Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Spicebox: an Israeli couple’s passion

Posted by Oyster on May 18, 2007

Shuli Ronit grinding spices

Looking for a kosher herb dealer? One that you don’t need a prescription for? Need a za’atar fix? Look no further! Above, Ronit and Shuli are pictured grinding.

Every week after Shabbat has come to its bitter-sweet conclusion, Jews around the world (and for millenia) recite the following blessing “… borei miney v’samim”: Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the World, Creator of various kinds of spices.

The ritual of the spices during Havdallah is explained well here:

The Kabbalists tell us during Shabbat, we each receive an extra soul, or extra spiritual sensitivity. So as Shabbat goes away, so does the extra soul, causing us to feel faint. For this reason we smell some spices (spiritual smelling salts!) to comfort our soul at the loss of Shabbat.

It seems that for one Israeli couple, they have found that this “spice of life” is elevating their souls all week long. The Petaluma husband & wife team of Shuli Madmone and Ronit Kakon have opened up Whole Spice, a spice importing and wholesale business [Oy Bay Map] featuring kosher (follow the link; their mashgiakh is Rabbi Welton, the one with the blow-torch!) and organic spices from around the world. The cute Sephardic couple trace their love of spices to the cornucopia of spices that they were exposed to growing up in Israel, where Jews from all over the world converged as immigrants (my dad among them):

Shuli’s Family immigrant to Israel from Yemen in 1948 and settled in the Negev. They are the founders of Moshav Pduyiem (about 100 families all from Yemen). Shortly after that, they started farming in the Negev and grew paprika, onion and other spice-related produce. They opened a spice shop in Ofakim in 1970 and sold their fresh-ground spices from the farm. Today Shuli’s brother took over and he runs the spice shop.

My parents immigranted to Israel from Morocco in 1962 and settled in Netanya. My mom was using lots of Moroccan spices in her cooking; that’s where I got my love for spices. Shuli and I can’t forget the beautiful traditions we grow up with and decided to continue them. We observe Shabbat and have big Shabbat dinner at our house every week with lots of guests and also celebrate all Jewish holiday following our parent’s traditions.

Their Shabbat dinners look big & lively, just watch this video to see for yourself!

A few words from Ronit & Shuli:

Want to spice things up a bit? In the kitchen? Well, Petaluma’s newest addition will help you do just that. Wholespice has upgraded it’s operations and is now spicing things up in Petaluma. Theirs is the place to come for top quality, freshly ground spices, herbs or teas.

Whole Spice started in 2000 – when Shuli and Ronit Madmone started selling freshly ground spices, herbs and blends at local Farmer’s Markets. People were buying up the spices left and right. It was also hard not to notice this husband and wife’s team passion for spices and each other. People were naturally drawn to hearing stories about the origins of their spices and getting recipe ideas. Word of mouth pushed them from the Farmer’s market onto bigger pastures. They began working with independent grocery stores, restaurants and catering companies. Next, wholespice.com was launched and customers from all over the country order fresh spices and herbs that get delivered right to their front doors. Recently, Shuli and Ronit have added a full organic USDA certified line of products to their offering.

What makes Wholespice a cut above the rest? Shuli and Ronit subscribe to a standard of excellence that is hard to find. All wholespice products are freshly ground on site and shipped immediately to ensure maximum freshness. You can see the grinding process in action on wholespice.com: http://wholespice.com/spiceexport.wm

They are tirelessly working with each customer on creating special blends or the right set of spices for their needs. Whether they are working with a gourmet chef from one of San Francisco’s premier restaurants or the amateur cook at home, Shuli and Ronit will infect you with their love of spices and how you can infuse that into your cooking.

So, where does this love of spices stem from?

The story begins with Shuli growing up on a farm and helping his parents grow and sell spices at a local farmer’s market. Their dedication and quality control left their customers completely satisfied and of course their name and business grew. Needless to say, Shuli fell under the spell of the spices and the tradition lives on here in the Bay Area.

Ronit and Shuli definitely practice what they preach. They are 1st rate cooks and are constantly experimenting with new blends and recipes to pass onto their customers. They are always adding new spices to the line and learning all they can about each spice’s origin and cultural significance. “Spices bring the whole world into your kitchen. You can take an international trip without having to fly,” said Ronit. Friends and family are constantly gathering at the Madmone house to see what’s cooking. Walking in the door you are transported on a journey of the senses. From curries, to Zhug (hot and spicy blend), to cumin to much more you know you are tasting spices as they were meant to tasted. It’s as if they have transported the smells and flavors of the markets and bazaars from all over the world into their kitchen.

And, that is the mission of wholespice: To bring the flavors of the world to kitchens across the country. Whether it is working with customers at their warehouse, in restaurants or online this couple is dedicated to bringing their passion for fresh spices to your life.

So, how do they keep things spicy around the office and at home? “Well, we love each other so much and love sharing our spices with our customers so one thing feeds the other.” says Ronit.

So, if you are looking to spice things up in your kitchen then visit: http://www.wholespice.com or call Ronit and Shuli at 707-7781750

Ronit & Shuli’s story is so adorable, but things like this don’t exist in a vaccum. The reality is that it isn’t easy keeping wonderful kosher establishments like theirs open without the support of the Jewish community. I encourage all Jewish food-stores and restaurants in California to order their spices through Whole Spice. And every Jew should order Havdallah spices for their spice-box from them. That would truly make for a ‘reviving of spirits’ for our Jewish community.


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