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    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Cinnamon



     When I was in Australia a little over a year ago, my roommate and I made a ritual of buying banana bread en route to our bi-weekly graduate classes. Banana bread was never in short supply: they sold it in thick, tidy slices lined up at the cash register of any coffee shop, grocery store or market.

    It’s not exactly macrobiotic, but it’s wholesome in that old-fashioned sort of way that is comforting, the sort of thing that might help if you were homesick and living in a distant hemisphere, away from your friends and family.

    It didn’t come with chocolate chips or cream cheese icing or any funny business: just straight, old-fashioned banana bread.

    I once made the mistake of asking if a store owner would consider switching up the formula, maybe adding a little cinnamon? Some cloves or cocoa powder?

    She just about bit my head off and I had a revelation of sorts: cinnamon is not a universal dessert flavour.




    I soon realized that contempt for cinnamon was an Australian hobby and refrained from any mention of the much-despised stick. Further extensive research demonstrated that Brits share the Australian disdain for the spice and our only comrades in Battle Cinnamon are the folks down south (Americans.) A recent Guardian UK blog post rails against the spice for being everywhere and on everything:
     BLOODY SODDING CINNAMON

    Citing Starbuck and other coffee shops as perpetrators and Cinnabon as the ultimate sinner, the author gives examples of recipes where cinnamon does not belong: squash puree with watermelon and cinnamon, cinnamon pineapple pork and cinnamon tinged jerk chicken.

    His investigation takes him onto Google where he types in the words “America’s favourite favorite spice” – only to be met with an abundance of evil sticks.

    This is one of those cultural nuances, a strange one at that. I never thought cinnamon went everywhere. It goes on cinnamon rolls, on top of fancy coffee foam and sometimes makes its way into sweet-savoury autumnal recipes and gum. That really doesn’t seem like everywhere to me. At that, you can choose (as I do) to not put cinnamon on your fancy foam-topped coffee and that’s one less place to find the scape-goated spice.

    Have a look at this Guardian UK rant and let me know what your thoughts on cinnamon are. Do you think Canadians and Americans use too much of it? Would you like to see it in less coffee shops? Is it something you care a lot about?


    8 comments:

    Louise Armstrong said...

    I must admit I have developed a disdain for cinnamon over the years. I don't know if it was the potpourri craze of the early 90s, the scented candle phase of the late 90s but I can't abide the smell of it any more. In terms of taste, alas, I have little patience for it either although there was a time when I could tolerate it. I used to occasionally sprinkle it on top of my skim-mild, decaf lattes at Starbucks and then one day I accidentally used the nutmeg and, sweet nectar of the gods, what a wonderful flavour. I'm never going back to cinnamon.

    Jess Bennett said...

    Oh dear.

    Maybe I'm the only one who loves cinnamon (and my mother, who I'm sure I get that trait from.)My godmother swears she's allergic to it, but I don't think that's even possible. Perhaps she developed her "affliction" as a result of late 90s potpourri overdose.

    In any case, we can agree that nutmeg is fabulous. A friend of mine buys nutmeg and rubs the seed/pod on his skin as scent/perfume secret.

    He would kill me for mentioning that.

    Christine said...

    I'm an avid baker and find that when I use an American recipe that calls for cinammon, the recipe-writer is always heavy-handed with this spice. So, I always cut back on it. As a spice, I quite like it but share your fondess for nutmeg. My mashed potatoes always have a dash of nutmeg (and white pepper, butter and warm milk) in them. And, they are tasty.

    Jess Bennett said...

    Thanks for your comment, Christine. I always appreciate the baking perspective as that is not my comfort realm. If you've noticed American recipes overdo cinnamon, then maybe there really is something to all this British and Australian animosity! :)

    Your mashed potatoes sound lovely. I tend to add nutmeg to green things like broccoli soup or cooked collards, but have not added it to potato.

    Thanks for the great tip!

    Tasting Toronto said...

    Wow! I was unaware that we were mostly alone amongst the world in our love of cinnamon!

    Jess Bennett said...

    Honestly, right? I didn't realize this wasn't universal. It's such a revelation.

    Now that I think about it though, don't Latin countries and India use a lot of cinnamon too? Maybe it's different because they blend it with a lot of other stuff and it's savoury instead of sweet.

    canadianfoodiegirl said...

    Interesting rant. Many flavours, and uses for them, are culturally specific. I guess that's the case with cinnamon.

    I've started putting cinnamon in my morning smoothies. It gives another great layer of flavour.

    Jess Bennett said...

    Thanks Andrea. I thought I was a genius when I discovered putting cocoa in my smoothie - cinnamon is a whole other idea I never considered. It sounds delicious. I can't wait to try it.

    I guess I could do nutmeg too...

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