Let’s go back to the basics. There are those five basic tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and umami.
Four elements of matter: water, earth, air, and fire.
A name: Kawartha Spice.
A logo: the water lily.
Kawartha Spice Co. is based in the Kawartha Lakes, but the founder hails from Guyana. The Kawartha Lakes region in southern Ontario is an amalgamation of a series of municipalities and townships but the name is given for the over 250 lakes, that lace through the region, interconnected and draining to Great Lakes Ontario and Simcoe. The name ‘Kawartha’ is “a corruption of a Huron word meaning ‘land of shining waters (or reflections).’” And so the land is named for its waters.
On a map you can draw a straight line south and tilting eastward—representing about 4600 km—that connects Peterborough, Ontario to Georgetown, Guyana. And there the land is almost identically named for its waters—its name an Aboriginal word meaning ‘land of many waters’:
“Guyana is justifiably called the land of many waters because of the numerous rivers, creeks, and streams that flow throughout its length and across its breadth.” On a map the whole of the country is heavily veined with tributaries to the four main rivers which drain to the Atlantic at its northern edge. And Georgetown being below sea level means that to exist on the land is always to hold the ocean at bay behind the seawall.
The national flower of Guyana is the Victoria amazonica, which appears on its coat of arms. A truly colossal flower, it is the second largest water lily in the world. Its leaves are rimmed disks, like platters, that span up to 10ft in diameter and can support up to 140lbs of weight. The flowers open at night and begin as white blossoms. As they are pollinated by a species of scarab beetle, they close again at daybreak trapping the beetle to feed on its nectar within. As the lily is pollinated by the beetle its petals open on the second night as a blush pink, and once more open and close, ever deepening into a darker shade of pink by the third, and final, night of its blooming. Representative of these watery connections across the globe, for Kawartha Spice Co. the water lily represents a bridge between homes; the place where one is rooted in the Amazon basin, and the place where one blooms up at the river’s surface—the 26ft stem of the Victoria amazonica metaphorically connecting both.
So now we return to those basics of the four elements of matter—water, earth, air and fire—which similarly captures all elements of Kawartha Spice Co. The land of Guyana and Kawartha Lakes is inextricably tied to water; from the earth comes sustenance—food and nourishment in the form of herbs and spices. Grinding down the whole spices captures rich and fulsome aromas, where fragrance is emblematic of the element of air. And most broadly, cooking embodies the fire element. When the ancient Greeks codified this understanding of matter, Aristotle had proposed a fifth element—aether—which was seen as the space of the celestial bodies. We can now take the liberty of reading that ether, or void, as the space in which our identities bloom, upon which all matter of things can be created. When we cook, spices give a dish its flavour profile, its identity. Our own identities are forged over time and across geographies to provide us with our sense of home, the place within where we can be nourished.
by Nadia Ragbar