We always suspected eating chocolate to be a religious experience. Now it is just official.
If you adore a religious entity so much that you want to eat it, rest assured you can. East Village chocolatier, Bond Street Chocolate, crafts and sells delectable figurines that resemble holy figures.
Among the host of sacred confectionaries one can find Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, the Virgin of Guadalupe and the elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesh.
The saintly line up brings a new meaning to the locution, “Sweet Jesus!”
Though chocolate typically brings the world joy, in this case its presence offends some and spurs religious debate.
According to the New York Times, last week the Universal Society of Hinduism issued a release that read, "Upset Hindus urge withdrawal of Lord Ganesh-shaped edible chocolate.”
The society’s president, Rajan Zed, went on to write that Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, is “highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be eaten casually.”
Though to be fair, at $15 a pop (the Ganeshas are 3-inches-tall), they are hardly a casual purchase. However, these are no M&M's. The ornate statuettes reflect labor, love and time.
"The Buddhas started out as a project when I was in school and I needed a chocolate project and I saw a beautiful Buddha in a reading room and I wanted to make it into chocolate. I want to make everything into chocolate," said the shop's proprietor, Lynda Stern. I think we can all take a moment to be grateful that Ms. Stern was born.
In a peculiar twist, Stern who is Jewish, told Blueprint in an interview that she had been making the chocolate Ganeshas for six and a half years so the sudden backlash feels random, "It's such a non-issue, especially in light of the recent tragic events in Paris. I have a lot of Hindu customers. This was one man's opinion."
"After the Buddha I said, I gotta put Moses in there because he's my people" Stern told Blueprint.
For Jews, the debate begins and ends at whether the chocolates (certified kosher according to the blog Kosher Like Me) should be consumed with whole, two percent or non-fat milk.
In asking for confirmation on the chocolate's kashrut status Stern said, "They're not not kosher. The mashgiach didn't come in, but people who are observant and keep kosher buy them."
When the Jewish people were given the Ten Commandments over 3,000 years ago, one of the stipulations was, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images or likenesses.”
Michelangelo's Moses, the renaissance sculpture Stern bases her Moses chocolates on, is a work of art not a depiction of religious idolatry.
Throughout the Old Testament, several biblical passages allude to the prohibition of idolatry, meaning the worshipping of idols or images. Therefore, the Jewish God is impossible to depict in chocolate or otherwise, making our man Moses fair game and leaving little room for offense. Unless there are Jews who don't like chocolate. But we've all seen the Seinfeld episode with the chocolate babka.
Stern’s gold-powdered chocolate deities are getting attention at a time when religious sensitivities are already inflamed by the depiction of holy figures in the media. Stern does not include Muhammad in her divine collection for what she says are, "obvious reasons."
“We consider statues and images as sacred objects that help connect with the divine or the supernatural. So to transform them into merchandise, candy to eat, I don’t think it’s the best way to go. It’s just business for these people,” the Reverend Santiago Rubio, pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Chelsea, told the Times.
Not everyone is insulted. In fact, most people aren't. Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said, “I don’t think there’s anything sacrilegious about it. It’s the intention of the person making it that matters.”
According to Stern, her intentions are innocent, "Nobody's ever urged me to stop, this is the first I've ever heard of it. I'm never trying to be disrespectful to anyone" said Stern.
Stern went on to say, "If I thought I was offending anyone I would stop."
Now that's something to chew on.