When I lived in Israel, there were two types of hot sauce on every table: the red one, which was very hot, and the green one which could easily remove your infected tonsils. I was not a big fan of either one, but my son became quite the aficionado of hot sauces, although I think in the many years since, he has modified his position. Age does that to you.
Israel had more than hot spices, too. They had stuff called “Z’atar” which is a combination of various spices that is good on chicken, fish, eggs … and hot, fresh bread. Mmm.
When I got back to Boston, I was happy to discover that people still ate spicy food. I didn’t need it to be hot enough to launch the fire department, but a little spice perks up an otherwise dull bit of cooking. Especially chicken. I’m pretty sure the point of chicken is to have various things done to it to make it worth the effort of chewing it.
Boston was good in the tasty and spicy department, but when we moved out west to Uxbridge, we discovered that herbs and spices we regarded as standard were considered quite … exotic. Spices like garlic. Pepper. Paprika. Chili. Even standards like oregano and thyme were regarded with suspicion. To say that local cooking is bland doesn’t come close to the reality.
I hit the spice department on Amazon, plus the “exotic” aisle of the supermarket. Between the two, I managed to find a variety of spices and sauces that keep meals from becoming too dull to eat. Although super hot food may disagree with aging intestinal tracts, bland foods can make you feel that eating isn’t worth all the effort required to chew it, much less complete the entire digestive process. I’m personally of the opinion that the loss of appetite in older people is sheer boredom. Why eat? Why bother?
We don’t eat out much. This is financial, of course, but if there were places worth the prices, we’d fit in a nice meal here and there. It hardly seems worth the effort these days. Even getting into the car to go somewhere, much less pay them for the privilege? Nah. There were a few decent places locally when we got here, but all of them closed within a year or two. Now, there’s a not-too-bad Asian place in Slatersville (Rhode Island) and a good Japanese restaurant in Milford. Otherwise, you can get a good burger down the road at Hanna’s … and then there’s the Uxbridge version of pizza. I prefer the frozen stuff from the grocery.
Sad, I know.
So the first thing we do when we are somewhere else — anywhere else, local or distant — is check out the eateries. Find out what everyone says is good food. Sometimes, the local diner has the best food in the region.
And I buy spices. Everywhere. It keeps the kitchen from becoming too boring to bother.