking about Holocaust survivors.

D:  Oh, my father helped liberate a camp during the war.  He was part of the Canadian army attached to the British army.

M:  Which one?

D:  I have his diary, let me get it…. Bergen-Belsen.

M:  Oh, April 15th.

D:  How do you know that?

M:  My mother was in Bergen-Belsen, and she remembers her liberation date.  We celebrate it every year.

D:  It says here he was one of the first into the children’s infirmary.

M:  My mother was in the children’s infirmary when she was liberated.  She would always tell me the story of the British soldier who gave all the kids some chocolate, and how it was her first piece in over 6 years, and how much she enjoyed it.

D:  It says here my father gave each one of the kids a Hershey Bar…

Got your goosebumps yet?  I’m tearing up just writing about it.  Dancer’s father passed away in 1990, but she said he was the type of guy that would have just gotten on a plane and flown to New York to visit one of “his” kids.  Sadly, Dancer is no longer active on Recipezaar, and we’ve lost touch.  I would love to meet her one day, I owe that girl a Hershey Bar.

Baby Pavlovas with Chocolate Creme Patissiere

My mother always claimed I cook for the six million.  I do have a habit of cooking enough to feed everyone several times over.  She was the same way, always making sure we had enough to eat, because once upon a time she didn’t. Ju-Boy will back her up on this.  He gets very frustrated when we are 6 for supper, so I make enough for 20.  The other night we were 9 for dinner, so I made enough dessert for 18.

This is a dessert not meant to be eaten quickly, but savored, experienced, absorbed.  Don’t eat chocolate like bread!

Baby Pavs

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar (preferably caster sugar if you can get it)

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees C (200 degrees F).  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  You can trace circles on the paper using a teacup as your guide, but I usually don’t do this step.

Whip the whites until foamy.  Continue whipping and add the sugar, one teaspoon at a time.  Whip until stiff peaks are formed.

Using a pastry bag, pipe out a meringue nest, first forming the base, and then piping a wall up and around the base.  If you don’t have a pastry bag you can try this free form with a soup spoon, but it looks so much prettier with a pastry bag, so go and invest in one.

Bake in the oven for hour.  Then turn the oven off and let the meringue nests rest in there for another hour.  You can make these at night, then turn off the oven and go to bed, taking them out the next morning.  They should be hard and crispy on the outside, all gooey and marshmallowy on the inside.

At this point you can store the nests in a cool, dry place.

Chocolate Creme Patissiere

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons flour (use potato flour to make this kosher for Passover)
  • 1 1/3 cups milk (I use soy milk)
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream (I use soy milk again)
  • 125 grams (4 ounces) dark chocolate, the best quality you dare, broken into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

While the nests are resting, you can make the filling.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar together.  Add in the cocoa and flour, and beat well.

Warms the milk and the cream in a saucepan over a medium flame.  Keep beating the egg yolk mixture and pour the warm milk/cream mixture in slowly, beating all the time.  Now pour everything back into the saucepan and constantly whisking, bring it to the boil.  When the mixture has thickened, take it off the flame and add the chocolate and vanilla.  Keep whisking until the chocolate melts.

Let the creme cool.  You can cover it with some plastic wrap over the top to keep a skin from forming, but I find that it doesn’t really form that much of a skin and what does “come up” can easily mixed back in without a trace.  Once cool you can store this in the fridge, but when you take it out mix it well so it gets all chocolaty and creamy all over again.

Spoon the creme patissiere into the meringue nests.  You can top with some strawberry slices, kiwi cubes, something tartish to cut the sweetness.

I sincerely apologize that I don’t have a picture of the finished product to show you.  I made these for the six million who came to us for Shabbat (okay, we really were only nine), and put the whole thing together right before the meal, and no photos were taken.

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 28 April 2011, in Chocolate, Dessert, Family Life, Passover and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. wow, mirj. i will never eat chocolate the same way again. seriously.


  2. You got me tearing up, too 🙂 That’s a truly amazing story!
    And, of course, great looking recipe!


  3. Shirli Epstein

    will make this asap (not here for this Shabbat) wanted to tell that I made your veggie chopped liver on Pesach twice, first time with courgettes – good result, and the second time with grated carrot and it was terrific!!! It looked the real Macoy and it tasted amazing!! So all in all, I have tried all the variations with great results. Thanks


  4. I have to make this


  5. Mirj-This is AnnieDrews from 3FC. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I hope you don’t mind of I share it with the gals over on that board. We miss you!! I love reading your blog.



