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Well, this is it. The spice store has made it's last gasp & is shutting down. Thanks for your support. If you have any requests or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards to all,
Elliott

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Important Notice:


6/7/2010:

We're back. I'm still trying to re-figure/ streamline the Spice Selections to make it all more sensible to you and feasible to us. Truth is, y'all just don't use the spices and seasonings as much as I do (despite that, as with all spice & seasoning ingredients, they are best if used within a six month period and not after). That's understandable, but it makes having an online business impractical, is all. Over the course of many months I've been considering ways to make the spices more appealing to first time as well as repeat buyers. I've sought to solve several problems with the product, including:

The tendency for the spice seasonings to clump - I've switched suppliers and am now using ingredients which are ground finer and have less tendency to clump. I've been satisfied with the results and I hope that you have as well.

Packaging: The metal tins I'm using are, at best, a compromise in order to ship the spices as well as make them appealing and functional. When I initially started selling spices back in 2005, I was using 4 oz. glass jars. People really like the jars over the tins, and while the tins cost more, they are easier to ship without worrying that you will end up with a package of seasoned glass shards on your end.

Packaging #2: I have been considering losing the tins in favor of simple, functional, utilitarian plastic bags. Why? I have a lot of plastic bags in stock intended for refills of spices, and that just doesn't happen. If I switch to using the plastic bags, I could probably increase the amount of spice seasoning per order while decreasing the cost of each item as well as shipping. How about that?

Packaging #3: Wouldn't ya know, now they are saying that plastic is EVIL and DOES NOT LIKE YOU or YOUR FAMILY. Oh, plastic - we lived with so many hopes for you that must now go unfulfilled. It was sweet while it lasted.

Scrapping the catalog: That's right. Another serious consideration I've had for some time now is to scrap all of my current product and sell only certain items. What I have been selling over the past several years would essentially be retired. "What will you replace it with?", you ask? Well, let me tell you - I've been thinking of starting a whole new line of extremely hot and spicy seasonings and bbq rubs, so that I can rename it THE BURN WARD. That's right. I don't joke about such things. We're talking (or rather mumbling, since we've been steadily searing off the nerves on our tongues) serious Scoville Units here. What is your vote?

Spice of the Month Club: While it is still a serious consideration, it has never generated enough interest to convince me to do it. Maybe. Drop me a line and tell me you'd support it if I made it available. No, not just you, I mean some of those other people out there who haven't piped up yet.

Gift Sets: Of course - there will always be gift sets, as well as sales, like the ever popular buy 2 get 1 free deal.

Cost: Oy... one could make a living, if only they'd let you - ya know what I mean? Over the past 12 to 18 months, cost just got weird, particularly because import/ export costs that bear on the availability of ingredients for the spices and seasonings. I try to keep that old carbon foot print as small as possible - I've even considered binding my carbon foot to a child's size 2 - but there are certain ingredients that just are not easily available in our area of Western Massachusetts. Things like fresh Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lemongrass which, the last time I had to purchase a bulk of each I was told that I would need to pre-order it as it comes from places with sunnier climates, yet it is also affected by state restrictions which prevent growing these plants in proximity of delicate citrus agricultural regions. So - I temporarily stopped making the Green Thai Curry, which needs a good amount of each to get the flavor perfect. I know - it makes me sad, too, not to have my Green Thai Curry.

So that's the short of the long on the matter. Write me and let me know what your vote is on any or all of the intertwining topics.

And thanks for your support, your patience and your friendship - I really do appreciate it!

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This blog is a companion site to my online business at emburke.etsy.com where I sell unique spice and seasoning blends. I will be featuring recipes that use the spice blends here, but you can easily adapt them to suit your own needs. Also, my spice and seasoning blends are interchangeable - you can easily use one blend in place of another to get a different creative result or you can play it safe and stick to the recipe.

I have a variety of spice & seasoning blends available for purchase here - the perfect compliment for your meat & vegetarian entrées or side dishes. Each of my spice blends are made from fresh, organic spices purchased locally and are ground & blended by myself. They can be used as a dry or wet rub, as a marinade or sauce, or as a seasoning to add a little extra flavor.

Also, if you have any ideas, suggestions or challenges - send them on to me and I'll place them on the site as well.

Each quarter a portion of all sales from this site will be given to support a local charity in Western Massachusetts.

I think you will enjoy them as much as I do. Please spread the word!

