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Culinary Historians of Canada (Virtual): A Certain Fascinating History of Saffron, the World’s Most Expensive Spice

January 22, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Food history writer Sam Bilton explores the history of saffron in England — and how it came to Canada, as well!

Saffron has allured us with its golden hues throughout time. It was the darling of the medieval kitchen, the saviour of the apothecary’s chest and was used to give cloth a regal glow. Unlike many spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, saffron could be successfully grown in England. From the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century there was a thriving saffron industry in there. Some people even claimed English saffron was the best to be found in the world. But as tastes changed from the medieval to the modern, saffron in English and Anglo-Saxon kitchens fell out of favour. Given its lavish reputation as the most expensive spice in the world it is not surprising that many people who cook in Western European style no longer have it in their spice cupboard.

Sam Bilton aims to change that. She will talk about how a few saffron fronds can make your repast a thing of great beauty and wonder to your dinner guests. And how we modern cooks can enjoy a taste of the Middle Ages with just a pinch of spice.

‘Food writer Sam Bilton is researching historic saffron recipes and has found cream-and-egg custards, crispy pastry-based pea tartlets, and venison stew topped with herby saffron dumplings.’ Sue Bailey, The Lady