May 5th, 2009

January 24, 2008

I don’t properly know how half a year has passed since the last time I updated this page! Part of it is, of course, the fact that I’ve actually been sleeping most nights. That, and the fact that I don’t know how long it’s been since I came out of my kitchen.

It started, whenever that was, when I got a parcel in the mail from my dear friend Allison (hi, Alli!) who was vacationing in Grenoble sometime over the summer. Alli went into a little spicer’s shop in what she described on a postcard as a “back-alley hole in the wall.” She says she told the proprietor that she had a friend who made candy and liked unusual spices, and the fellow took a dusty apothecary jar down off a high shelf, filled a bag from it, wrote out a label and stuck it on, and told her it was the perfect thing for a good batch of manna.

Manna? Manna?

The bag held a handful of curls of something that looks like cinnamon: thin, barklike, about six inches long and rolled up to pencil-width. Unlike cinnamon, however, these curls smell of something halfway between honeysuckle and pink peppercorn: sweet, but peppery at the same time. This was before Alli had told me what the spicer said, so immediately my mind went to caramels and turkish delight, burnt sugar marmalade and liqueurs made with this delicious oddity–I guess I just can’t shut off that part of me, especially when I get something fun and new to try out. But then Alli told me what the guy in Grenoble said.

Manna.

I’m not a biblical scholar, and I don’t care about all the debates over what sustained the Israelites in the wilderness. Know what else sounds like Manna?

Manus. As in manus christi.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Annabelle, you’re doubtless protesting, cinnamon–let alone any kind of strange cinnamon-like honeysuckle pepper bark thing–cinnamon is hardly ever even mentioned in the common recipes for manus christi! And you’re right, of course. You’d understand if the old guy had scooped a bunch of pearls or something smelling like damask roses or that looks like gold leaf or something like that. Of course there’s something I haven’t told you yet.

The label on the bag. The old spicer had written this on the bag: Epice Perdue de Main.

Lost Hand Spice.

Lost Hand, get it?? Manus means hand. The recipe for manus christi has been lost over long centuries. Coincidence? I think it’s unlikely. Occam’s Razor: the simplest answer, folks, is the one to bet on.

Anyhow, of course I went right into the kitchen to see what kind of damage I could do with the spice from Grenoble, whatever it was. I took one of the sticks and grated it down; it’s softer than cinnamon, and comes apart nicely. I started out putting some in my famous Rose Perlata, just to see what the flavor’s like. After that, I tried adding it into a batch of quiddany, then a gilly-clove liqueur, then…well, somewhere around the liqueur I lost track of time. It could really have happened to anyone. Anyhow, that’s why I haven’t written in a while. I’ll try and do better.

In the meantime, I still have some of the Rose Perlata from that first batch left, folks. Get it while the gettin’s good. It may not be an avatar of the manus christi, but it’s absolutely delicious.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 at 10:58 pm and is filed under Arcane Cookery, Nocturnal Perambulations, or Things I've Seen Late At Night When I Couldn't Sleep. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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