December 29, 2011
Blame it on Julia Child.
She would shriek lovingly into our living rooms from the TV in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, grinding “some freshly ground pepper” from a strange looking apparatus, few had seen before.
Out went the vile tins of pungentless stuff we used to call pepper.
In came hovering waiters armed with five-foot peppermills and a peppermill on just about every table in America.
Julia was proud of you.
But we hadn't seen anything yet.
From those early beginnings, we can now cook with a rainbow of reds, oranges, pinks from the French Island of Reunion, and greens, we learn, are actually unripe black peppercorns.
All sold like fine wines in spice markets around the world, each with nuances and fragrances undetectable by the average palette.
Piper nigrum, first native to India, starts off life as a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae.
The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed.
The word itself was used as an early pronunciation aid — If peter piper REALLY picked a peck of pickled pepper, where's the peck of pickled pepper peter piper picked?
I'll give you a moment.
Today, chefs put the spice known as "Black Gold, treasured by the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans, on and in practically everything.
Have you never had a pink peppercorn cheesecake?