I find writing and cooking to be similar in many ways. Both take creativity and passion. The process is grueling, requiring time and patience to complete revisions and edits and lots of taste tests and reviews. There are so many different palates out there, what one will love, another will hate.
The skill needed for both crafts is often underestimated. We have all written things in our lives. We often do it for work or perhaps we remember writing short stories in school. And we all cook, every day. We feed ourselves and our families. We think these are things that everyone can do. But both are crafts that get better with practice and information. In both writing and cooking I believe spice is the secret ingredient that elevates a dish or a manuscript.
Last week an old friend from Israel came to visit. She handed me a small gift, a basket containing five little bottles. “This is for you,” she said. “I thought it might come in handy while you are working on your cookbook.”
I was very excited. I couldn’t ask for a nicer, more thoughtful gift. And along with the spices, I got a story…
My friend, a certified skipper, arrived after crossing the Atlantic in a sailing yacht from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean on a 21 day excursion as part of a flotilla of 10 other yachts. While they were stopped at Grenada she quickly learned how important nutmeg is there. People call it Nutmeg Island as it’s their number one industry. I was enthralled by the history of nutmeg as countries tried to control the resource throughout centuries. It wasn’t until 1796 when the British took over the Moloccas and spread the cultivation of nutmeg to other East Indian islands and then to the Caribbean. Then they realized that Grenada had the perfect environment to grow nutmeg.
The story captivated me. Through the excitement and appreciation, however, I felt bad that she knew more about nutmeg than I did…although I was the one who aspired to be a chef. Research was in order. I rushed to find out all I could about nutmeg and here are the five most important things to know about this spice.
Nutmeg is a great asset to any chef. It is essential to béchamel sauce and also goes well with baked or roasted fruit. Many chefs use it in custards, eggnog, punches, pasta and vegetables dishes such as creamed spinach.
Spices are powerful. It’s amazing how a tiny pinch of any spice can make all the difference in a finished dish.
What are your favorite spices and herbs?