Global Flavors, Local Tastes
Volume 2, Number 1, Fall 2005

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Cinnamon:  Eight Leagues Out to Sea

“The shores of the island are full of it and it is the best in all the world,” wrote a Dutch sea captain some centuries ago as his ship neared the coastline of Serendib.  “When one is downwind of the island, one can still smell cinnamon eight leagues out to sea.” 

Serendib, better known as Ceylon and now Sri Lanka, is still the source of the most aromatic true cinnamon, a spice almost unknown in America.  What we put in our apple pies and sprinkle on our sugary doughnuts is actually a near cousin, cassia.  Both spices are mostly used in desserts, much too narrow a scope for their vibrant flavors.  Elsewhere in the world, cinnamon scents a rich panoply of savory fare, from the hearty lamb tagines of North Africa to the moles of Oaxaca and the curries of India.  This way of using cinnamon has a long history reaching back into the Middle Ages and it is stirring again in the most current kitchens….  [More]

Oaxaca Spice:  A Conversation with Susana Trilling

Under the sky blue dome that crowns her spacious “temple of cooking,” Susana Trilling is explaining the mysteries of mole.  Dressed in an embroidered huipil, her dark hair braided with maroon ribbons, she holds up several types of wrinkly dried chiles:  “Oaxaca is the land of seven moles.  Everyone makes it differently, but the ingredient that all moles have in common are chiles.  The mole [which means “mixture”] is cooked in one pot, the meat in another.  You never want to taste one ingredient over another.”

Seven other students and I are lounging at a long, handhewn table, sipping chilled Coronas, eating buttery, black skinned aguacates criollos we picked up in the market earlier in the day.  I take notes, but steal an occasional glance at the Sierra Madres from the window of the school at Rancho Aurora where we have gathered for a five-day cooking class.  If culinary heaven exists, at least for this moment I’ve found it here.  [More]




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