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I finally finished Spice: A History of a Temptation by Jack Turner.  I say ‘finally’ because I started it, re-organized my shelves and had to re-shelve it so I didn’t forget to include it, read some other stuff, came back to it, read more stuff, and now I’ve finished it.  I don’t mean to imply I didn’t enjoy the book-I did-it just took me months to read.  I’ve been a little scattered in my reading lately: at one point I had six books going at one time but I’m steadily finishing them and whittling down that number.  Why am I tell you this?  Because I was inspired while reading Spice and I’ve been saving a recipe post until I finished the book.

I will never look at spices the same way now that I’ve finished this book.  Spices were merely additions to food, necessary to make food interesting and desirable, but something I purchased at a grocery store without a second thought.  Now I look at turmeric, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper and think about the hundreds of years of history behind each spice; most of it bloody.  I’ll never take them for granted again.

And so, to celebrate my new awareness, I perused my recipe box and found a snack mix called Rockin’ Morroccan Snack Mix.  I can’t remember where I found the original recipe and didn’t document it when I copied it onto my card.  A google search leads me to this recipe and it looks identical to my card so, maybe this was the original recipe. I did make a substitution: walnut oil for the olive oil.  Walnut oil has a smoke point of 320 degrees F but I used it anyway and had no problems.

This recipe uses cumin, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cayenne: all spices I was looking at with new eyes, and I was excited to gather my ingredients and get started.  I did plan ahead: I dislike using canned beans so did a quick cook on some garbanzo beans, puttered around the house while they cooked, and then let them cool and drained them before putting the snack mix together.

There’s quite a bit of prep involved in this snack mix. Dried apricots (unsulphured, thank you very much) and dates need to be chopped and those sticky little suckers don’t make the task easy.  I work with whole allspice so had to grind it in my mortar and pestle-yes, I use one-and then, of course, cooking whole beans does delay the process.  If you decide to make this on the spur of the moment, I recommend canned beans and ground spices.  You’ll thank me.

Once I had the mix assembled and in the oven, the entire house was redolent with the smell of roasting spices and I shared a little of the history I was learning with my mother until her eyes began to glaze over.  I wisely refrained from any more instruction and finished my snack mix.

The snack mix was all I’d hoped it would be.  It was a perfect blend textures and flavors: crunchy nuts and beans, chewy fruit, and the spice blend was both sweet and hot.  The only downside: it’s messy.  This is not a good snack to tote to the workplace.  I know because I did it and had to keep wiping my fingers so I could work the keyboard.  A celebration of spices it definitely is, and tasty enough, but a lot of work and messy.  It will be a long time before I make this again.

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