Tuesday, August 29, 2006


One of the things I always loved about books set long ago was the descriptions of spices. No wonder oranges and cinnamon were near priceless to people who lived in a cold rainy land eating parsnips and leeks. I used to wonder how something that tasted so extraordinary to the fifteenth-century English could be so boring to me in the supermarket.

Tonight as I unpacked the co-op kitchen for the coming year, the rows of spices caught my eye with their labels that tell not only with what's in each jar but where it comes from. Saigon cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, Canadian mustard, Turkish bay leaves, Albanian sage, East Indian nutmeg. Five hundred years ago, not even kings owned the contents of that cabinet. Even in a time when practically everything we use is made in El Salvador or Taiwan or Indonesia, when we can hop on a plane and get anywhere, it's exciting to look at that spice cabinet. If I close my eyes and breathe in the scent of cloves, I can still imagine it's priceless.

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