“The Spice Is Right” VI Theme: Back To School

I was always an odd child. The fading end of August and the beginning of September were always one of my favorite times of year. Not the favorite–the favorite was deep autumn, in October, when the air is crisp with chilling winds, the sky is a blazing blue that perfectly sets off the fiery leaves, and the scent of woodsmoke wafts from newly cleaned chimneys.

By why did I always like this time of year, when the mournful song of cicadas signaled that summer was dying, and autumn was creeping upon the landscape?

Because it also meant that school was about to start. (And the heat of summer was in its decline.)

I told you I was weird.

I loved going back to school: I loved the excitement of new teachers, new shoes, new jeans, new books to read and the sight of new school supplies set up in regimented rows on my desk. I looked forward to seeing my friends again, and even my old enemies, who, it seemed after three months away from picking on me, usually forgot that we were enemies at all, and were nicer to me.

I loved the scent of new crayons, new pencils and new reams of notebook paper. I always put a new ribbon in my typewriter (an ancient Royal made of enamelled cast iron from the 1930’s, but they still made ribbons for it up to the 1980’s!), and laid in a supply of correction fluid, which smelled better to me than perfume.

In honor of those strange, geeky memories of childhood, I suggest that going back to school is something we all periodically need to do. Learning is for everyone, not just kids, and I like to see adults stretch themselves now and again, and pick up something new and learn about it. Whether that means someone decides to attend graduate school after the kids have grown, or just takes a knitting class for fun, or picks up a book on cake decorating, buys the tools and jumps into piping roses for the heck of it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that learning is a lifelong occupation, because if we stop learning, we stop growing.

What does this have to do with “The Spice is Right?”

Well, here is the deal.

I would like each of the participants to pick a spice that they have either never used, or know very little about, and learn about it. Find out what it is used for, where it is from, who originated its use, what its main culinary uses are, if it is used medicinally or aromatically, and what the folkloric and mythic connotations, if any, are.

And then, write us a post about the spice, reporting what you have learned, and feature it in a recipe that you have never cooked before, preferably one that is from a different cultural or ethnic background than yourself.

As always, send me an email with the URL of your post, the name of your blog and yourself and any unposted photograph you might want me to use on or before September 15th at midnight EST, and I will be glad to post it along with the other entries in the roundup post(s) in the next few days.

After next month, I am taking a hiatus from “The Spice is Right,” in order to give birth to little Kat and then get back into the groove of having a newborn around. (It has been sixteen years and some months, after all!) But, the event is not going away–it is just changing venues. Danielle, the fantastic blogger of Habeas Brulee, generously offered to host for the months of October and November while I am recovering, so after September, look for “The Spice is Right” at her blog. She has emailed me ideas for themes and she has some good thoughts on the subject, so I think that she will be setting some fun and interesting challenges for you all. (And me–I may still particpate, just not host!)

If anyone else is interested, and I remember that a few of you were, I think I am also going to bow out of hosting in December as well, to give myself a three-month “maternity leave” to get my act together. So, if anyone else would like to host the month of December, please email me and let me know. All you have to do is come up with a theme for that month, and post about it on your blog, and if you remember (I didn’t remember to this month), post about it on IMBB and the Food Blog S’cool Calendar to publicize it. I will also make a post here each month pointing people to the host blog as well.

I once again want to thank everyone for your support of this event as participants, and now as hosts. I plan on hosting again starting in the new year in January, but I really appreciate how much everyone is helping out until then.


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  1. Dear Barbara,
    Take care and have a smooth delivery. I’ll be on the same land mass as you in a couple of weeks’ time, though on the west coast. Will drop you a mail when things are more settled in Vancouver. Best wishes and hugs!!

    Comment by Shirley — August 18, 2006 #

  2. […] Tigers and Strawberries – Spice is Right VI: Back to School […]

    Pingback by blog from OUR kitchen » Event: Spice is Right VI - Back to School... we adore good food — August 18, 2006 #

  3. How exciting, Kat will be here soon. I’m looking forward to reading about her food experiences when she ventures beyond milk!

    Comment by Scheherazade — August 18, 2006 #

  4. I used to love school starting, too. New notebooks! I can still get excited about those. I guess it’s no surprise that I became a teacher.
    Great Spice idea.

    Comment by lucette — August 19, 2006 #

  5. Hello, Shirley! I was thinking of you and your family just the other day. I am glad to hear that the move is going well (I hate moving) and that you will be settled again soon! Good luck!

    Sheherazade–thanks! We are working hard to get everything ready for her!

    Lucette-glad you like the idea!

    Comment by Barbara — August 20, 2006 #

  6. Thank you for the round up and the next theme – I know mine: did some research after your challenge, and have found recipes and sites and …. lacked the time to make something before leaving on holidays. But now your new theme fits even better.

    Comment by Isis — August 28, 2006 #

  7. […] A few days ago, I was having a bad half-hour, and my sister Jenny was (as is her habit) the best sister ever, and was soothing for the entire half-hour. I am not very good at sentiment, but I assure you that my entry to Barbara Fisher’s The Spice Is Right VI is a direct response to that; Jenny gets it. […]

    Pingback by “Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an arbour, we will eat a last year’s pippin of my own graffing, with a dish of caraways, and so forth…” (Henry IV, Part II, V.iii) « A Very Uncommon Cook — September 15, 2006 #

  8. […] Debi from Dejamo’s Distracted made Tandoori-Style Chicken with Cacao Nibs with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. Debi actually used a spice blend she mixed up using amchoor as her entry for The Spice is Right VI: Back to School, Tandoori Masala. Except this time, she added ground cocoa (or cacao) nibs to the masala when roasting her chicken, which says added a warm, toasty flavor that she enjoyed. Cocoa nibs are just so much fun to play with, and this is such a creative and interesting use for them! […]

    Pingback by Habeas Brulee » Blog Archive » Roundup: The Spice is Right VIII: Frankenstein’s Monster — November 16, 2006 #

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