Posted by: zhak39 | October 1, 2005

Spice

A cast iron pan is your palette and spices your pigment. You work in earth tones–umber, ocher, raw sienna. The basic spices are a visual treat. You lay sassy paprika next to a sensuous curry just to enjoy how they complement each other. Colors link to memory, the paint scheme of your mother’s kitchen or sunlight on fall leaves. You pour out some ground coriander seed for the lightness of the low tone yellows.

Spices are sensual. If their colors spark memory and association, the odors momentarily intoxicate. You reach for some oil to coat the pan. Olive oil, nice, green and exotic. Or peanut –less color but a strong worker, persistent and unremitting no matter the heat. You watch the oil carefully over the high flame then pour on a handful of cumin and coriander or maybe an earthy chili powder, stirring quickly to keep it from burning. This is alchemy–the dry powders steam and the steam carries an intense aroma bringing you into the moment, and yet stirring deep memories of lands and cultures you have never experienced. Generations, ages, traditions, the meanings lost and indescribable and yet present in your kitchen.

The aroma intensifies. It is like the brilliant pheonix swelling to bursting. Unlike the mythical bird, it needs to be fed if it is not to become a pile of sticky ash. You stir in some roasted green peppers and eggplant , the skins pulled off and the bitter seeds skimmed away. As you stir, the pallid flesh becomes suffused with earth tones, as if new blood is being pumped into it. You add the meat of plum tomatos.The mixture begins to swell and sweat and as bubbles burst the air becomes full.

You pull the pan off the flame and quickly move the contents into a hand thrown ceramic bowl. You open the oven and the smell of warmed flat bread greets you like a familiar companion. Your friends will layer the eggplant in the bread, giggle at burnt fingers, too eagar to allow any of it to cool. They look over your shoulder enjoying the colors in the dishes, the steamed redness of your cheeks. They breathe deeply and roll their eyes and sigh. They bite and, ecstasy! The flavors roll on their tongue, accented by a little bitterness of the pan, the textures delight, pillowy bread and the melting filling.

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Responses

  1. Mmmm. Some of this pita bread would go great with that spicy eggplant. I swear I’m going to start baking soon, I promise.

  2. Looks like you made the online News and Record.

    What will you do, now that you are famous?

  3. Uh, uh. What fun! Thanks so much for the intro, Laurie. I guess I’ll keep writing about life, love and the pursuit of happiness as it appears from my kitchen counter.

  4. Your kitchen counter is lucky to have you by its side. As is everyone else in your life!!!!


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