As a connoisseur of exotic flavors and having an interest in the medicinal properties of plants, creating a blog encompassing some of the uses, history and folklore of spices seemed like a worthwhile project. My goal is to shed new light on many of our spice rack occupants that we tend to take for granted, and perhaps introduce you to a few new ones along the way...
Sunday, April 21, 2013
No Innocent Spice: The Secret Story of Nutmeg
Ah, nutmeg! Whether it's sprinkled on eggnog, baked into spice cake or blended into a latte, this pungent spice can evoke memories of holidays past. We tend to link it to celebratory times. But a lot of blood has been shed over this little brown seed. "Nutmeg has been one of the saddest stories of history," explains culinary historian Michael Krondl. If you listen to my story you'll hear the gruesome, grisly tale of how the Dutch tortured and massacred the people of the nutmeg-producing Banda Islands in Indonesia in an attempt to monopolize the nutmeg trade. So, why was nutmeg so valuable? Well, Krondl likens it to the iPhone of the 1600s. It was fashionable among the wealthy. It was exotic and potent enough to induce hallucinations — or at least a nutmeg bender.
And for foodies, nutmeg is an ideal spice for layering flavor."Nutmeg really does have chemical constituents that make you feel good," explains culinary historian Kathleen Wall of the Plimoth Plantation. And traditionally, we turn to nutmeg (along with cloves and cinnamon) this time of year because these spices — as the settlers to the colonies believed — can help warm us up and even help us fight off head colds and stomachaches.I can't finish this post without mentioning a bit of nutmeg history that makes good dinner-party conversation — and this is the question of whether the Dutch actually traded Manhattan (yes, New York) for nutmeg.