Last night’s dinner was inedible, though it did provide valuable lessons.
When we were in New York last month one of the stops we made was to the little spice shop that Kim had been wanting to visit for years now. It’s a neat little store, once you are allowed inside. It’s small and crowded with boxes, and in the middle are a couple of tables with sampler jars of various spices and blends as well as larger jars that you can buy. They even have a couple of cookbooks that looked interesting but not interesting enough to buy at that price. It’s a fine line.
We left with a small bag of jars. Kim got a couple of blends, and I came away with a jar of sansho pepper.
I’d never heard of sansho pepper before. It apparently comes from Japan, which makes sense given the name. It’s kind of light colored and not really related to black pepper, and it has a strong citrusy overtone that – according to the label – goes well with poultry.
Since we were having chicken last night, I figured I’d try some on it. You have to use the stuff you buy, otherwise it’s just clutter, after all. I ground some up into small bits and sprinkled it on the chicken the way one does with black pepper.
But sansho pepper is not related to black pepper, which means you can’t use it like black pepper. Black pepper is a fairly mild spice and if you’re going to fry chicken with it you need a decent amount of the stuff. I figured this would be the same.
While sansho pepper is not particularly spicy either, it turns out that the amounts one uses are not equivalent.
For one thing, it does have a bit of a kick that only emerges as you continue to eat it. If this was all there was to it, though, we’d have plowed through the meal and emerged out the other side with clean plates.
But for another thing, as it clearly says on the label that I didn’t read carefully enough, sansho pepper produces “a tongue numbing tingle” that stays with you for a long, long time, especially if you use whole number multiples of the amount that you later discover you should use.
The odd part of it is that when you try to drink water afterward the water feels like it’s carbonated and tastes like something that would have environmental laws passed to prevent if we had a government that actually cared about things like breathing clean air and drinking clean water.
So it was an experience.
Of course, so is getting hit by a brick.
We’ve decided that a much smaller amount of sansho pepper mixed into a sauce of some kind would actually have been good, so we have a plan for next time. It’s good to have a plan. That’s a valuable lesson.
It’s also good to have a house full of other food that you can eat.
That’s a valuable lesson too.