Did you know that the average spice spans a 15-person supply chain before making it to your table? When Amanda Munden of Vecina Provisions heard this, she knew something had to change. When formulating her product, she wanted to work directly with smallholder farmers to elevate their status and tell their stories. And that she did. If you’re looking for an incredible, unique spice with just the right amount of heat, look no further than Vecina Provision’s Pasilla Chile Magic.
Vecina provisions is a company based on the spirit of neighborly giving. “Vecina” is the the feminine form of “neighbor” in Spanish. The company was started by Amanda Munden in January of 2020 and has sold incredible and unique farm-to-table Pasilla Chile Magic ever since.
Disclosure: Vecina Provisions kindly gifted me a jar of Pasilla Chile Magic for the purposes of this article. All information in the article is from my interview with Amanda and all opinions are my own.
Background of Founder: Amanda Munden
Amanda Munden, the founder of Vecina Provisions, can trace her love of cooking back to her great grandmother, “the OG farm to table ancestor”. Her great-grandmother grew everything she cooked and ate, and had a deep connection to the earth. Amanda’s passion for cooking ignited at the age of sixteen and has flourished ever since.
Amanda started working in the food industry as a hostess at high-end restaurants in Austin and was completely intrigued by food as an art form and how these restaurants transformed each of their dishes for their customers. As Amanda started developing her own recipes, friends and family kept asking about them. In 2012, she started a food blog, Gouramanda, as a way to build her portfolio and share her gift with the world. Starting the blog was a major contributor to the evolution of her cooking, as she got into culinary photography and writing as well.
Starting The Business
Amanda studied bilingual education at the University of Texas and worked for many years as a dual language teacher in the Austin area. When asked how she got the idea to start Vecina Provisions, she said:
“There have been multiple influences in my life, but most primarily my Latina immigrant students in my past work as a dual language educator. I was immersed in the language and the culture, primarily Mexican culture. My culinary influence over the years has also evolved toward Spanish cuisine. During my years of food blogging, I realized that there’s a major deficit in single-origin spices. Our cupboards are full of untold stories.
In the ’90s, there was the farm-to-table food revolution and a push towards sustainable agriculture. People started questioning and wanting to know where their meat and produce comes from. There is a second wave of the revolution going on now: people want to know where their dry spices and coffee comes from too! I learned in my initial R&D that most spices span a 15-person supply chain, from the grower to your hands. I didn’t like that. I wanted to work directly with smallholder farmers to tell their stories and get a better and fresher product. I stepped away from my career as an educator to be a mom and I wanted another avenue and purpose alongside motherhood.”
The Product: Pasilla Chile Magic
Amanda read about the Pasilla chile, decided to order it, and became obsessed with the flavor profile. Pasilla chile is incredibly smokey, with notes of citrus, Encino (Mexican Oak), and just the right amount of heat.
Amanda experimented with it, using the whole Pasilla chile, using the chile ground into a spice, and trying it out in many different dishes. She knew she needed to get her hands on more of this chile. In December of 2019, Amanda ground the rest of the chile she had into sample size spice packets for her family and friends. They loved it!
Amanda calls her product Pasilla Chile Magic because she believes it is truly magical. Those who have tried it say they have “never tasted anything like it before”, and its uses are vast and limitless. Amanda’s favorite use is as a finisher for many of her dishes, especially in cream sauces. Many customers say they like it mixed with salt on the rim of a margarita. I have personally been enjoying Pasilla Chile Magic on my avocado toast each morning. It makes it truly spectacular!
Vecina’s Supply Chain: How They’re Different
The supply chain of Vecina Provisions is truly just Amanda and the farmers. She sources the chiles directly from Mixe Farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico. It took months of networking to get ahold of the farmers directly as most are in indigenous groups with no easy access to communication methods. Amanda was connected to the farmers by Chef Iliana De La Vega of El Naranjo, one of Amanda’s favorite traditional Mexican restaurants. Chef De La Vega and her daughter have a company: Mexican Culinary Traditions, which hosts guided culinary tours. Amanda traveled to Oaxaca on a culinary tour, got connected with the smallholder farmers, and brought back pounds of chiles in her suitcase. The Pasilla chile is the “bread and butter” of this small farming community. They take the raw Mixaca chile and smoke it over Encino day and night for three days to make the Pasilla Mixe chile.
Amanda de-stemmed, deseeded, and ground the Pasilla chiles all on her own for her first batch of product. For subsequent batches, the Mixe farmers de-stem, de-seed, and ground the chile using Molino—a volcanic stone similar to a molcajete, but for larger ingredients. Amanda then does all the packaging and shipping once the product gets to her.
The Future of Vecina Provisions
Amanda is looking into getting her product into small retailers this year. She did her first pop-up in December of 2020 at Desert Door Distillery and was one of eight vendors chosen for the Texas Makers Market. She is also currently in the process of research and development of new spices and products to come out in the future.
One last takeaway from Amanda:
“Vecina’s slogan, ‘Season with Purpose’, is a double entendre. We season our food with purpose and can also have faith that we are in a season with purpose. Vecina Provisions was born out of the vital mandate to love your neighbor as yourself, one that spans all religions and is truly non-denominational. It is the driving factor behind Vecina and everything I do. It is through the lens of neighborly love: staying in contact with the farmers, cooking for my friends and family, and nourishing others through the communal aspect of cooking. Cooking truly is my love language! This is the most important part of my business.”
Every purchase of Pasilla Chile Magic supports Amanda’s small business and supports smallholder farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico. Pre-order your own Vecina Chile Magic here.
@theAustinot wants to know: What’s your favorite spice to use in your cooking?