Just as when in spring, a young man’s heart turns to thoughts of love, when it is Halloween, my heart turns to thoughts of candy, i.e., chocolate — rich, dark chocolate. The romance and exotic culture of chocolate is embodied in films such as, “Bread and Chocolate” (1973), “Like Water for Chocolate” (1992), and “Chocolat” (2000). These are all foreign films (I did say exotic), and “Chocolat” is the movie where I first confirmed what I had often heard, that, in Latin culture, chili pepper (here, red chili powder) is often combined with chocolate. Now there’s a zesty idea!
Syracuse, and recently Manlius as well, have a rich chocolate tradition. Being a respectable librarian, retired at that, I recently spent a Saturday at the Onondaga Historical Association where I learned about an early chocolatier in Syracuse, Mary Elizabeth Evans. Furthermore, and here is the Manlius connection, the Onondaga Historical Association has enlisted one of our very own chocolate establishments, Lune Chocolat, to reproduce those vintage chocolates first concocted by Mary Elizabeth Evans. Initially, two chocolates will be produced from Mary Elizabeth’s original recipes, mocha chocolate and maple cream. The maple cream variety will gain its delicious maple flavor from syrup produced locally in Marcellus. I have sampled both of these, and they are stamped with the Kathy Hughes seal of approval for all things chocolate.
If ever there was a rags to riches story, the life of Mary Elizabeth is just that. Born in Syracuse Oct. 23, 1885, she lived 100 years to die a multi-millionaire in Providence, R.I., the wife of another multi-millionaire, Henry Dexter Sharpe. They had one son, named after his father, who still oversees his father’s company, Brown & Sharpe in Providence.
Mary Elizabeth’s father died on a journey in search of gold in California; he never reached California, leaving young Mary Elizabeth, her mother, Fanny (Riegel) Evans, her three sisters and a brother dependent on Onondaga County Judge Henry Riegel, her grandfather. Unfortunately, the esteemed judge died unexpectedly in 1887 (his home was 100 Harrison St., Syracuse), leaving the Evans family with no means of support. They quickly became destitute, and Mary Elizabeth was only 14.