North Fork woman invented her own spice

04/14/2013 7:45 AM |

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Earl and Gloria Fultz, who make cHarissa, a Moroccan-influenced food seasoning.

If you want to spice things up in the kitchen, but your busy schedule prevents you from taking the time to try new things, a North Fork couple has a suggestion for you.

Earl and Gloria Fultz, who live at Peconic Landing, want you to try “cHarissa,” a Moroccan-influenced food seasoning created by Ms. Fultz.

“Moroccan cooking is very complex,” Mr. Fultz said. “The great thing about this spice that Gloria created is it’s a quick way to bring Moroccan flavor to American food.”

The seasoning is a milder version of the Moroccan spice harissa, which uses the very hot jalapeño pepper commonly found in Moroccan cuisine. Instead, cHarissa uses cumin and cayenne pepper to pump up the heat.

Aside from the taste, the seasoning’s real back story is the love story that brought the little $12 jar of spice to life.

“The romantic story is, she did it for me,” Mr. Fultz, 89, said on a recent morning as he prepared a cup of coffee for his wife, who is 85. The two are approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. “Gloria came from Morocco and I came from Montana,” he said.

Ms. Fultz came to the United States during World War II. Her father brought her and her four siblings to America to escape religious persecution. The family endured a 26-day boat trip during hurricane season, Ms. Fultz recalled. Her mother had already made the trip.

She ended up in New York, where Mr. Fultz was attending Columbia University. He began working as a writer and Ms. Fultz’s aunt was his literary agent. That’s how the two first met.

Fifteen years later, with unsuccessful marriages behind them, the couple found one another again, Mr. Fultz said.

Food has always been a passion for the couple, who are both the children of mothers with superb cooking skills.

“Gloria’s mother certainly set the bar high for food,” said Mr. Fultz.

“And his mother, she was really an incredible baker,” his wife countered.

“Good cooks are competitive, and good cooks need a good eater,” Mr. Fultz said. Being the good eater was his job.

Moroccan cooking was a staple in the home Ms. Fultz grew up in, and she continued that tradition with her husband and children. She created the recipe for cHarissa over the course of their lives together and has been serving food with her seasoning for close to 25 years.

“Moroccan cooking, people like it but it’s complicated. It takes two or three hours,” she said. “The genius of this — this makes it instant.”

“The eureka moment was when we threw a party for all of Gloria’s relatives and we served it to everyone,” her husband said. “These people of Moroccan heritage — who feel away from it — they suddenly had a taste of the past. Her family told her to push the product.”

About a year ago, Mr. Fultz got to work and called Jeri Woodhouse, owner of A Taste of the North Fork, a local specialty food purveyor.

“He wanted to start a food business, and so I helped him,” Ms. Woodhouse said.

Since then Ms. Woodhouse has helped the couple with production and marketing for cHarissa. They’ve also been working with Rita Hagerman of Academy Printing in Southold on product labeling.

Mr. Fultz recently introduced cHarissa at the International Restaurant and Food Service Show in Manhattan. With the help of Ms. Woodhouse, the animated Mr. Fultz used his Montana country charm, complete with his cowboy hat, to drum up over 200 potential leads for distributing his wife’s product.

But local residents don’t have to wait for those leads to develop to try cHarissa out. It’s available at A Taste of the North Fork in Southold, The Market and Bruce’s Cafe in Greenport, The Fork & Anchor in East Marion, the Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck and Braun’s Seafood in Cutchogue.

cmiller@timesreview.com