Spices: 2 posts

Coriander and Cumin or The CC Powder

Being married into an Indian family, I learned a few things: Time is a flexible, fluid entity; when you have a few millennia of history underpinning your culture, what’s an hour here or there. You can always eat–and if you can’t, you’re probably not conscious. Spices to a cook are like essences to a perfumer. On this latter point, I would like to linger.

cc powder

I thought I knew spices before I went to India, but nothing prepared me for the dazzling array of flavors and the variety of techniques with which they can be brought to life. India is divided into 29 states, and each region has its spice signature; generalizing is all but impossible. For instance, Aai’s, my mother-in-law’s cooking combines the refined sweetness beloved in her native Gujarat with the robust spiciness of Maharashtra fare. These two states share a long border, but the cuisines are remarkably different. Gujarati cooking is rich in coriander, tamarind, with peanuts and sesame giving it a nutty flavor, while Marathi dishes have a sharp bite of garlic, chili pepper and mustard seeds. Cross into northern India, and the richness of cinnamon, clove and fenugreek color the local meals. Travel down the southern coast, and coconut becomes the main leitmotif.

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Dry Perfume for Gingerbread : Spice Blends

For some people the frankincense and myrrh of Christmas high mass evoke the memories of holidays, but for me these memories are evoked by the smell of spices. In the Soviet Ukraine of my childhood, the New Year’s Eve celebration replaced the religious holiday and turned Christmas traditions into customs with which to usher in the new year. The children on the other side of border received their presents from Santa Claus on December 25th but my present was delivered on Jan 1st by the socialist Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) whose red nose and coterie of pretty Snowmaidens gave him a decidedly rakish air.
spices-gingerbread-sm
As much as I was looking forward to the excitement of opening the gifts, I was even more excited to help with the holiday baking. The moment my grandmother reached for her box of spices it was a clear sign that we were going to fashion flour and sugar into something special—crisp gingerbread, honey and walnut cakes layered with lemony sour cream filling, cinnamon flavored poppyseed strudels, flaky millefeuille with vanilla custard… The words ‘special’ and ‘spices’ share the same root in most languages for a very good reason—spices are indeed exceptional in the  fragrant potential they contain. Even now, when I can easily find any spice and no longer have to ration my use of vanilla or saffron, I am just as moved by their fragrance as I was as a child.

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  • Eudora in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Unforgettable was Eden and unforgettable will be your link feeling as a tiger in the deep green jungle. Great Cornelia! June 27, 2017 at 11:27am

  • Ben in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Thanks so much Cornelia! Never tried Bandit either, although I’ve read about it many times. And I ordered a sample of the Privé many moons ago but got a different… June 27, 2017 at 11:12am

  • Cornelia Blimber in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: The Tiger feels self-assured. He (she of course speeking of myself) has no ennemies in the jungle, only humans, but he has eaten them all. He sniffs the warm damp… June 27, 2017 at 11:11am

  • Ben in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Thanks so much Lily! I happen to work right near a Penhaligon’s and they are having a huge sale at the moment, this is great timing 🙂 June 27, 2017 at 11:08am

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