Uncovering the History and Mysteries of Pumpkin Pie Spice

It seems like everyone can’t get enough of Pumpkin Pie Spice. Pumpkin pie is a favourite fall desert but its signature spice has permeated into all other sorts of products like lattes, cakes, muffins and scones to name a few. It may appear a modern fanaticism but it is truly rooted in a history and in mysteries that go back centuries.

Spices have always been very important. Originally from India and the Orient, they have an infamous reputation for being exotic and valuable. There have been wars and obsessions over spices for centuries. In fact it was because of the war over spices, which was a reason for the search for better routes to the East, that the Europeans originally discovered North America, without which there would be no Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Pumpkin pie spice (or just Pumpkin Spice as it seems to be more commonly called now) is a signature American spice blend. There is no set discovery of the first mixing of Pumpkin Spice. That is destined to be a mystery hidden in the sands of time. However, it is known that this spice blend has its heritage with the pilgrims. We say it is a mixture of “warming” spices. Pumpkin is a food found the New World. So the creation of is an example of the interaction of Old World meets New World.

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What makes this signature spice blend? The spices in pumpkin pie spice are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Cinnamon will always be featured in the greatest amount and quite a lot more than the other spices. Next, ginger and nutmeg are featured in second highest amounts with cloves and allspice being featured in the lowest amount. This is because cloves and allspice are fairly strong and pungent spices and will not be as pleasing in large amounts as cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg. The precise amounts of spices may vary but the proportions in relation to one another of the other spices will remain similar.

You can buy the spice already premixed or you can by individual spices to create and customize your own special blend.  Spices should be stored in air-tight containers in a cool, dry dark place for up to 6 months.

Here’s a quick recipe for Pumpkin Spice. Simply mix all the ingredients together.

  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp allspice

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Not only does this spice mix add flavour to your cooking and baking but they also provide hidden benefits to your health. Spices add flavour which reduces the need for extra sugar, salt and fat to recipes helping you to cook and eat healthier. There is some research into the antioxidant activity of spices which contributes to keeping us healthy by reducing free-radical damage to our bodies – protecting our cells and reducing the risk for many diseases.

What’s Your Food Story?

Food (i.e. a source of nutrition) is the common denominator for all forms of life on the earth. Since time immortal, there has been a fascination with food. It has the incredible power to bring people together. And it has been the fall of civilizations – ripping cultures and people apart. It’s undeniable that we all have a relationship with food in some way or another. As individual as we are from one another so are our likes, dislikes and beliefs about food. Time, history, geographical location and life experience all contribute to these conceptions about what we should and should not eat.

Many traditional medicinal practices believe in the power of certain foods to heal or to harm the body. For instance, Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of healing; the Four Humours of the Hippocratic Medicine system; even the Traditional Chinese Medicine system all shared a common belief in how eating certain foods and not others affected the balance and thereby the overall health and vitality of the body. It is certain that there has been a higher reverence placed on food than is currently seen in much of society’s relationship to food today. Could this be due to the limited supplies and lack of those times, compared to the overproduction and overconsumption of today?

Food and culture are intertwined. Think of how certain foods are integrated into a culture’s heritage and traditions, or in other cases where foods are excluded. What dishes are considered special and why? Consider the turkey at Thanksgiving; chocolate on Valentine’s Day; even the Birthday Cake … all are relevant examples. These beliefs and associations come via a process of socialization and the society in which we are raised.

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What about your family meals and traditions? Where do they come from? Do your beliefs serve and support? How do certain foods make you feel and why? After identifying what your beliefs are about foods you can then reflect on how they impact your overall relationship with food.

We all have our own ideas about food and nutrition. Some of those may have been learned and passed down, others we develop y experiences we have in our individual life situation. However your story is not over. Remember as you can always re-write pages to improve the story’s content and direction, so too can you make changes to improve the quality of your diet and nutrition.

So what’s your food story and how do you want it to read?