As I was waiting for my samosas to be fried at the nearby Indian restaurant last night, I sat down for a moment of silence and anticipation. The sweet and savoury aromatic steam of spices and herbs frying in ghee filled the space and convinced me to stop my daily worries for a moment, and just sit down and indulge in the pleasure of anticipation.
I couldn't help but wonder about the connection between fragrance and food. Without the enormous variety of aromas of vegetables, fruit, spices, herbs and so on - food would be limited to tastes (there are only 5 of these), texture and colour.
There was both of the familiar and the mysterious in the aromas of curries simmering in that kitchen: the boldness of cumin, the melismas of cardamom, garlic and onion changing colours and flavours in the hot fat... I felt instantly at home even though there was a lot of the unfamiliar too: a rich, intriguing combination of coconut milk, ghee, foreign homemade cheeses, pastries which I never tried to make and the tandoori oven mulling over its current victim.
I sat there, forgetting that I've come to eat, not to smell, and wondered about the long tradition of spice uses in so many different places, and how the same spices have been used in different ways in different cultures and cuisine. For instance: cardamom is used mostly to spice-up the dark coffees and the syrupy-sweet baclavas in Arabia, while being a staple in almost any "garam masala" in India. Or basil, with its refreshing, rustic aroma, paired with tomatoes and pastas in Italy and also thrown into the refreshing and creamy Thai curries. Or ginger - the gingerbread's favourite companion in Europe and North America, while used mostly fresh in stir fries in Asia... And so on and on the list goes...
In mankind's search for a better life, the spice caravans have created a connection between the people of the earth, making them silently connected by their passion for finding flavour in their life...
I spotted these miniature chocolate packages at Capers yesterday, and couldn't resist getting a couple to try (they were placed right before the checkout, of course, the oldest trick in the book and they still manage to get me!). As you can see, they are $3.79 for a little sample package for a chocaholic on-the-go of three little chocolate tablets weighing 9gr each. These made-in-Belgium chocolates (for the US based company New Tree) are not organic, and rather pricey in my humble opinion.
I picked two to try:
Tranquility (milk chocolate with lavender) and Renew (dark 73% chocolate with cassis). I wouldn't have picked the lavender one unless it was for one of my chocolate truffle workshop students who raved about a lavender infused hot chocolate, and the lavender infused steam milk that she now drinks before bed time. I had to try it just for her!
The list of ingredients on the Tranquility mentioned natural lavender flavour and lime blossoms extracts. The term "natural lavender flavour" seems quite suspicious, especially after tasting it. It was quite awful and I have a feeling that rather than just putting in some lavender extract or essential oil, there is a lot more to it, and it ruins the flavour. It tastes artificial, somehow.
Renew, the blackccurant one, lists "blackcurrant with other natural flavour" and "grape extract". Maybe there is real blackcurrant there, maybe not. It's hard to tell with this kind of labeling. But what I am sure about is that it tasted marvellous.
I am not too keen to try the other flavours, because most of them did not make sense to me so to speak. I absolutlely don't dig their "Forgiveness" - dark chocolate with lemon, which sounds quite unforgivable to me. Ginger in chocolate does not appeal to me either as a flavour, and the other more agreeable and sensible choices were simply non-original (bitter orange with milk chocolate; coffee with dark chocolate or cinnamon and milk chocolate). But the cassis one was quite something, so I may come back for more.
Otherwise, the marriage between aromatherapy and chocolate craving seems quite scary to me...