Behind The Seasonings: Old World Seasoning

When my parents began The Spice House in 1957, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt was considered the Holy Grail of seasoning salts. We used to stock Lawry’s along with many other blends from bigger companies. That was until my Dad began developing our own blends and seasonings. He started by emulating other popular products and improving their flavor. For example, if a competitor’s garlic salt was one part garlic to eight parts salt, he’d make his more flavorful with one part garlic to four parts salt. Dad soon surmised that Lawry’s was about 80% salt, and set out to create our own all-purpose blend that had less than 25% salt.

He went a little nuts with the ingredients, but ultimately balanced the flavors of 31 spices and herbs to create Old World Seasoning. This blend has the most ingredients out of any other we make. Dad wanted to be sure that ours was intensely flavorful. He even sifted all the ingredients, stirred them 500 times, sifted them again, stirred them another 500 times, and again once more for the end result of a blend that’s triple-sifted and hand turned 1,500 times! We still hand-blend Old World Seasoning in this tradition.  

My Dad wasn’t just about making something taste good, he liked to tell stories with spices. He named this blend Old World Seasoning, for immigrants seeking the flavors of home. Milwaukee had a heavy German, Irish and Eastern European influence, so the food memories from these homelands involved mixing in paprika, garlic, onion, celery, dill, marjoram, caraway, rosemary, bay leaves, nutmeg and white pepper.

In those early days when customers requested Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, which most did, we were to tell them, “yes of course, but we also have something much better called Old World Seasoning. Can I give you a taste?”

That was one of my Dad’s biggest lessons, getting the customers to taste spices at any possible chance. Taste is worth more than either a picture or a thousand words when it comes to cooking!

Old World Seasoning turns the simplest foods into robust and complex creations. You could do the millennial thing and sprinkle it over your avocado toast, which is delicious, but you could also follow one of these recipes!

Patty Erd’s parents, Ruth Ann and Bill Penzey Sr., started The Spice House in 1957. Bill’s father was introduced to the spice trade in Europe as a boy and brought his knowledge along to America. Patty and her husband Tom, aka Spice Boss, have lived the life of modern spice merchants–bringing spices from around the world to your table and home. Patty’s passion for learning, teaching and sharing the joy of culinary spices have made The Spice House what it is today.


Spice Boss’ Top Three

People always ask about my top blends and seasonings. For me, Bronzeville Rib Rub is number one. My father-in-law created this seasoning at the original spice shop, located at 33rd Street and Galena in Milwaukee….


    ‘making something taste good, he liked to tell stories with spices.’
    A memorable way of instilling something new so that it will become
    fixed for all time.
    The other blogs are equally fascinating in their own ways.
    I am of your dad’s generation, my introduction to ‘real & interesting
    foods’ came via the writings of Elizabeth David. I remain curious still.

    Thank you, Patty, for all the great information – and history – you share with all us fellow spice lovers! I lived in Evanston for a few years and quickly became addicted to The Spice House. I moved back to New Mexico several years ago, so I’m incredibly thankful I can continue to satisfy my addiction by ordering online!

    I hope you are enjoying New Mexico. Evanston is a pretty wonderful community, hopefully you get back to visit us.
    We love to think of our spices traveling all over the country, thank you for continuing to order thru the mail.

    Hi Cameron,

    Thank you for understanding. My Dad also loved Elizabeth David. I hope that we can convince the younger generations to continue read her work.

    I love the photo of Old world spices in your blog. It looks like a “abstract spice mandala”. Love the colors. If it was larger I would frame it. You can almost smell the aroma.

    Thanks Sheila!

    You just made our photographer’s day.

    Maybe we should get into the art business?

    Thank you for your blog. I’m a new customer but enjoy hearing the origins of spices and your recipes. Been a customer of one your competitors for years who started sharing political ideals rather than product details so I am looking forward to receiving my first (of many I hope) orders from you

    Do you sell the print of the different spices that is at the top of this page. If that was in a larger size it would be a great print to frames for all the “spice junkies” that are out there. Thanks

    Please send me a catalog…..Your business and the wonderful way you treat all your customers is amazing…. Thank you for a quality store that is definitely the best on earth and the wonderful customer attention you give to each of us seeking an excellent source of rare spices!

    Just curious….am I the only one who sees a couple embracing in the above spice mosaic? It’s a great photo. Truly frame worthy!
    Several years ago before I relocated to Florida, I shopped at the Geneva store. In a town of many quaint shops, it was my go-to shop for unique hostess, birthday, Christmas and housewarming gifts-even found morning sickness remedies for my daughter-in-law and young co-worker! I deeply appreciate being able to continue giving the best gifts through your exceptional internet service.
    Keep up the good work!

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