True cinnamon is a high grade, delicately flavoured spice made from the dried, rolled, inner bark quills of a tree of the laurel family, Cinnamomum verum/Cinnamomum zeylanicum, which originated in southern India and Sri Lanka and really still only grows there. This, like pepper, was discovered by the Portuguese and brought to western Europe. The spice is obtained by coppicing the branches and peeling the outer bark away revealing the softer yellow inner bark. This is stripped off and left to dry, after which it is layered and rolled. These several factors lead to its high price - rarity and a long, slow, skilled method of production. It can also be obtained in powdered form. In the United States a cruder, less delicate form, cassia bark, from Cinnamomum aromaticum syn Cinnamomum cassia, is generally used. It is a fragrant spice, which can be used with lamb and rice dishes and to flavour sweet cakes and puddings.

According to Herodotus in his The History, the cinnamon bird inhabited Arabia, the only country known to produce cinnamon at the time. The giant cinnamon birds collected the cinnamon sticks from an unknown land where the cinnamon trees grew, and used them to construct their nests, fastened to sheer cliffs. The Arabians employed a trick to obtain the cinnamon. They cut oxen and other beasts of burden into pieces, laid them near the birds' nests and withdrew to a distance; the birds were then tempted down to carry the chunks of meat back to their nests, where the weight of the carcasses broke them from the cliffs, leaving the Arabians to collect the fallen cinnamon. (Ref: Wikipedia)

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