I'm ready for a change of pace here. Censorship and corporate greed have been much in my thoughts these past days, but I'm feeling in the mood to focus on another, happier entity that begins with the letter C.
Mmm, cinnamon, reassuringly sweet, almost bland when you scoop an aged teaspoonful from one those McCormick cans. Friend to oatmeal cookies, sticky buns, rice pudding, it was the most familiar and comforting spice in the cabinet.
But that was the cinnamon of my childhood and early adulthood. Since I became a writer, a foodie and a satisfied customer of the online spice merchant, Penzey's, (who have yet to segregate their spices into sexy/LGBT and literary), cinnamon has become a much more complex and ubiquitous ingredient in my life. Not to mention I've read several reports that it helps control blood sugar naturally. Since adult-onset diabetes runs in my family, I'm sprinkling cinnamon on my morning yogurt every day--a medicine that is easy to swallow indeed. (Rumor also has it that it sweetens bodily fluids, gentlemen!)
Long banished is the tin of McCormick's that languished on the shelf for a decade. Penzey's offers four kinds of cinnamon from different parts of the world and it all comes fresh and potent enough to take you on a journey to an exotic land from one sniff. Their Chinese cinnamon is advertised as the best for all-purpose use and for a while I just bought that, but recently I decided to do a taste test on their other varieties: Vietnamese Cassia, Korintje Cassia, and Ceylon Continental 00000.
The results are in and they're all good, but each definitely has its own character. The Vietnamese has the most natural sweetness and complexity. There's a touch of sandalwood to it and it's my first choice for cookies, puddings or a family batch of oatmeal. Korinjtje Cassia was advertised as the choice of cinnamon bun bakers and a more potent version of our childhood brand and I can see why. It's also good on oatmeal and with yogurt, but definitely takes you to a different destination--there's something a little rounder and toastier about it. Ceylon Cinnamon is the spiciest and most austere, with a hint of hot pepper, which makes it perfect for curries and couscous. It's apparently favored in England and Mexico which would make it perfect for Mexican chocolate brownies. But since I used up the others and am having it for breakfast, it's also perfectly satisfying for my yogurt parfait as well.
Immersing myself in the scents and flavors of these high quality cinnamons reminded me of the importance of spices in human history. The desire for spice led Europeans to explore the world and alas rape and plunder it as well. As erotica writers we also make use of the desire for spice to inspire and sell our work. Readers are always curious about a writer's habits and tricks--perhaps my morning infusion of cinnamon is part of what keeps me writing fiction that is too hot for the Amazon?