Cinnamon as a food substance is a spice that is obtained from the wild trees that belong from the Cinnamomum, which is found in the Caribbean regions, South Asia and South China. Over the recent years, there has been the emergence of two main types of cinnamon. Firstly, there has been the Cinnamomum aromaticum that is common in the Southern China and the surrounding parts and Cinnamomum Verum which is common in the Western parts of Europe. It is worth to record and note that cinnamon has been in existence and has been consumed for the last two thousand years. A specific reference in point is in the ancient Egypt society. Where, cinnamon was regarded as a panacea, which was also used as medicine to treat some illnesses for instance, arthritis, coughing and sore throats. In the period specifically 1500 to 1945, there has been a change in the way in which cinnamon is prepared, consumed, traded and used in the society. This paper would thus, discuss in details and principles how these changes came about in the modern society relative to their initial uses in the past society.
Firstly, cinnamon is an evergreen tree that grows in the bushy areas and reaches an approximate height of approximately two to three meters. In most cases and instances, it grows in the natural environment with a fairly favorable soil condition, because any variation in the pH or soil moisture would be a bitter bark of the cinnamon. Tentatively, a water logged soil would produce cinnamon that would be very bitter to use and subsequent consumption, which would obviously not be the best. In the ancient society, around 15th century, the harvesting of cinnamon was done during the wet season. Because rains facilitated easy peeling of the bark of the tree from which cinnamon was to be obtained from (Sidney, 82). It was also done in the morning when there was the presence of dew in the area thus, the weather in a way made it easier to peel the bark of the cinnamon.
In the period of 15th to the 16th century, there was a specifically outlined pattern in which the production and processing of cinnamon followed a specific procedure. Firstly, the tender stems were removed and then used to mulch while those with diameters of longer length than five centimeters were set aside for “polishing and further treatment.” The soft outer bark is then stripped off with a knife. Then the stem is grinded and rubbed off against a rod of brass to make the inner bark loose. Then the curled pieces of the bark of cinnamon that had been peeled were then put inside the other in order to make what seemed like compound quills. The compound quills were would then be put forth for drying. It is important and worth to note and record that the broken quills were then put inside the best outer quills so that they would be mashed (Richard, 302). This method of preparation is by all means and aspects a traditional way of processing cinnamon. It is to imply that this method was devoid of any advanced technological aspects of processing and manufacture as far as cinnamon is concerned.
As time progressed, the users and people who processed cinnamon saw the need and the urge to grind it so as to make its consumption easier and look a little bit more appealing to the general public. After cinnamon had gone through all these steps and processes, it was then ground to form a powder. This could then be used as a food additive to make the food more edible as compared to when the quills had to be taken in their original and initial form. In the 17th and subsequent centuries, the manufacturers and processors of cinnamon saw the need to meet the market demand of cinnamon being in a ground form because there was a market gap. Hence, it is fair to assert that the change of the form of cinnamon was improved from the quills to the powdered form.
It was evident because, during the colonial times and imperial incursion into territorial borders, the European powers believed that the capture of cinnamon was critical. The cinnamon spices were also used as source and measure of wealth by the people who had and owned them (Charles, 202). Because the Europeans were pre-occupied by the thought of being in control of the trade because of the cultural value that the societies around the Indian Ocean regions appended to the cinnamon.
For instance, the mourners burnt cinnamon on the funeral pyres, whereby the function and role of the cinnamon were to cover or atone for the scent of the body that was being burnt. Most of the cultures and societies permitted the burning of the flesh of the dead. And thus the family and friends of the bereaved saw the need and the urge to protect the dignity of the deceased person by covering the scent of the body of a dead person. A practical instance is when the Emperor Nero as the ruler of the land used cinnamon whose estimated worth was a year’s in the funeral of his wife Poppaea. This gesture was also a measure of the political might of the Emperor. Because in this period, cinnamon was only possessed and owned by the people who were elites in all their social and political spheres of life. As much as it was of sentimental value and measure of the cosmetic ability. It was one thing that the cultural and political aspects of life in that time, from 15th to the 19th century could not ignore.
It was also a measure of prosperity and economic status in the society because only a few people could afford large quantities of cinnamon in their meals, mostly meat. Thus, it was of cultural and social importance if a host of the party or a banquet could impress his or her guests with some exotic spices from the East. The place of ambience or show was not clouded by the fact that the cinnamon was used to add flavor and taste to some of the drinks and food which was otherwise not sweet.
As the years progressed, and the patterns of recipe and cookery changed, so did the mode of eating cinnamon. This transition ensured that the society changed from the initial consumption of the cinnamon as a spice that was in most times consumed differently from other meals to it being laced in honey and soups. In most cases and instances the society used cinnamon because of the environmental factors and conditions which did not allow for a long life of the already made and produced food. A practical instance and example is the winter of 16th century. When the environmental and climatic conditions made it hard for meat and other luxurious meals to maintain their flavor and taste over a long period. The above is the reason as to why the people in the 16th century used cinnamon in the preservation of food. Because whenever cinnamon was added to food, fungus and other bacteria which would otherwise decompose the food would not (Premanathan M, Rajendran S, Ramanathan T and Kathiresan, 112).
Thus, it was also used as a preservative agent over the years especially when the preservation methods used by the society were sort of crude and unrefined. On the aspect of preservation and repelling against rot, similar aspects such as tooth decay and diseases of the gum were also covered with the use of cinnamon. Thus, the very presence of cinnamon in the household or the society played a crucial role that of an ornamental value by ensuring the beauty and the comfort of the body was improved. It goes without saying the decayed teeth are in all aspects and fairness a source of discomfort to the concerned person. It is for this simple reason which saw the society invent ways of introducing the cinnamon into the human body regardless of the way in which it was done (Wolfgang, 7). For instance, in the period of the early 19th century, saw drinks such as cinnamon tea introduced to the tables and diets of people. The very aspect that people with diabetes or blood sugar related illnesses incorporate cinnamon into their diets and tables cannot escape the attention in this line of thought and respect.
Summarily, in the above essay, I have discussed in details the chronology of progress on how cinnamon as a crop was first processed. From the bark of the trees to the improved status and times when it was ground. The value of the crop was not only for the medicinal property whereby it was used to cure some of the illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis or coughs, but also because it was a food additive. The elites in the society also used cinnamon as a spice to treat their guests and show their might and economic influence in the society. Only the wealthy had the impetus and the might to buy and afford the luxury of cinnamon, in their meals as a spice. During times of funerals, cinnamon was also used to cover the scent that would originate from the burning flesh. Due to the several uses of cinnamon, it goes without mentioning that the trade of cinnamon bloomed in the period of 15th to 19th century.
Charles Corn, The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade (New York: Kodansha International, 1998), p. 202.
Premanathan M, Rajendran S, Ramanathan T and Kathiresan K, "A survey of some Indian medicinal plants for anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) activity.".Indian J Med Res. 2000 Sep;112:73-7. Accessed October 14th 2013.
Richard M. Klein, The Green World: An Introduction to Plants and People (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), p. 306.
Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Viking, 1985), p. 81
Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), pp. 6-7.