Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Recent Acquisitions: The Spice Bible

When you enter our home, you enter directly into the kitchen. What's technically the "rear" of the house is used as the front, while the actual "front" is fenced-in and located at the far end of a circular driveway. It's a strange orientation for a house tucked in a cove, a mile down a dirt road, but it works for us.

Once you walked in, if you'd never been here before, the first thing you'd likely notice is the sienna, pumpkin, tumeric-esque color of the room we easily spend most of our waking hours in. Hubs painted it that hue long before we met (by the way, this color-loving man of mine holds an MFA with a concentration in color theory from a fine Ivy League university-he humbly states that said degree would make a nice place mat). It is, I think, probably the best color for a kitchen I've ever encountered. That is, if you like to eat. Its earthy, spicy tone is warming and enlivening and great for stimulating the gustatory inclination. Otherwise, I hear blue shades work as appetite suppressants. But none of that here. We're eaters. And cooks. And bakers. And all-things-food-related lovers. 

This love of spices moves beyond the color choices for our walls, however, and directly into our bellies. We're crazy about spices, chez English, and use them liberally, and often. To wit-every morning, soon as we roll out of bed and meet the needs of the chorus of 4 meowing cats and 2 rowdy dogs, I fire up the kettle, head to the coffee grinder, add some beans, and toss in either cardamom seeds, a bit of cinnamon stick, or some nutmeg, depending on the day's whim.

We bake with spices, season with spices, even drink with spices. It's fitting, then, that my Pop, his wife, and my sisters gave Hubs Jane Lawson's The Spice Bible for his birthday this past Friday. A hefty tome, the book offers detailed information and culinary history on 45 global spices, from ajowan (What? Exactly.) to wolfberry. Origin, uses, pairings and 250 recipes will have us cooking up everything from Cardamom Chicken (have mercy!) to Lamb with Juniper to Saffron Panna Cotta.
So far, every recipe I've looked at has been met with a "YES!" or "We're totally making that."

The Spice Bible is a welcome addition to our culinary library. Florida family, we thank you. Next time you're visiting, we'll cook you up something nice and spicy.


Taryn Kae Wilson said...

It looks wonderful!

Indio said...

We are spice lovers as well. Cardamom is one of my favorites. I use the green pods in soups and the grind in everything from hot chocolate to pancakes. A small amount adds more complexity and nuance to a dish.
Many years ago, when I was hiking around Indonesia, I came across this house where an old woman was cooking in the open air courtyard of her house. With a wave of her hand, because we didn't speak the same language, she invited me into the yard where she was cooking over a large black cauldron. Even though we only used sign language, she gave me a cooking lesson. She was making a vegetable and chicken stew, using handfuls of unidentifiable spices that she just threw into the pot without measuring. It was the most delicious meal I've ever had. At the time, I didn't know what the spices were. Now I know it was lemongrass, cinnamon but the bark was not as dried as we use it in US, and other spice still in the pods. The pods opened from the heat of the broth to release their flavor. When I chewed each mouthful tasted slightly different because one of the seeds had come out. I learned how to use spices from a stranger and we didn't even speak the same language.

barefoot mama said...

Weird, I hardly ever watch movies and I stayed up last night watching "the mistress of spices" My mom said it was so good and that I just had to watch it:)) My kitchen it a deep, earthy orange and you're right it is a wonderful color for keeping your appetite healthy. We live in an old farm house where the back of our home is actually the front for us, so you enter in to our kitchen vs the front of our works for us. The only time it's annoying is when someone is trying to tell you about something happening in the "front" or "back" of our home..haha! Everyone has their opinion of what is front and what is back we started calling it The East and West side and that seems to be working well:)) Anyhow, that book looks wonderful! My Birthday is on Tuesday, I may have to put that on my wish list. Sorry for leaving such a long comment. Hope you have a wonderful day! ~ Barefoot Mama

ps My daughters birthday was June 1st..sounds like you guys have close birthdays!

Unknown said...

The photography in that book is stunning. It makes me think of my trip to India a few years ago.

One day when I own my home I hope to paint it spicy colors.

Bee Girl said...

What a wonderful gift! Such a beautiful layout, too. This is going on my wish list :-) Thanks for the introduction!

PatsyAnne said...

I moved into a tiny historic cottage in a small village in upstate NY. The living room had three windows which let in incredible light and was painted a pale, pale yellow - the wide original plank floors were "sponged" with a creamy tan with darker overtones which made it actually look "real"... the dining area was a cream with a built in china cabinet painted a pale creamy green - the bedroom was a sunhy yellow and the study was a pure sky plue... BUT the kitchen was an orangy color - it was tiny with two small old windows but I said immediately that I would be painting it. So I cast around for a painter and was quoted such huge prices that I forgot about painting it for the summer... I'd do it in the fall before the cold raw winter set in... I absolutely fell in love with the color - in the dark winter mornings as I made coffee, it was as if the world was smiling at me... it made me feel "good" - happy and content all in one. As I cooked in my tiny kitchen, it opened up the walls and made me creative with my spices. I moved out after five years, each room the exact same color - and when people came to see the house, I'd tell them to live with the colors for 4-6 months before painting, expecially the kitchen. A young woman came from California, she looked at the house, very tightlipped and as she was leaving I gave her the color speech - but she turned around and looked at me and said, "Why that was one of my favorite parts of the house" - I'd never change it.... Ding, ding, I'd found my replacement in the little cottage.