"Imported cinnamon had been known in Egypt as early
as 1450 BC & it reached a peak in the first century
AD when the Roman demand for spices began to seem
insatiable. At that time they accounted for forty-four
of the eighty-six classifications of goods imported
to the Mediterranean from Asia and the East Coast
of Africa. (The others included elephant trainers
and eunuchs, parrots and palm oil, cottons and cooks.)"
My first memory can be culled from my mental jukebox
simply by twisting open a container and inhaling.
My mother would carefully cut equal parts of ground
cinnamon with white sugar and I was allowed to take
a crop duster approach to my butter-heavy toast. Oh
yeah, man that was living!
True cinnamon is indigenous to Sri Lanka. Like cassia,
it is the dried bark of a tree of the laurel family.
The rolled shape is referred to as a quill. If you
find the bark, look for firm, aromatic pieces. Avoid
packages that are broken up into small bits. They
will be less potent.
At NORMAN'S I have one dish that bridges the
gap between the sweet and savory in the most hedonistic
fashion and I use cinnamon as one of the elements.
It's my Down Island French Toast.
I soak homemade brioche in an egg custard that has
cinnamon, Tahitian vanilla beans and mace. I griddle
cook them and sandwich seared wafers of Curacao, orange
and cinnamon scented foie gras between the golden
brioche. I serve this with a Savory Passion Fruit
Caramel. When its cooking on my stove that is in our
dining room you can see heads turning wondering what
in the heck that fragrance is. It's the French Toast
and it's made with some cinnamon.
*Works consulted:Food In History, Reay Tanahill, The
Complete Book of Spices, Jill Norman and Asian Ingredients,
A man was in the restaurant just
the other day and enjoyed his meal very much, but
wanted to know why no restaurants serve duck anymore.
Well I had to fight back a smile because just the
very night before we had cooked at the Miami "Share
Our Strength" Dinner and had cooked 60 pounds of
it! It wasn't the Long Island Roast Duckling with
Oranges of his memory's desire however.
We served a braised Duck Stew with many Asian elements
(and one Peruvian one. You know me. I like to mix
it up a little.) The dish is one I have called "Bang
Bang" over the years.
This is my "New World" take on Chinese Peking Style
Duck. I make it with the meaty Moulard variety
ducks that are raised for us out cooking, California.
It is a two day affair with the meat falling off the
bones, shredded and enhanced with many vegetables,
zest of oranges, and chilies all packed into my Scallion-Ginger
Ducks were domesticated rather late in history. This
was probably due to their abundance in the wild and
ease of capturing them. The ancient Chinese, Japanese
and Romans kept them in a semi-wild state, perhaps
knowing that the wild bird tastes better than the
domesticated ones. They were domesticated by the 15th
century in Europe and probably earlier in China.
Returning crusaders gave considerable impetus to the
eating of wild ducks in the Middle Ages when they
brought back citrus fruit from the Holy Land. Ducks
are swimming birds and naturally would consume a lot
of fish and this could create a fishy taste that the
fruits would dispel. Like the Duck a la Orange
my guest was craving or if he would be so bold, my