THE CREATION OF ERNIE’S LOVE SPICE
My mom, dad, and I began Ernie’s Market in 1955. I love the store and wanted my customers to experience that extra special love, so I began passing out a handful of Hersey’s kisses to every customer. Over the years, the tradition continues, but I was not satisfied with just giving out Hersey’s Kisses. I wanted to give my customers something special.
So around 2000, I decided to offer my customers not only a great sandwich, but I wanted them to know I made it especially for them — seasoned with LOVE. After endless hours of experimenting with my favorite spices, I felt I had created the perfect special touch for Ernie’s Sandwiches…. “ERNIE’S LOVE SPICE.”
Everyone loved the LOVE SPICE from the very beginning. Customers would and still do come in and say, “Put the LOVE on it” with big smiles on their faces.
In 2008, a customer nominated me for the Channel 4 CLICK on Detroit Contest. It was about the same time the Ferndale High School kids created the first Ernie’s Facebook page, ERNIE’S MARKET. Then a customer, who was a teacher from CREATIVE Studies, made another page FANS of ERNIE’S. Through social media, the little store on the corner on Capital and Republic in Oak Park went viral.
In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and hopefully, 2017, Ernie’s Market won the BEST SANDWICH SHOP with my Ernie’s sandwiches topped with LOVE SPICE and a “family friendly” atmosphere with a dedication to excellent customer service. Here, with so much love permeating the air, customers can’t help being happy.
This year, MI Live created a special category just for Ernie’ s by proclaiming Ernie’s Market The Happiest Sandwich Shop in Michigan.
I was surprised and honored with this award because since 2000, this is what I always wanted. My goal was to spread a little love and happiness to my customers one sandwich at a time.
It is said that “Variety is the spice of life.” And the many varieties of spices enhance all the wonderful flavors that food has to offer. My hope is that LOVE SPICE will spur an interest in a variety of spices, their origin and their medicinal and health benefits..
So let’s begin our journey into the World of Spices!
THE HISTORY AND BENEFITS OF SPICES
Based on information from the McCormick Science Institute
What is a spice?
According to Wikipedia, A SPICE is a seed, fruit, root, or bark, or other plant substance primarily used in flavoring, coloring, or preserving food. Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This is why many spices are used in warmer climates which have more infectious diseases. They are also used in meat which is particularly susceptible to spoiling. They are also used in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics or perfume production which often masked unpleasant odor, or even as a vegetable.
How far back can the use of spice be traced?
Spices, which originated in different areas, were used by different cultures in different ways. Eventually, people from different countries began to trade these precious commodities for other spices and goods.
By at least 3000 BC, spices such as cinnamon and black pepper were traded throughout South Asia and the Middle East.
By 1700 BC, medical literature notes that Mesopotamia used odoriferous plants such as thyme.
Literature from 668-633 BC, records aromatic plants such as sesame, cardamom, turmeric, garlic, saffron, poppy, cumin, silphium, dill and myrrh.
By the 6th century, onions and garlic became the most popular condiments.
By 1550 BC, the Early Egyptians used spices as food preservatives. They also described 800 different medicinal remedies which used coriander, fennel, juniper, cumin, garlic, onion, and thyme. It is believed that the laborers that constructed the Great Pyramid of Cheops used garlic and onion to promote health.
By 1000 BC, many medical systems in China, Korea, and India relied on spices. In early publications, cassia, which is similar to cinnamon, was used as a medicine. Nutmeg and cloves were brought to China.
By the eighth century, spices from India such as cardamom, and turmeric can be traced back to the gardens of Babylon. Spices such as cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cumin, and mustard seed were known for their health benefits. Sesame was used as a poultice for post operation wounds and as an antiseptic. Cloves and cardamom were wrapped in betel-nut leaves and chewed after meals to increase the flow of saliva and aid in digestion.
By 600 BC, nutmeg which originated in Banda Islands in Southeast Asia was introduced in Europe.
By 641 BC, the Greeks began importing spices from the East including pepper, cassia, cinnamon, and ginger. Garlic also was widely used in much of their cooking.