  6. Hey Mirj, Happy one year anniversary on the blog….and please, please….don’t stop blogging (huge lump in my throat today after reading) and don’t stop cooking!!! One of these days, u will have two more guests for dinner!!!


  7. This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for submitting it to KCC.

    My maternal grandfather, who I never met, was from a town near Vilna called Mariampol. He moved to the U.S. as a teen, but much of his extended family perished at the hands of the Nazis.

    I’m glad your mother was able to share her stories with you. It is a wonderful gift.


  8. *tearing up*

    Amazing story… thanks for sharing it with us…


  9. Amazing story Mirj…what were the odds?!!!! Thanks for sharing.


  10. What a touching story. Yes, I did get goosebumps.
    We should all keep that perspective (about eating chocolate like bread) in mind – and help our kids do the same. We are so accustomed to having everything we want. Thanks for the reminder.


  11. Very moving – thank you for sharing


  12. That really was beautiful. As far as the recipe goes, I don’t even think I’d bother with the chocolate. The nests would be enough for me.


  13. Mirj, I will have difficulty making this, as I am reading the recipe through my tears. Very moving.


  14. It’s a small world! Thank you for sharing this beautiful and very moving story.


  15. what a small world we live in …amazing story ! I was all teary eyed reading it – I’m gonna have some chocolate on Holocaust Memorial Day next week and think of all my family members , your mother and Dancers Dad…


  16. What a beautiful post!

    She was the same way, always making sure we had enough to eat, because once upon a time she didn’t.
    This was also true for my beloved grandmother a”h – also a Holocaust survivor from Lithuania (albeit from Kovno, not Vilna). And as a result, both my mother and I are incapable of cooking “just enough”. There always has to be lots and lots of leftovers…

    Shabbat Shalom!


  17. Mirj
    once again you have brought me to tears. keep on cooking and writing for the ones who are here to help us remember and those who are not. Not only are your recipes amazing but your stories and the humour(humor) behind them along with the humanity leave me with something special every time.
    All the best,


  18. What a goose bumpy story Mirj. It is true, you should never savour chocolate like bread. Food as a whole should never be taken for granted, even bread.


  19. An amazing story, how small the world can be sometimes so full of cruelty and kindness.


  20. Beautiful, moving story Mirj. I know I will be thinking of your Mom and you whenever I eat chocolate. Thank you so much for sharing it. Recipe looks wonderful.


  21. BookishIma

    Goosebumps all over. This is not a figurative statement. I am third generation and the reality of that pervades my life; second generation – I can’t imagine but I am grateful to have the insight of your experience.


  22. Mirj – thank you for sharing this beautiful story (it made me cry) and all of the stories and experiences you have given us in the past year. You take the things you love the most, your family and cooking, and weave them together beautifully to nourish not just our bodies but our souls as well. Thank you for sharing your love with the world. – Ava


  23. What a beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing it all (including the recipe).


  24. An amazing moving story . . . Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

    I used to see all these recipes from “Mirj” on Recipezaar and wonder who she was . . . I really enjoy learning about you and your family from this blog . . . in addition to getting all the recipes. And the pavlova recipe looks like a must try.


  25. Thank you, from one child of a Holocaust survivor to another, for a wonderful, touching story! Youmioved me! Plus the recipes look wonderful.


  26. Mirj!
    Is that chocolate story true?? yours?? wow I cannot beleive it! it is like those urban legends you read and delete from your email so often. if it is truly yours I am going to spread it around with your permission, truly amazing.
    *Great Blog by the way! thanks


  27. What a Moving and Freaky Story! It gives me goosebumps! I’m also a long-time fan of your recipes from Zaar and I always wondered who you were.


  28. my family Blum were from Nyirbator. someone know anything about them??


  29. That’s an incredible story. Yes, goosebumps. This looks delicious. I will have to try it after Pesach when I can use soymilk and all.


  30. Nancy I Caballero

    bless you! 🙂 thank you for sharing.I have a recipe for a raw chocolate candy bar. I could share it with you.


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