Whole Foods Pie Chart

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Spice Jungle

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


So I finally get to reveal to you all a major project I've been working on. For the last year I've been collaborating with the people at Beanilla to open a new online spice store: Spice Jungle.

Now this isn't a paid post. This is simply me bragging about some contract work I did with them. Work that I'm incredibly proud of. Plus, the team I got to work with was so amazing, knowledgeable and professional.

The job? Write the creative copy for over 1000 products. Unlike other online spice shops that simply list ingredients and their basic usage Spice Jungle aimed to create a site with gorgeous visuals, fresh products, and engaging writing that went against the norm. Having had a great working relationship with Beanilla, they gave me a ring.

It was an intense task. Every week a box with about 40 spices, mushrooms, teas, chiles, coffees, sugars, salts, peppers, and so on arrived. Have you ever worked with annatto seed or amchoor powder or cubeb pepper? I hadn't.

There was a lot of trips to the library, and I bought plenty of research books and encyclopedias. I even had to translate a 1200 year old Germanic text with the help of a university professor to learn about a unique type of pepper. I hadn't crammed that much since my GRE exams and was beating my head against some old trig textbooks.

Still I learned a lot and the descriptions came out great! Take this example for Grains of Paradise:

Teaser: Plenty of ego and an air of mystery. Like Mr. Gatsby, there’s a lot of show masking rather humble beginnings.

Description: A truly lavish name for what has historically been seen as a mere substitute. Grains of Paradise have gone by the geographically accurate name, Guinea pepper, and the more bestial moniker of alligator pepper. However, if you wanted to give it a name that reflected how most of the world has treated it then it should be called It’ll Do Pepper. It’s a shame considering how intriguing it is.

When black pepper was truly the spice that defined the spice trade – and, to be frank, still does – Grains of Paradise began to be brought by caravan from Guinea and Ghana. It was used as a replacement spice when black pepper was unobtainable and cubeb berries were still a few centuries away from being a real competitor. It never really found a proper home, even amongst its native African origins. It is still used in West Africa, Ghana, and Guinea to some extent. Oddly enough, Scandinavia has an affinity for it, but only as a flavoring for akvavit.

We say it’s a shame because Grains of Paradise are a rather intriguing spice if not for the inflated sense of self. They’re technically related to cardamom, but have more of a pepper flavor. Hot, pungent, and spicy but you’ll definitely notice a fruity-cardamom flavor. Yet it’s still rather timid amongst burlier flavors of actual black pepper and cardamom, and as such should be treated as a subtle pepper or a baking spice.

Grains of Paradise are popular in spice blends and for flavoring alcohol. However, a growing number of people are beginning to use it as a substitute for black pepper. If you’re into home brewing then this is a godsend. It won’t overpower your brews with a kick in the shin of spice and is easier to control. In addition, alcohol has a fine way of bringing out the more unique flavors.

So there it is. This is a bigger example, but essentially you should be able to learn about a spice's history and lore, as well as how to use it.

I hope you all go check out Spice Jungle and give it a look. 

Excerpts From Steamy Romance Novels for Food Writers: Pluot & Vanilla Jam

Saturday, August 30, 2014

-Perhaps I should have posted cheesecake? (Urban dictionary that if you need to.)-

He began to stand on his chair. Stalwart. Strong. Almost as quick as his flash she reached out to him and pleaded. "If you don't sit down they'll know we're writing a Yelp review." Yet, she knew he cared nothing for her reviews, regardless of how witty they were. All that mattered was his food porn.

---

He gazed longingly at her as she paraded the coconut cake with homemade, organic Meyer lemon curd and Italian buttercream frosting made with fair trade Tahitian vanilla beans to the table. She had shaved the coconut herself; a dedication that only made her more desirable. He would have to chain back his lust before leaping upon her and the cake until she had a good shot for her Pinterest board.

---

They couldn't understand why someone would call that question into The Splendid Table when a Google search would have been more efficient.

The Research Process: Fig and Brandy Jam

Monday, August 18, 2014

1. Collect information from the library, internet, interviews, etcetera.

2. Read it all. All of it.

3. Take so many notes that you would shame Tolstoy. 

4. Make sure your notes are in such a ludicrously archaic and indecipherable form that Tolstoy would literally spin in his grave as such that the thanatropic energy harnessed from his whirling corpse could power a Hyundai. 

5. Put all of your sources into a annotated works referenced page. This is to help you in the long run. You know it does as it helps you remember what sources said what. 

6. Of course, it's also a huge pain in the ass. Most likely you will skip this part often until a small stack of sources begins to get so tall the cat climbs to the top of it to survey his territory (e.g., you). Then spend four hours logging that shit into EasyBib and hoping a publisher doesn't make you switch it all from MLA to APA, or, god forbid, Chicago Style. 

7. Write!

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