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GP8Sep04: SpiceLines

Spice It Up.  Next week we’ll be offering you SpiceLines, a newsletter about putting taste back in food and about the huge, global array of spices, herbs, and flavorings that add interest, health, and individuality to cooking.  It’s for cooks, and diners, and for all those who want to understand in depth what goes into creating flavor.  In the first issue, you’ll learn everything you every wanted to know about black pepper as well as a chat with Chef Cardoz of New York’s Tabla. 

This issue of the letter will be free.  Later on it will only be available to paid subscribers.  It is the first of several publications we’ll be offering that relate to the good life and to high quality.  Today you can tap into some of our thoughts about spices in Best Spices.  With the newsletter, we’ll get into much more depth, converse with chefs, and give you  recipes to try besides. 

Why Spices?  We suspect that the mastery of spices separates the good cook from the pedestrian.  It certainly separates the good dish from the sublime. 

Global mass production has made a host of products, including food, sterile and insipid.  In architecture the International Style took away the “here and now” from buildings, excising our sense of “place,” denying us our right to be from somewhere.  It’s said that many cities around the world are now more like each other than the very countries where they are located. Malls that have the same 20 shops—in Cambridge, Miami, or Newport—simply numb us with boredom.  Such sameness stamps out the variety we cherish in urban areas. 

Likewise, in wine, we pray for “terroir,” that sense of place in the bottle that arises from local climate, grapes, mineralization, and, we would claim, local artistry.  Once again, no matter how global we are, we demand an essence that says a vintage is special because it is different from anything produced elsewhere—separate, indeed, from the huge volumes of manufactured wines that now populate our grocery shelves. 

Similarly, spices, added with respect for the clime and tradition in which they are used, convince us of the utter individuality of the dish we are eating.  Spices are what make any meal one-of-a-kind, customizing our eating experience. 

Pepperpot Soup.  Once upon a time, vendors in the Philadelphia markets ladled out pepperpot soup endowed with character, luring customers with the old refrain we discovered in an article Johnny Apple did for The New York Times last year: 

All hot!  All hot!   
Pepper pot!  Pepper pot!
Makes backs strong.
Makes lives long.
All hot! Pepper pot! 

Well, our mission is to bring back honest-to-goodness pepperpot.  SpiceLines will have succeeded when we can easily find it on the streets of Philadelphia.

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