Artisan food and war refugees appear to have little in common. Claire Cheney sees things differently. Chios, the idyllic Greek island where she sources some ingredients for her Somerville spice business, is also a destination for refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Cheney is assisting them by selling an Aegean salt mix ($7.50 for a 2.8-ounce tin) in local boutiques and food stores. For every purchase, $1 will be donated to the Chios People’s Street Kitchen.
“Food is a great vehicle to understand other cultures and current events,” Cheney says. Chios, located 4½ miles from Turkey’s coast, is famous for its mastic trees. Cheney combines mastic resin, typically used for confectionaries, to her Aegean salt, along with thyme and lemon peel.
“It’s great with fresh fish, grain salads, and roasted chickens,” she says. “It has bright, clean flavors.”
Curio Spice Co., Cheney’s one-year-old business, sells the Aegean salt as well as five other spice blends, including a Vietnamese coffee rub and Sri Lankan cinnamon mix. All are hand-packed in vintage-style tins. Cheney imports her spices directly from farmers and producers she has visited overseas. Curio’s website also features recipes.
Cheney, who has an environmental degree from Oberlin College in Ohio, is self-taught about spices. She learned about them while in various managerial roles at Oleana and Sofra Bakery & Cafe, both in Cambridge, as well as in local coffee and specialty chocolate industries. Cheney also worked one summer on a Greek saffron farm.
Curio’s fund-raising via the Aegean salt mix runs through April. Funds will be donated to United to Assist Refugees UK, a humanitarian group. The street kitchen is one of the organization’s efforts in Chios.
Aegean salt mix and Curio Spice Co.products are available at American Provisions,613 East Broadway, South Boston, 617-269-6100, www.americanprovisions.com;Cambridge Naturals, 23 White St., Cambridge,617-492-4452, www.cambridgenaturals.com; DeLuca’s Market, 11 Charles St., Boston,617-523-4343, www.delucasmarket.com; Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-4750, and 268 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-350-6996, www.formaggiokitchen.com; Magpie, 416 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-623-3330, www.magpie-store.com; Sofra Bakery & Cafe, 1 Belmont St., Cambridge, 617-661-3161, www.sofrabakery.com; www.curiospice.com.