Updated: Aug 19
Welcome to the first season that focuses on an ingredient that you would keep in your cupboard! Water and Soil season were somewhat all encompassing, as they explored ideas of home and belonging, and migration and movement as well as the literal, and Cinnamon is actually going to do some of the same.
Cinnamon - earthy and aromatic, the scent of which drifts across the kitchen where an apple crumble is cooking in the oven. Encompassing the room, teasing the senses. Cinnamon is a spice of stories. It is one that crosses cultures, that has embedded itself in personal histories, has enamoured emperors and evoked deadly battles; it is breakfast, dinner and dessert.
This season will explore the spice trade and will begin to look at how we understand cinnamon and its stories.
In researching for this season Anna asked Twitter what people’s favourite food or drinks with cinnamon were and the response I got was vast. So many of the responses were about memories and joy, they were about family and the process of cooking. You could have mapped the trade route of cinnamon, across time, through these answers. You could see how cinnamon travelled, changed and adapted as it did; cinnamon is embedded in and embodies many cultures and people.
Some of the stories were family specific; Sian Elliot in London said “my mum's apple crumble. When she re-married her new husband didn't like cinnamon so it disappeared for years. Thankfully, he's gone and cinnamon sprinkled crumble has returned!” Food and drinks writer Richard Godwin said it was his secret ingredient in a Zombie cocktail; American food and writer Annada Rathi uses the bark in Chhola and Palak Paneer and loves to suck it dry whilst eating the dish. Others showed the impact cinnamon has on a culinary traditions; Indonesian-Dutch food stylist Dorothy Parker answered with “Kue lapis, Indonesian thousand layer cake, my grandma used to make a killer one, in Dutch they call it spekkoek (bacon cake) on account of the layering” and Nicole Rallis recalled “rice pudding with cinnamon sprinkled on top. My grandmother's recipe. She was from a tiny village in Northern Greece. Aposkepos“. UK food writer Nicola Miller loves cinnamon in Atole, where in Saltiloo, Norther Mexico they use it; London-based food writer Sejal Sakhadwala said “Gujarati wedding dal and mulled wine, although not together!”. And the impact cinnamon has on memories is well represented by Jane Darroch - “will never forget first time I ordered cinnamon toast at late night diner in New York, the follow up revelation of a cinnamon bagel was just as joyous, not recipes but to a young immigrant at the time both those simple toasted dough tastes were the ultimate comfort food.” And of course, British colonialism was seen in the number of British people replying with ‘chai’, and not from trips to India, but from understanding it within the context of a British drink.
With all this in mind, here is a piece Anna wrote that was featured in the arts exhibition in June, Encounter Bow. Across this season this will be developed into a short film, but in the meantime, enjoy the audio which was created to be listened to as you walked the streets
READING LIST (which will be continuously updated)
‘The Edible Horizon: Food and the Long-range Exchange of Culture’, chapter 6 from Food: a History, by Felipe Fernández-Armesto
‘Strange Vegtables, New Tastes’ chapter 7 from Taste: the story of Britain through its cooking by Kate Colquhoun
‘Eastern Spices and Baked Venison: the high middle ages’, chapter 2 in A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright
The Grammar of Spice by Caz Hildebrand
The Complete Book of Spices: a practical guide to spices & aromatic seeds by Jill Norman
Indian Summer: the secret history of the end of an empire by Alex von Tunzelmann
Christopher Columbus, Gonzalo Pizarro, and the Search for Cinnamon, by Andrew Dalby
Silk, Cinnamon and Cotton: Emerging Power Strategies for the Indian Ocean and the Implications for Africa, by CHRIS ALDEN and ELIZABETH SIDIROPOULOS