The Politics of Penzey’s Spices

By: Ryan Brady

My mom signed me up for the Penzey’s Spices email list in July of last year so that I would also be offered their good deals (like free Cinnamon sugar). I noticed a common thread in every one of these emails, politics, which stood out to me because most businesses try to avoid it at all costs. I was taken aback by the extremely opinionated emails of the company’s founder, Bill Penzey, that showed he was not trying to hide anything. While I do not agree with every idea he conveys, or the ways in which he conveys them, I admire his courage to put his business on the line by standing up for what he believes in.

I decided to write this article after I received an email from them this morning, which I will address at the very end. This article compiles some of my favorite lines from Bill’s emails that have been cluttering my inbox for the past nine months.

The following passage is, I believe, one of the best examples of these emails. It has no correlation whatsoever to spices, or the company at all.

“In the spring of 1914, in a time of nationalism, men marched to war with the expectation that their nation would certainly prevail in time for them to return for the harvest. Four and a half years and 20 million lives later, the war found its end exactly 100 years ago today at 11:11 am. Many of those then on the field felt in that moment, in the still quiet of the silence of the guns, that God spoke to us. It was an expression of hope that we could do better. The cycle of senseless loss can end. . . . Nothing says we have to repeat this cycle, but yet right now the President’s re-crafted Republican Party with its embrace of Nationalism is doing everything it can to try. History is quite clear on this one. Nationalism always meets reality at the end of a bayonet; always, every time. You can manufacture news to keep the truth from your supporters. You can incite your followers to intimidate honest reporters with acts of violence. You can even have the star of your propaganda network join you on stage for your Nuremberg-styled rallies. But hiding reality doesn’t make it go away.”

It seems to me that Mr. Penzey talks about whatever is on his mind that day. And it is effective, to a certain extent, if you agree with his ideas and therefore want to support his company. But in general, these excerpts seem out of place when the rest of the email talks about how their Oregano is on sale.

The idea of being a “Cook” also resurfaces among these emails. For some reason, Penzey seems to believe that Cooks® have more humanity than the rest of us.

“As much as today, in this midpoint between last week and next, it really looks like the tide is turning, it’s up to us as Cooks to hold the line until it undeniably does. The science shows that cooking gives us the strength to weather hardships that those without it just don’t have . . . The line of humanity has to go on. We have the strength to make that happen. Thanks for your strength, and don’t forget to visit us at penzeys.com pretty much now. This is a good deal, please share it now.”

This example is comical to me. It is basically says congratulations on being a good person, now please buy our products.

Below are a few more emails that make Cooks feel good.

“As Cooks we know how to overcome all the little obstacles that stand in the way of bringing happiness to the table. Now is the time to focus those very same skills on helping to overcome all the little obstacles that hold back those around us from voting come November 6. Together we can make the very difference needed now.”

“Still, as Cooks we also have proven our ability to multitask. As we work towards November 6, let’s start imagining what the new modern American conservatism to come could be. Please remember John McCain in this, not just for the values he stood for, but in the incredible strength with which he stood for them. Going forward we will need many-many more women and men with as much of that strength as possible. As Cooks it’s up to us to build them.”

“You are a Cook. Times like these are the very times you shine.”

“You are a Cook, people look up to you. Your encouragement means everything. Let them know how important this election is. Help them put together the ingredients they need for a healthy and satisfying voting experience. You have the skills. You have the kindness. Please put them to good use.”

“The research says people with cooking in their lives go on to better futures, but the research so far doesn’t quite know why. My thought is that a life surrounded with the goodness that is cooking leaves us better able to see paths that lead towards positive outcomes while avoiding the negative ones. In many ways our time around the dinner table leaves us better able to tell right from wrong. Yes, as Lincoln said, we can all be fooled some of the time, but Cooks, time and again, lead the way into the can’t be fooled all the time category.”

My personal favorite aspect of Penzey’s emails that appear over and over are the very strange connections. Penzey will talk about one topic, and then attempt to tie it back to his company and whatever deal they have that week.

“This week was big. In the last couple years we’ve all witnessed with heartbreak the destruction the Republican/Fox News/Russian propaganda has brought to the lives of too many people close to us. It’s been hard watching conservative friends manipulated by fear and anger turn against their own decency. It had gotten so at times it was hard to see where this would all end. This week we learned it will end in our court system, and it will end well. This week was a turning point. This week changed everything.

To celebrate our changing times, today and tomorrow we will be giving away two 1/4-cup jars of our steadfast, rock solid, and very tasty French Thyme.”

“Today is Pi(e) Day -3.14- the day we celebrate those endeavoring in the fields of math and science to bring us the truths we need to make rational decisions as we charter our course towards the future. In this time where lies are fundamental to how this administration justifies its actions, telling the truth is now a political act. This is not good for our country or our planet. Today is a good day to think about how we overcome this. Truth should always be the American way. To celebrate Pi Day, until midnight tonight, we are offering a free half-cup jar of Pie Spice and a Give Science a Chance Poster (a $15.44 value) with any purchase.”

“Could our President be a Crook? Sure looks like it. It’s Salt & Pepper time, time to admit what’s clearly on the table before us. In the wake of the Mueller report (even the doctored 4-page DJ Attorney General spin version), the reality we must face going forward is that our president is a Crook. And the problem for America is that he’s not just a run-of-the-mill crook, but instead one quite skilled at directing others to commit his crimes while pretending his innocence. Take a Cook’s-eye look at the president’s actual words to the Russians about his opponent’s emails at a point where his campaign already had multiple contacts with the Russians expressing their desire to help make his election a reality. Does he actually say I’m entering into an agreement to commit election interference? No, he is too skilled for that, but it is those very skills that betray his true nature. What should we make of his actions? As the Voice Of Cooking, let us be the first to say: Crook-Crooked-Crookedly-Crook. And now that Crook-Crooked-Crookedly-Crook has been said, it’s time to get on to redoubling our efforts to make sure every possible American turns out to vote 11.3.20. As we’ve learned before, a good message travels far, but a good message tied to a really good free offer knows no limits. So through Tonight at midnight Pacific, we are offering a $22.95 Salt & Pepper Time Gift Box free with any purchase. These boxes contain full half-cup-sized jars of our tasty Seasoned Salt and World’s Best Penzeys Pepper. And of course for each jar of Penzeys Pepper sold or given in an offer like this another is given to those who work to feed those in need.

And my ultimate favorite email that inspired me to write this article:

“Please check out our Mueller Report Something Burger with its No Secrets Sauce so worth sharing. At a hearty 1/3 of a pound of tastiness, this burger, much like its namesake report, is no Nothing Burger by any means. In addition to our Seasoned Salt and Penzeys Pepper of Salt & Pepper Box fame, this burger also calls for Marjoram and Krakow Nights to make its very tasty No Secrets Sauce. Both are here as a reminder that selling out our allies (especially those in Eastern Europe) to repay dictators is not a victimless crime. Why such a good deal? To point out it’s Salt & Pepper time, time to admit what is actually on the table before us. In the wake of the Mueller Report cover-up letter and the president using it to demand that those tasked with his oversight be fired, what’s actually on the table before us is that our president quite clearly is pretty crooked. Now is no time to look away, now is the time for focus.”