A season of seasonings. I was born to a family that believes people tend to shy away from spice.
"Don't be afraid to really cover the meat, Americans are afraid of seasoning." (Don't hate me because my father sounds Hellenocentric some times.) His point was well-taken as I noticed from time to time that I would back-off the sprinkling a bit and my chicken or steak would seem one-dimensional.
A partial list of ingredients for George's famous steak seasoning. For a time, it included both (the original, yellow bottle, they've gone wild with variety over at Cavender's) and Joanne's Crazy Mixed-up Salt, (an obsolete seasoning, now) garlic powder, and paprika. There were more ingredients, but my father has kept them as his own secret blend, always imagining that he might package them (as so many people requested back when he owned his diner) and sell them. As a result, I have this constant stash of some recycled container or other that arrives every so often (he has uncanny sense of when we are running low on good olive oil--ordered directly from Crete, or this seasoning). But I can not replicate the recipe. I see an orangeish cast and assume paprika. I grew up believing that seasoning generously defined the signature of our household dishes. When I took up with Sir Poppycakes, his household flavors and predilictions differed greatly, and upon finding myself in the middle of my cardamom-obsession, I was asked by the man of the house "What is this flavor I keep encountering? It's weird, I don't necessarily like it." (WASPs say "don't necessarily like it"). Or later, and more comfortable "Are you prepping the chicken for the grill? Please don't Greek it up." Which means, not the Greek seasonings that I mentioned but my passion for the more strange and perfumish tones in cumin, cardamon, tumeric. (All from my days with an Indian boy, back before Sir Poppycakes and his WASPy palate found me.)
My mother, a Salt Lake girl, called a few weeks back when my sister and her Mormon boyfriend were on their way to visit his family.
"She asked me to teach her how to make 'funeral potatoes." my mother said.
"Funeral potatoes," I asked, "is that some Greek thing that I am not recalling? Like Dead-People-Barley or Insides & Cream?" (Our household baby names for the-first-year-anniversary-of-a-death dish and an Easter end-of-Lent stew.)
"No, they're Mormon. I learned how to make them from a lady at work."
And there you have the odd, cultural blend of being Greek, growing up in Utah, and if you go from there to my own history, you'll get the Indian boyfriend in Salt Lake City and the six years in Alabama with the longterm love of a Southern boy with the Syrian background, and the way each of those have added new seasons to my seasonings. You'll get my best Ohio pal, and our whole Jewish circle of friends and cuisine. (Davida, with her amazing brisket, her matzo balls that nearly floated to the ceiling.) The Jewish children I nannied for in Salt Lake and the chicken recipe I will share later that I now called Rose's Chicken, though there is no Rose, only a Jacqueline, a kick-boxing, beloved poet and professor of mine and Ms. Sweetcakes.
Strange as it sounds, this was the first season that I used Meyer lemons (a perfume of a fruit!). As for what our household tends to favor, it's simple and adored: chicken drumettes cooked-in and also later mixed up in a bowl of: Frank's hot sauce. We've also done shrimp this way and they give me a little of that Carolina vinegar tang that good eastern U.S. barbeque does, plus just enough heat to sate that (very uncharacteristic in my family) love of HOT, HOT foods. Blame the Indian boy or our trips to southern Utah where we ate the hottest of the Eddie McStiff wings. (Though a glance at the menu makes me wonder if they've changed hands and thus, wings so hot that they were a competitive sport to complete.)
I am thinking about seasons and how there are more of them with each seasoning discovered; and the season of a given family in a given country, the spices that rain new culture, new regional flavors into their cuisine, the people that they meet, love, learn and to whom they teach new kitchen tricks and treasures. I am thinking of that cliche sky that canopies us all and how if it were fabric and we could sidle up to a portion of it, how its fragrances must vary and how those scents must also mingle as it soaks up all those cooking odors and makes a kind of crazy potpourri of spice and cologne brewing in the clouds.
A piece of sky
Broke off and fell
Through the crack in the ceiling
Right into my soup,
I really must state
That I usually hate
Lentil soup, but I ate
(A bit like plaster),
But so delicious, goodness sake--
I could have eaten a lentil-soup lake.
It's amazing the difference
A bit of sky can make.