September 28, 2012
I was under the impression that there were no Pumpkin Spice Lattes at the Starbuckses here in Paris since my friends seemed to already be enjoying them back home and I hadn’t seen them advertised at all in the city. It makes sense, since the French aversion to cinnamon is well–documented, and there’s no pumpkin pie tradition here like there is in the States and Canada. Oh sure, there are lots of huge, knobbly pumpkins around at the markets, but I don’t think anyone’s using them in sweets.
Despite my best friend being a froth slave under the little green mermaid, I’ve never been a huge fan of Starbucks. Honestly, I prefer to make my own French press or pour-over coffee, and there are better places to go for $4 espresso drinks. But I could never resist Pumpkin Spice Latte season. I remember when my office friends and I would make special trips for an afternoon pick-me-up of extra-sweet, pumpkin spicy goodness. Every once in a while one of us would bring a four-cup caddy to work first thing in the morning to share with our little clan, and it was the best possible way to start off a day at our windowless, flourescent-lit desks.
I had already made this syrup and enjoyed many many coffees spiked with the stuff before I found out that France will, indeed, get Pumpkin Spice Lattes after all, but not until October. Now that I’ve made the homemade version, though, I don’t think I’ll even need to get the original from the mermaid. I like that I can customize exactly how sweet my drink is without having to make one of those dreaded extra-specific coffee orders, and it’s lovely to wake up in the morning and have a little treat like this without having to get out of my pajamas.
– Related: Here’s the list of Pure Bean Office Cafe products.
September 25, 2012
My house smells amazing right now. It’s because I’ve been experimenting with the fall spices all week: cinnamon, nutmeg, gloves, and ginger.
Smell is the sense most strongly associated with memory. When I smell ginger, I don’t think of gingerbread cookies or holiday mulled cider, but the spicy Korean dishes my mother and aunts and grandmother would cook every week. Or the ginger candies they would eat in the car on long road trips. My family loved its ginger.
Not me, though. I always resisted its spicy, medicinal taste. I was a picky eater, a willful only child, and there was no way I was going to eat something that came out of the ground looking like that, all knobbly and warty.
After several years on my own, carefully refining my taste and tasting everything I had resisted in my childhood, I found that I still didn’t like the taste of raw ginger. Still too spicy for my palate, and still strangely bitter. It reminded me of the medicinal Asian soups that my grandmother would force me to drink when I was sick, full of dried dates and spices and, if you will believe it, slivers of antlers. It reminded me of being miserable and feverish in bed.
Then I tried crystallized ginger and things changed. Boiled for nearly an hour before being saturated with sugar, nearly all of the bitterness of the ginger was gone, but a zingy spiciness remained, tamed by the sweetness of the sugar syrup. For several months, I would buy up bags of the stuff at Whole Foods before figuring out that it was so much cheaper to make it at home, and about as easy as boiling pasta.