One day when I was visiting my family at Christmas, I came home from the grocery store with a bunch of groceries for the dinner I was making that night. My niece was a bit puzzled by the fresh garlic that I’d bought – as it turned out, my sister & her bf usually buy minced garlic in a jar as opposed to bulbs of garlic and my niece hadn’t seen it before1. When I thought back, our mom always bought jars of minced garlic for cooking with and so did I for many years – until I started living with my old roommate and she turned me on to the fact that fresh garlic and a garlic press can’t be beat2! It reminded me of a time that I was cooking pasta with a friend and she thought it was funny that I used canned tomatoes but fresh mushrooms, because her family always used fresh tomatoes, but canned mushrooms3. I guess I just get used to how I do things in the kitchen and don’t really think much about it until I run into someone with different kitchen habits.
Case in point: also during my trip to visit my family over Christmas, I learned that my sister is a big proponent of using fresh nutmeg instead of ground nutmeg4. She has a little grater that she keeps on the kitchen counter with a big nutmeg nut and whenever she needs nutmeg, she grates it fresh into whatever she is cooking. And because she keeps it handy, she uses it a lot. And, it turns out, I really liked it. And so when I got home, I went out an bought a nutmeg grinder5 and now I too enjoy the goodness that is freshly grated nutmeg in my cuisine!
And speaking of kitchen habits I’ve picked up from my sister, my homemade vanilla is ready! It’s a little boozier than your typical store-bought vanilla, but I think that is just the nature of homemade vanilla extract.
Here’s the first bottle of it, which I gave as a (very late) birthday present to my friend, Dr. Jen!
- or at least, if she had seen bulbs of garlic before, she didn’t remember it [↩]
- she also got me buying fresh lemons instead of lemon juice – though I always keep a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge for those occasions when I’m out of lemons! [↩]
- and, really, any time I’ve made my pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes, it really is WAY better than when I’ve made it with canned tomatoes, so I’m not sure why I don’t do that more often [↩]
- I’ve since read about it and apparently nutmeg really should be grated fresh as it loses its flavour pretty quickly after you grind it, so if you buy the powdered stuff, it’s pretty much lost its tasty goodness before you even get it home! [↩]
- which was surprisingly hard to find – I could easily find these giant, high-tech nutmeg grinders that cost and arm & leg, but all I wanted was a simple little grater. In the end, I bought something that is technically a “ginger grater,” but it works great for nutmeg too [↩]