Thanks, Elliott

P.S. - I'll have some other items available here in the near future.
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What would you like to find here?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

memory serves

Memory is a fascinating and tricky thing. Oddly enough, in cooking, it really plays an important part, more than you might expect. Years ago I began trying to cook - or recreate - by memory, with mixed results. That's fine by me - I prefer to approach most matters of creativity through intuition and improvisation, and that requires giving yourself over to the unknown and allowing the possibility of failure to happen, something most of us don't want while we are cooking. I also started tapering off in the tasting process of cooking, settling for relying on my sense of smell and limiting my tasting to very small samples. We don't usually realize how closely aligned our sense of smell is with our sense of taste, and while you can quickly become overwhelmed by tasting food, it happens less through smelling it. I have a friend, Judy, who is a professional chef and helped me hone my own cooking skills, who can walk into your house and tell whether you are a good cook by the way it smells. It's really that revealing.

I've met up with a few tricky moments in cooking which emerged from trying to recreate a dish from memory and being betrayed by a particular detail that I'd missed or didn't expect to be important. In most cases it was a favorite meal from my childhood that my mother used to make. Here are two particular instances.

Years ago I was asked to prepare recipes of Mexican dishes to run as a week long special at the restaurant I worked at. Most of these were improvised interpretations of Mexican style dishes. In New England there is scant authenticity in regional Mexican fare available. It is changing, but most natives don't know Mexican food from it's forebears of Spanish cuisine and it's hybrid cousin, Tex-Mex, and for those of us who grew up in areas of the country where authenticate Mexican food abounded it can be hard to find it even in cosmopolitan cities like Boston. But, as I said, it is changing. Thank God, it is changing.

In preparing my menu I had decided that what everyone needed to experience was good, simple, old fashioned Chile Verde, just like my mother used to make. Well sort of. I ran into exactly the sort of problem that arises when one tries to recreate a traditional meal from scratch, only my problem stemmed from calling up my mom and getting her recipe and then replacing her ingredients with upgraded versions. By that I mean fresh ones. The Chile Verde was great but there was something obviously different about it which took me awhile to place. It didn't taste like I remembered it. It finally struck me that the cause of it was because I substituted fresh green chiles for canned. It was a reasonable approach to cooking but it altered the flavor of it and messed with my remembrance of what the dish should taste like. I had mentioned this to a chef friend who is Mexican and from the area I grew up. She had experienced similar problems herself.

The other one came recently. About a month ago I had a craving for fried chicken livers, another dish that was of my mother's favorites. What could be simpler? Chicken livers dredged in flour, washed in egg, coated in flour, seasoned with salt and pepper and then fried in vegetable oil, just like I remembered my mom making them. They tasted different, which perplexed me for some time until I remembered the obvious omission. My mother was born during the depression and grew up in the south. Simple details of small matters affected the way she cooked because she picked them up from her family and community. Things like not wasting food resources such as bacon fat, which she kept stored in a coffee can in the refrigerator and used to cook with. Of course, we are far more advanced these days and we know that bacon fat isn't particularly good for us. Besides, who keeps bacon fat around their house? Well, fortunately, I do, because I picked it up from my mom. So I went and bought some more chicken livers and repeated the process except this time I fried them in bacon fat. Other than using less salt than my mother would have they tasted exceptionally close to what I remember them tasting like.

Of course, this doesn't begin to settle other matters of how we prefer food to taste and whether or not it tends to interfere with our appreciation of it. Some people really have no taste at all, or perhaps it has more to with their memory - memories of comfort, of care and contentment, and of the better things of their childhood.

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Read what some nice people have to say about my spices:"

Some mornings, I just stand in the kitchen alone and sniff Elliotts' spice. Then I'm somehow ready to start my day. And, oh yes, Elliott's spice IS great for cooking. Your eating habit will literally get "spiced up"."~ Tomoko Deeney (TADworks)

"I’ve almost never finished a full jar of spice and I’ve used several jars of Elliott’s spices in a matter of months. They are very unique and full of different flavors without being too salty or overpowering. They get my highest recommendation. Try them and you will love them."~ Keith Brisebois

"Elliott’s Green Thai is the most amazing spice... perfect for tacos, fish, chicken or beef. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to cook without it!"~ Chrissie Henry

"I hadn't really explored the world of spices until this mixture somehow found its way into my cupboard. I had lived a fairly plain sea salt and cracked pepper food life, until this came along. I enjoy the 'kick' it has on my palate. And still the blend lends itself to good eatin'."~ Rachel Wilson

"Having a jar of Elliott's spice blends in my cupboard I feel as if I have been instantly transformed into a fantastic chef. Dishes I would normally feel intimidated to try - Curried Cauliflower, Tandori Chicken, Morrocan Lamb Stew - now feel within reach. Thank you, Elliott for opening up a whole world, literally, of fabulous food!"~ Alicia Pritt

"Filled a void in my life."~ Elizabeth (from Russia)