Monday, February 25, 2008

the spice trade


Nutmeg and mace once grew only on a few volcanic islands in the Banda Sea, south of Seram and east of Java. The Romans imported peppercorns at great expense from India's Malabar coast and sprinkled black pepper on almost every dish, including their desserts. Even today, when spices come in plastic bottles, arranged in neat alphabetical rows at the supermarket, there's something exotic and mysterious about them and it's easy to imagine that the air of paradise hangs heavy with cardamom, cumin, and cloves.

For a reasonably close approximation here on earth, try this Mexican vanilla, much warmer and spicier than ordinary vanilla, and this earthy Vietnamese cinnamon , which, like most cinnamon is actually the humbler cassia. And for a combination of spices for grilling, there's this Jamaican jerk seasoning blend, the best I've ever tasted.


23 comments:

thailandchani said...

All of the things you mentioned sound good!

Magpie said...

hard choice to make. very hard. they all have their place.

Becky said...

You wouldn't guess by how excited I get at going into the spice stores, but I hate to cook. I just love the smells of the spices.

kalakly said...

never met a spice I didn't like...well except for the spice girls but that's different, right?

cinnamon gurl said...

Yum, I love just about any spice... except cloves. It's way too easy to have too much clove.

I voted cumin, but I almost voted cardamom because it's so nice in sweet dishes. But I don't really care for accidentally biting into the whole pod.

Julie Pippert said...

We just lost a great local fresh spice store. Oh it was lovely.

I ALWAYS use Mexican vanilla.

(Was that too snobbish? Sorry)

It really is wonderful.

slouching mom said...

are you feeling better?

Aurelia said...

Okay, cinnamon gurl didn't vote for cinnamon?

So confused.

NotSoSage said...

Mmm...I had real cinnamon once. It's a whole other world...and it made Michael Ondaatje's poem, The Cinnamon Peeler's Wife, so much more evocative.

But...I'd have to go for nutmeg.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie said...

Blurghhhh cinamon, yuck, yuck, yuck! I do however always use proper mexican vanilla.

Anonymous said...

I love chili peppers. In Texas (where I was born and reared, as we say) there is a huge variety of peppers that make life interesting. I wish I could find them here in Belgium :(.

Allypally, who can no longer seem to login to the blog post.

Anonymous said...

Above should read...
Signed Allypally, who can no longer seem to sign in to the blog post.

charmedgirl said...

i am going to assume this list replaces your other spicy list...hehe

Elizabeth said...

You are so right about the Mexican vanilla. It is incredibly different from ordinary vanilla.

niobe said...

Charmed Girl: Excellent point.

niobe said...

And, Slouching Mom: No, I'm still sick. But at least I'm finding things to occupy my time, as you see from my next post.

leanne said...

While I've learned to appreciate a variety of spices (other than the "Minnesota spices" that I grew up with -- as my husband likes to refer to salt and pepper), I still had to go with cinnamon as my favorite. I love the way it smells, baking in an apple pie, sweet breads, or cinnamon rolls. Makes my house smell like a home.

Emily said...

I am like a nerdy museum goer on the spice aisle. I love the creative ways companies are packaging and describing the earthy qualities of their spices. I am a sucker and always go for the glass bottles that show off the beauty and color and depth of spices.

I voted cumin.
Although, I love saffron and fennel and allspice.

Secretly, I put cinnamon in everything from pancakes and chocolate cake to chili. I've always told my daughters that I put love in their food. I hope when they are out on their own, they will taste cinnamon somewhere and think of me...selfish? corny? maybe.

LawMommy said...

I love cumin, I love it especially with pureeed chickpeas and eggplant. Also with avocado. Or chicken...it also is a vaguely kinky word to write out, so, I am just twisted enough to appreciate that...

My favorite spice store is Penzey's - have you ever tried them? They have both an online or actual stores: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/penzeysstores.html?id=f6jeXTfq - they are the best..

Gretchen

Betty M said...

Years ago when I moved to London some of the spice warehouses were still in use by the river. You could wander through streets full of cinammon, nutmeg and cumin smells. Now they are all ritzy apartment blocks and the smell is of bankers with too much cash - not quite so appealing.

pellucida said...

What about saffron?
I love love love it. The color. Just like the Gates before the pot, just like a daffodil after. And the can't-quite-place-it flavor.

Monica (H)opeful said...

I LOVE mexican vanilla. It's all I use, but since we are so close to Mexico, we can get it here pretty regularly. I can get a 32 oz. bottle of it for about $10!

And jerk seasoning-yum!