I think that fresh, delicious herbs and spices are one of the keys making plant-based eating taste great. I am such a spice junky that I have an account with Penzey’s (see bottom row and counter top)–a spice company that also is supportive of progressive causes. I have never lived near a store, but shopping on line is even easier. I brought bags and a few jars of favorites with me for these several months away.
What is also fun is that I have a few that were harvested and dried by friends or from my own garden. On the top right hand corner, I have hot smoked paprika made by my culinarily inclined friend, Mark Starr and right next to that is an herb mix made by two plant-loving colleagues from herbs collected in the “ancient garden” on campus. From my garden I have rubbed sage and bay leaves. And I have lots of ground ancho chilis grown by my botanist friend, David Clarke. The Cascade Hop salt on the bottom row was a gift from home brewer Lori Scappino to home-brewer Sophie Mills. So, really…I can make very simple food taste delicious.
One of the reasons Sophie and I chose to spend our sabbatical (aka professional development leave) in London is that Sophie’s mum lives here. We are staying in her flat while she resides nearby in St. David’s Home. One of our projects while we are here is to tidy, clean, reorganize and do some minor remodeling of this sweet two bedroom flat. Not surprisingly one of my early projects is the kitchen. I chip away at the projects in it a little bit each week. The main concern with it is that it hasn’t been used much for the last decade.
According to those who have known Sophie’s mum longer than I have, she was quite a good cook. In the last decade though she has mostly used the kitchen to “put a kettle on” or to heat up a ready meal in the microwave and the flat has been empty now for about a year except when Sophie has been here visiting. All this to say that a few things were in need of repair and some things, like many of the spices and herbs (BTW-this is one of the words that Sophie and I say completely differently).
The culling, cleaning, and organizing of the spices was actually prompted by a minor kitchen disaster. One day when I was heating up my lunch leftovers in the microwave, I heard a loud crackly boom. It seems that the microwave’s useful years had passed.
As I cleaned the glass and removed the microwave from the counter I noticed all sorts of things nearby that needed a good scrub. I had brought a number of spices and herbs with me so I took the opportunity to clear out the old, put the spices I brought in bags into new clear glass spice jars (Tiger!). The picture at the top is the result.
After cleaning and filling jars with fresh spices and herbs and replacing the microwave, that side of the kitchen looks like this.