Columbian Food Exchange

Columbian Exchange Food/Ingredient Project By: Aaron Poulin Mr. Yonkers 6th Period What is the origin of your food/ingredient? Cinnamon originates from the islands of Shri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), southeast of India. It is also native to southwest of India and the Tenasserin Hills of Burma. Cinnamon is part of the Lauraceous, a branch of the Laurel family of spices. Although there have been many versions of cinnamon with stews, desserts, and everyday food, I am focusing on cinnamon buns, also known as sticky buns, a delicious by-product of cinnamon and bread rolls combined.

Both cinnamon and bread rolls are ancient foods, but when did they first combine? According to early spice historians, the history of cinnamon is unclear. Dr. Ronald Wirtz (American Institute of Baking) has researched sticky buns in depth. He begins with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Wirtz believes that our modern sticky bun owes some of its origins to British cooking and baking, perhaps with some degree of influence from the Dutch and Germans.

The cinnamon bun or sticky bun came to Philadelphia with 18th century English and German immigrants. The cinnamon buns that reached Philadelphia were composed of cinnamon, sugar flavored yeast dough, with raisons, buts, and caramelized topping. They are now very popular in the United States and some parts of England. Why is this crop/ingredient historically important? Cinnamon buns played a historic role in Europe mostly, originating from central Europe; they formed as a tasty treat for higher-class people.

Because cinnamon was hard to harvest and only grew parts of Asia and the Middle East it was hard to transport and therefore made it pretty expensive. Many myths surrounded cinnamon and how people harvested it. The source of cinnamon was unknown in the middle ages; it was thought that the Arabs supplied people with cinnamon. It was said that giant cinnamon birds collected the sticks from an unknown land where cinnamon trees grew, and used them to construct their nests.

Fastened to sheer cliffs, the Arabians employed a trick to obtain the cinnamon. They killed and chopped up oxen and other beasts of burden into pieces, laid them near their nests and withdrew to a distance. The birds were then tempted down to carry the chunks of meat back to their nests, where the weight of the carcasses broke them from the cliffs. Leaving the Arabians to collect the fallen cinnamon. According to Herodotus until as late as 1310.

Cinnamon had many other appearances in classical literature, including Socinus’ Collecanea Rerum Memorabbilium (Collection of Remarkable Facts), Aristotle’s’ Historia Animalium (History of Animals) just to name a few. Where did your food/ingredient spread? Cinnamon became more popular than ever during the middle Ages, in a matter of years it had spread to many different countries, so popular that stories had created myths about the tasteful spice. It also made Arabia famous for its export of cinnamon. But today Indonesia is the largest exporter of cinnamon in the world.