Spices were also an important part of medical science. Hippocrates (460-377 BC), “The Father of Medicine” the founder of medicine and the greatest physician of his time, wrote about spices including saffron, cinnamon, thyme, coriander, and mint. He used over 400 herbal remedies of which at least half are used today. Also, Theophrastus (371-287 BC) “the Father of Botany” wrote two books about over 600 spices.
The Romans relied heavily on spices such as caraway, onion, rosemary, and thyme in wine, spice scented balms and oils after bathing, and as poultices and healing plasters.
When the Roman Empire began expanding to the northern side of the Alps, the people were introduced
to pepper and other spices from the East. The new cultures which included the Goths, Huns, and Vandals brought caraway, onions, and rosemary,
From ancient times to 1096 AD, spices became a valuable commodity and cultures began trading spices. During the Roman Empire, Arabia traded cassia and cinnamon, but the origin of the spices was kept secret. The Arabians wanted to have a monopoly on their spices to keep the value of the spices high, which they did until the first century AD.
Around 600 AD, Mohammed known as “God’s Messenger” established the principles of Islam in the Koran. He grew up very poor, but married a woman whose first husband was a trader. He became a trader himself, and he established a spice shop where he sold myrrh, frankincense, and Asian spice.
The Wise Men, the Three Kings of the Orient, brought the Child Jesus three gifts. Gold associated with wealth of the Kings, and Jesus was considered King of Kings. Frankincense, “the King of Oils”was used in incense in churches as a symbol of deity, and myrrh which is a perfumed spice used in embalming is a sign of Jesus’ death.
At the beginning of the Middle Ages, spices from the East were very costly and primarily used by the rich. Many people traded a pound of saffron for a horse, or a pound of ginger for a sheep, or two pounds of mace for a cow, a pound of nutmeg for seven oxen. Pepper too was used as money. Eastern Europeans would pay ten pounds of pepper just to trade with the London merchants. Some landlords would accept peppercorns as rent. Taxes, tolls, and even a bride’s dowry were paid in peppercorns.
During the Crusades, trading began to flourish, and the price of some spices became less expensive.
European apothecaries (pharmacists) used ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, and cardamom in medical remedies.
In 1180, King Henry founded a pepperer’s guild of wholesale merchants who would manage the trading of spices by cleaning and preparing the spices for sale. More and more spices were used medicine. It was common for doctors to put cloves under a patient’s nose to help them breathe, to sterilize a room with sage, and to use saffron, garlic, and juniper in special wine which promoted health benefits. Around 1298, Marco Polo, one of the first and most famous Europeans to travel to Asia, introduced the Europeans to the world of the East. He wrote about sesame oil from Afghanistan and the ginger and cassia from Peking which was used in wine. He said the rich ate meat flavored with salt and spices. The poor used garlic. He recalled that in Hangchow, 10,000 pounds of pepper was used every day. Polo was so impressed he described gardens of pepper, nutmeg, and cloves in Java and in the Island of the China Sea. He also reported that cinnamon, pepper, and ginger were grown on the Malabar Coast of India.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus, the explorer who was hoping to find a route to India and open up a trade route, brought a Spanish physician Diego Chanca on his second voyage. .This was very beneficial because Columbus and many of his crew came down with malaria, which Dr. Chanca treated successfully. On his travels, he discovered capsaicin which is red pepper and allspice used in Spanish cooking.
In 1501, King Manual brought many spices to Portugal. After several sea voyages, a trade route was established to India and the port of Lisbon. Portugal became a spice market for Indian spices such as cinnamon, cassia, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, mace, and cloves. King Manual is credited for establishing new markets for spices throughout Europe.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the United States began trading for spices. Americans began trading salmon, codfish, tobacco, flour, soap, candles, butter, cheese, and beef for cinnamon, pepper, cassia, cloves, and ginger.
Between 1797 and 1846, Salem, Massachusetts experienced a profitable Sumatra pepper trade. Much of the pepper was exported to Europe and to other states.
In 1846, the overproduction of spices brought down the prices, so more people could enjoy the benefits of spices.
As can be seen, spices have many medicinal benefits and enhance the flavor of many foods. How dull our lives would be without a little sprinkle of spice here and there. Thanks to all the explorers who through their travels open the routes to the many varieties of spices which are used every day.
Please share any interesting facts about the history of spices. I would love to hear from our community.
Look for the next article The Wonders of Garlic.