I feel the eye roll. You think you know what there is to know. It's sat on the table, every day, for a lifetime in an arranged marriage to Salt. A couple. Separate but not equal. I mean, really, isn't Mr. Pepper, in our culture, sort of the lesser of the two? The sides of the shaker by the stove are not as greasy. Pepper is....
A kick. A punch. A jab.
Salt knows her boundaries. She comes to you in the right size. Pepper, the guy, has to be ground down, beat up, knocked into shape.
But what is he really....?
What is the nature of the love affair--not just between them--but between us?
Black pepper is piper nigrum. It is, in actuality, a fruit. A peppercorn. Yes. You read that correctly. A fruit. Makes the whole thing more interesting, doesn't it? Pepper can be black. Red or pink. Even green. So where do we begin to tell the story of this potent little fruit....?
Apparently, Sanskrit had it first as a word: Pippali. But who got the idea to grind it up and throw it on top of food? Was it to disguise pieces of dirt? No, we are told it was thought of, early on, as a medicine.
Okay...Medicine. This is about medicine. And medicine heals. Pepper can clear your sinuses. It can increase your appetite. It gives food...energy.
Now the word pepper was used to mean spirited energy, apparently, dating back to the 1840's. By the turn of the century, that had been shorted to pep. Pep girls. Pep rallies. Pep-to Bismol. Even Peppy. They all come from Pepper.
It is important not to take the small things for granted. This is a lesson worth sharing. In today's uncertain times, I give you our most beloved fruit:
Holly Goldberg Sloan is a writer/director of family films. She wrote "Angels in the Outfield,", "Made in America", "The Big Green", "The Crocodile Hunter Movie" and the soon to be finished "Heidi 4 Paws". Cooking, she believes, is like writing. It's good to start with a solid plan, and then be willing to go with the flow.