Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Scent of Gratitude

Apple, Cinnamon, Orange and Star Anise

Apple, Cinnamon, Orange and Star Anise

If the common saying is true that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then in that same vein I’d add “a scent is worth a thousand memories/feelings.” Our sense of smell is such an underrated sense and yet so powerful and primal. We can close our eyes and not see, and block our ears and not hear. We smell however, with every breath we take and were we to stop, well, we all know what that means. We are constantly awash in a sea of scents. And as far as senses go, smell is the only sense that has a direct link to the deeper parts of the brain, the amygdala and the hippocampus. These areas are directly related to memory and emotion.

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and there’s no doubt that the classic scents associated with the day have a direct impact on our experience and hence memories.

Just think of a New England Thanksgiving feast. A slow-roasting turkey with tart cranberry sauce and orange zest and the baking buttery croissants and, my favorite, the stuffing.

The aromas of a traditional Thanksgiving evoke ideas of our place and time: crisp fall air, smoky woodstoves, comfort, togetherness, home and gratefulness. These feelings are stored in our memories and can be retrieved by way of a single scent. That is potent! Maybe that’s why pumpkin pie flavored everything has become so pervasive on the food scene. Pumpkin pie is prominent at the Thanksgiving table and so by association the warming, spicy smell conjures up feelings of gratitude, warmth, family and friends and hence selling a product via our subconscious emotional memories. Oh, marketers are clever!

What types of scent-memories are you creating this Thanksgiving? Or for that matter on a daily basis, in your home, in your kitchen with and for your family? I am grateful for the ability to create joyful and meaningful memories with my family, and I am thankful as well for all of you who together create this vibrant community of caring and sharing in the Monadnock region. Happy Thanksgiving!

Written and published for Spice Cupboard
Monadnock Ledger Transcript
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Sweet Spice Impostor- the skinny on the cinny

Oh November how did you get here so soon? Everly is officially 4 months old this morning. Oh my has he grown! He is already tall and steady enough to use a baby jumper and boy does he love it!
Babies have such a great sense of smell and because their vision is still developing it’s a great way to explore the world. When Everly was only six weeks I started letting him sniff things from the pantry and watching his reaction. He was captivated by them all. He would become very still and widen his eyes when a new spice or scent went under his adorable little sniffer.
Here is Everly a 6 weeks looking quite pleased with Cardamom! Saigon Cinnamon seemed to hold his attention for the longest time.

While many people start their little ones off with rather bland foods The newest recommendations suggest that spices and strong flavor’s should be introduced as soon as your baby is eating solid foods to avoid having a very picky eater. We haven’t started giving him any solid foods yet but we have given him tiny tastes of things to gauge his interest. This morning I allowed my sweet boy a tiny finger tip taste of Saigon Cinnamon. His reaction was, not surprisingly, quite strong as Vietnamese Cinnamon is quite a strong flavor! To be honest he seemed a little offended but he quickly recovered and had a big smile on his face.

That got me thinking about cinnamon…

Evelry’s first exposure to cinnamon is not likely the same as the typical baby’s first exposure as the cinnamon.
Allow me to explain:
The cinnamon that is typically sold in the U.S. is actually not “True Cinnamon” at all…at least not scientifically speaking. Don’t get me wrong! There are actually hundreds of varieties of cinnamon, and while there are only 4 types that are typically commercially available none of them are more “true” than the other. So what’s the difference?

All of the types of cinnamon come from evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum but there are variations in the species.

Ceylon Cinnamon is what is known is “True Cinnamon”. It is the thin papery inner bark of the Cinnamomum Verum tree. It has a milder, sweeter and more complex flavor than other species. It also has a much lower coumarin content. Coumarin in high doses can cause problems with the liver so this type of cinnamon is ideal for people who consume in therapeutic quantities for it’s health benefits, of which there are many! It is also best for baking where you want cinnamon to take center stage without overpowering.

Here is a clip of Melissa breaking into a fresh shipment of Ceylon. I think it is mesmerizing.

The other types of cinnamon are classified as “cassia”.

The basic cinnamon you are most likely to find on your supermarket shelf is Korintje or Indonesian Cinnamon the hard outer bark of the Cinnamomum Burmanni Tree. It is a little spicer and not quite as sweet as Ceylon.

Siagon or Vietnamese Cinnamon is the hard outer bark of the Cinnamomum Loureiroi Tree. It is more reddish in color and is noticeably spicier and sweeter than the other varieties. I prefer to use this variety at home because a little goes a long way and I tend to cook more bold dishes.

Confused yet?
If so don’t worry too much. ALL of the cinnamon varieties are delicious!