Once, I was a high priestess in the cult of Spices. My mother would bear my heated cooking with a wry and resigned smile. I liberally seasoned All Things with cumin, coriander, sage, rosemary, curry powders of all kinds, chile. French and genuine ethnic cookbooks secretly seemed so boring, so blase to me, and I always amped up the spice level with a liberal hand. And five ingredient cookbooks? Give me a break.
I hadn't discovered the purity of good ingredients, and one thing I've learned this summer is the goodness of simplicity and quality.
The first time I went grocery shopping after feasting for a week on a very limited diet of various kinds of greens, sweet potatoes, and rice (the only food, along with a little oil, I had on my little hill) the experience was less than exhilarating. Granted, the low ceilings at Slaughters' Grocery, florescent lighting, curious stares by Virginians born and raised (if your great-grandpappy wasn't from Floyd neither are you), and cardboard-y scent wafting through the aisles would have been lest than appealing even in my grocery-store going, plastic-bag toting, GMO-scarfing days. But the food just looked so sad.
Spices, oil, flavor-boosters, salt all put on an elaborate ruse to distract us from the sadness of vegetables. We use them to turn our foods into a mass of homogenous yum. Vegetables and meats are simply purveyors of other flavors because in an age of mass production, the foods themselves just don't taste that interesting.
I'm not totally sold on the whole organic movement yet, but the hedonist in me revels in my discovery of how good food tastes which has been grown with love and attention. You can taste passion. These days I revel in the texture of a poached egg from one of my three little hens, or the punch of a radish, or the crunch of lettuce which reminds you that a plant is sun and soil come to life. I jealously guard each pure flavor and pair them only with the utmost care, the same care they've experienced from planting to harvest.
That kind of love is its own spice.
Rye and spelt ravioli stuffed with garlic, basil, spinach, and mozzarella