Pharos-Tribune

Community News Network

January 22, 2014

How threats to danish pastries spawned a debate over 'real cinnamon'

Like sugar being converted into carbon dioxide in a batch of cinnamon roll dough, trouble has been fermenting in Denmark over the past few months. The metaphorical yeast behind the turmoil is an EU regulation limiting the use of cassia cinnamon - the most commonly used type of cinnamon - due to concerns about a naturally occurring compound called coumarin, which can cause liver damage when consumed in large quantities. The Danish government has moved to limit cinnamon rolls' cassia content to 15 milligrams per kilogram of dough - far less than is traditionally used by Danish bakers. Media outlets - including, most recently, Modern Farmer - have quoted outraged bakers ("[I]t's time to take a stand. Enough is enough") and struck fear into the hearts of kanelsnegle lovers. (The government may reclassify the cinnamon roll, allowing it a higher cinnamon quota, in February.)

In addition to terrifying cinnamon roll aficionados, the controversy has reignited one of the most annoying foodie tropes: The idea that there is a "real cinnamon," and that cassia is not it. One Atlantic commenter responded to the news of Denmark's impending cinnamon roll ban by giving Danish bakers some unsolicited advice: "Then use real cinnamon instead of cassia. They are two different species. Real cinnamon is more expensive, but it will get you around the reg." Several Redditors also chimed in to defend "real cinnamon" against imposters: "Tell the bakers to use real cinnamon and not that cheap cassia [expletive] then," read one typical comment.

I have news for these commenters and anyone who's ever trotted out the difference between cassia and "real cinnamon" as cocktail-party small talk: There's no such thing as "real cinnamon." Or, if you insist that there is, then cassia definitely qualifies as "real."

There are dozens of species of evergreen tree belonging to the genus Cinnamomum, and the bark of many of these species is cultivated and sold as cinnamon. Two of these species are relevant to this discussion: Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia), a Chinese native that you'll find in most grocery stores under the label cinnamon, and Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), a Sri Lankan variety that's much rarer and more expensive than cassia (though available online).

If you took Latin in high school, you will notice that Ceylon cinnamon's scientific name translates to "true cinnamon." It's a hop, skip and a jump from Cinnamomum verum to "real cinnamon." But it's a hollow term. Scientific names for plants are often arbitrary and metaphorical. White mustard, for instance, goes by the classification Sinapis alba, which translates as "bright mustard" or "favorable mustard," but no one goes around arguing that white mustard is better than brown mustard just because of its name. And yet people have insisted on taking Ceylon cinnamon's biological classification literally.

By no meaningful definition is Ceylon cinnamon more "real" than cassia. Both belong to the genus Cinnamomum. Both are ground into powders that can deliciously flavor cookies, yeast breads and tagines. Both have been used as spices (and medicine) for centuries. It's not as though cassia is some synthetic laboratory creation that's being nefariously passed off as natural. Cinnamomum cassia is a real plant.

Perhaps more importantly, if you live in the U.S. (or Denmark, apparently), virtually every single cinnamon-flavored thing you have ever tasted in your life has contained cassia, not Ceylon cinnamon. De facto, in 21st-century American kitchens, cassia is cinnamon, and cinnamon is cassia.

Now, this does not mean that Ceylon cinnamon doesn't taste better than cassia. Many people believe that it does, and their opinions are just as valid as any other opinion concerning taste. The fact that cassia is just as real as Ceylon cinnamon also doesn't nullify any health concerns about cassia: For your liver's sake, you should probably not be consuming enormous quantities of it.

But please stop insisting that Ceylon cinnamon is the only "real" cinnamon. All that label does is make people who like cassia feel that their preferences are somehow inauthentic. And that's a real shame.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014

  • weightloss.jpg The scales of injustice: Weight loss differs between men, women

    You're not imagining it: There really are differences between the way men and women diet, lose weight and respond to exercise.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Robin_Williams.jpg Williams among many who cracked jokes while fighting depression

    Robin Williams isn't the only comedian who has struggled with a disease suffered by an estimated 350 million people worldwide. Williams, a comedian known for his manic energy, committed suicide Aug. 11 at age 63.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drug dealers going corporate

    A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are doing business with legal marijuana sellers, suggesting that federal rules giving financial institutions the go-ahead to provide services to dealers are starting to work.

    August 13, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Does Indiana need a statewide water management plan and an administrator to implement it?

Yes
No
Unsure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes Lunch Bus Delivers Meals to Kids Out of School Water Bottles Recalled for Safety Researcher Testing On-Field Concussion Scanners Rockets Fired From Gaza, in Breach of Ceasefire Raw: Japanese Military Live Fire Exercise Police, Protesters Clash in Ferguson Independent Autopsy Reveals Michael Brown Wounds Nashville Embraces Motley Crue Obama: 'Time to Listen, Not Just Shout' Lawyer: Gov. Perry Indictment a 'Nasty Attack' Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Crosses Into Ukraine Iowa Man Builds Statue of a Golfer Out of Balls Assange Gets Cryptic About Leaving Embassy in UK Raw: Building Collapse in South Africa, 9 Dead Raw: Pope Francis Meets 'Comfort Women'
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.