Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Go Beyond the Grocery Store With These Seven Innovative Spice Companies

leave a comment »

Reina Gattuso writes in Gastro Obscura:

IN 2016, SANA JAVERI KADRI found herself at a crossroads. After moving from her hometown of Mumbai to California, she wanted to learn more about the historical forces shaping her own identity and experience as a queer woman of color in the United States. A food photographer, Javeri Kadri turned to culinary history to better understand the history of global empire. For more than a century before the British crown officially made India a colony, the British East India company—a private corporation that had a monopoly over much of the South Asian spice trade—ruled the subcontinent.

Spice trading, Javeri Kadri realized, hasn’t changed much from its colonial roots. Often, the people growing spices are disconnected from the global marketplace by middlemen, who take the lion’s share of the profits. In 2017, following a series of sourcing trips to spice farms in India, Javeri Kadri founded Diaspora Co., a small spice company that directly sells seasonings from South Asian farms to U.S. and global consumers.

Diaspora Co. is one of a number of small companies bent on challenging the colonial legacy of the spice trade. In contrast to large spice companies, some of which have dominated the industry for hundreds of years, these endeavors tend to work directly with local farmers and are owned by people grounded in the cultural and culinary contexts of the spices they sell.

According to Greg Prang, co-founder of Culinary Culture Connections, which partners with South American Indigenous groups and nonprofits to import their products to the U.S., equitable spice sourcing should go beyond a “fair trade” label. It should focus on building relationships with producers and supporting their autonomy over traditional cultural and culinary practices.

“Fair trade is kind of a front for big corporations to say they’re doing something in respect of sustainability,” he says. Prang speaks from experience. He was trained as an anthropologist and worked in consumer research for multinational food companies for years. When corporations talked about leveraging fair trade branding for profit, “I remember laughing and saying, ‘If you don’t believe it, don’t do it.’”

Prang, Javeri Kadri, and others on this list believe in the importance of equitable sourcing—and they sell some tasty spices, too.

Diaspora Co.

Oakland, California

Besides bringing fresh spices to customers, Diaspora Co. states an intention to “redistribute power away from solely the trader and instead empower its farmers, laborers, and the earth,” according to their website. Today, the company directly sources more than a dozen spices from 12 farmers across six Indian states and Sri Lanka, many of whom use organic and regenerative farming methods.

Favorite offerings include sannam chillies; Sri Lankan kandyan cloves that taste like “pine, butterscotch, henna, and allspice”; and the masala dabba, a handmade brass version of the spice box ubiquitous in South Asian kitchens. The company also has a recipe blog and often weighs in on political issues—including a message of solidarity to the current farmers’ movement in India.

Loisa

New York, New York

In July 2020, politically progressive lovers of Latin American food were left with a dilemma. Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods—the largest producer of Latin American ingredients in the United States—had praised President Trump, despite the President’s record of racist rhetoric and policies targeting the Latinx community. Many boycotters, wondering where to get beloved seasonings, turned to Latinx-owned spice company Loisa.

Founded in 2017 by Kenny Luna and Scott Hattis, and co-owned by food activist Yadira Garcia, Loisa is named for the Spanglish moniker for the Lower East Side. Its two signature products, both organic, are sazón, a classic mix of cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, and black pepper, and adobo, which is garlic, turmeric, black pepper, and oregano. The company also sells sofrito and rice and bean mixes. Loisa’s site offers vegan and vegetarian recipes for favorite Latin American dishes, and donates 2 percent of its monthly profits to community-based organizations in the greater New York City area.

Fly By Jing

Chengdu, China

Jing Gao’s spice company began out of a suitcase. As a young, European-raised Chinese chef exploring her roots in Chengdu, Gao began serving pop-up dinners out of her home kitchen. These dinner parties grew into a roving global series, with Gao lugging bags full of Chinese spices wherever she travelled. In 2018, she decided to turn the suitcase spice hustle into a full-fledged business. Gao’s first Kickstarter became the highest-funded craft food project in the site’s history, and Fly By Jing was born.

“I was completely blown away by the reception,” Gao writes via email. “It showed me that people were ready and excited to embrace these flavors.” Gao named the company after Chengdu’s “fly” restaurants, hole-in-the-wall joints so tasty that diners flock to them like flies. She also affixed her given name, Jing, to the company title, rather than Jenny, the name she’d gone by for most of her life.

The company’s first product is still its signature: Sichuan Chili Crisp, a spicy, savory sauce that will leave your mouth tingling. The company has expanded with a handful of other offerings, such as doubanjiang, aged fava bean paste, and zhong dumpling sauce, made of soy sauce, garlic, mushrooms, and spices. The company is also one of the few U.S. importers of Tribute Pepper, a mouth-numbing, citrusy chili once given to emperors as tribute.

Culinary Culture Connections

Bellevue, Washington

Greg Prang seems, at first, an unlikely founder of a company that imports small-scale, Indigenous-produced Brazilian spices. For years, . . .

Continue reading. There are more companies listed.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 April 2021 at 12:18 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.