An apple pie is not an apple pie without it; a dash of this spice gives the plain ol’ chocolate cake a darker persona; a pinch or two of it adds a whole new gustatory dimension to the French toast; and its sweet fragrance makes all the difference to a hot chocolate with or without whipped cream.
Sweet, tingly, spicy, warm, dark and sexy: that’s cinnamon for you. For me that’s how a perfect winter afternoon smells, as does the perfect chicken curry or a mutton biryani and not to mention mulled wine, or that cinnamon roll that goes oh-so-perfectly well with a cup of warm coffee. In fact it is that cinnamon roll that inspired this entry.
My first conscious acknowledgment of the wonders this spice can weave began early and in a manner very unconventional. The year was 1990 and the place Hong Kong Bazaar, Siliguri, India. It was here on idle afternoon, under the blue shade of the tarp covering the vast bazaar, where I first tasted a cinnamon gum. The first bite was bitter but before I could spit it out, it became tingly; then finally this mulled sweetness did a little jig in my mouth and I was converted. My love for this spice was reaffirmed with my first ever “real” apple pie. For the record I HATE apples but my favourite dessert is an apple pie. Many a chocolate mousse has been overlooked for my devotion to this sinful dessert, which of course scores high with me precisely for what cinnamon does to the sourness of the apple and doughy texture of the crust. Team up a warm slice of this all American dessert with vanilla ice cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top for that extra kick and I am on my way to heaven.
And I am not alone in my reverence for this native of Sri Lanka. Apparently this was the ultimate ingredient to spice up the love life, with even gods being partial to its allure, or at least it was considered a fitting ingredient along with its sibling cassia, for the oil for anointment. Though its use was common in the middle east as far back as the BCs, it was not till the 1200s that folks figured out that the spice was indigenous to Sri Lanka. Cassia, on the other hand had a Chinese origin. So now the Ceylon cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean, while cassia is mainly produced in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
And this spice that I am will shortly suggest you sprinkle on foods willy nilly, was the cause of many a political and commercial heartburn, and far from being part of any comfort food was actually a privilege enjoyed by the rich and (in)famous of olden days (Nero was one of them). But enough of the history lesson, how about I tell you some easy things to do with this amazing spice, both in its ground and quill form.
>> Add a dash of cinnamon to your recipe of French toast for an extra zing.
>>> Bored of your regular morning cuppa? Mix a pinch or two of ground cinnamon with the ground coffee and brew or if you like your cup of tea with a zing, add some ground cinnamon in it.
Oh and before I sign off, here is a bit of trivia on cinnamon which may just convince you to become better friends with it. Cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating. Oh and yeah, it is a reservoir of anti-oxidants. No, I am not going to tell you why that’s good news, do some leg work yourself!