Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spice Quest

It's fall in Texas. The days are getting shorter and the workdays longer, the weather's absolutely beautiful (though still "summer-like" by my standards), and winter squash are starting to show up at the grocery store. Which I probably wouldn't have noticed, if the sight of a butternut squash last week hadn't made me intensely hungry for "pumpkin" soup like we used to eat when I was a missionary kid growing up in Liberia. I decided I would have to get the recipe from Mom so I could make some for myself and my friends. Only one problem: the spice. No, not that spice, specifically, African chili pepper. See, African chilis are an entirely different family of peppers than those most Americans are familiar with via Tex-Mex cuisine, and an African meal would just not taste right without them.

So, off I went, scouring the internet for peppers. And boy I found plenty. Literally hundreds of varieties of peppers in dried and powdered form. Peppers from Mexico, Peru, Cuba, India, Thailand, China. From Africa, not a one. Imagine, an entire continent's capsicums woefully neglected by the world of online spicemongering! I broadened my search terms, narrowed them, broadened them yet again. I brought all my internet-sleuthing skills to bear, to no seeming avail. I was nearly ready to give up in frustration when I found World Spice Merchants, out of Seattle, purveyors of everything from asafoetida to wasabi and everything in between. Including beet powder, for when your dishes need that extra kick of... beets. In any case, they also carry African pepper, so by next weekend I hope to be cooking up a big pot of pumpkin soup for dinner. I can't wait.

Besides apparently being the only source for African peppers in the US, World Spice has another interesting quirk: online sales, old-fashioned style. Consider this:
"We prefer to do business the old fashioned way and won’t be asking for your credit card information. Your order will ship with an invoice enclosed and when you receive it, simply mail us a check."
That easy, huh? Don't see that sort of trust and service very often these days, particularly not on the internet. Sort of refreshing.


elephantschild said...

Is it powdered, pepper in oil, or is it dry? Hmmm...

Evan said...

It's powdered, which unfortunately means I have no idea what the pepper looked like. If they had a picture of the whole thing, I could have had a better idea if it's what I was looking for. I suppose I could have emailed and asked for a description, but for a few bucks, I was excited enough to take the chance.