I love to cook. I’ve been buying stuff to cook with for 30 years. As such, and as a Californian besides, I’ve always looked for the best ingredients. Going to Asian markets for actual Chinese long beans. Googling aji amarillo to find out where I might buy Peruvian chiles in the Bay Area. (Failing but that’s another problem). Purchasing actual nutmegs vs. ground nutmeg powder. And, being a California, looking to buy organic wherever possible.
Yesterday I went to the grocery store. The fancy grocery store. We have more of those here than strictly necessary to support the population. I was looking for, among other things, red pepper flakes. I use them for the aromatics in Chinese food (the stuff you throw in the wok to cook for 15 seconds before you cook the rest of the ingredients), with sauteed spinach to keep the balsamic vinegar company, to throw together some enchiladas to use up last night’s grill-roasted pork loin.
I gather that red pepper flakes have fallen from foodie favor. Because if I wanted organic, which I did, I had to buy WHOLE DRIED RED PEPPERS. In a glass jar. This has never happened before. I wavered. I tried to move my aging habits forward in 2 minutes, as I stood in the spice aisle. I could not. I have cooked with red pepper flakes, as I said, for 30 years.
What, I ask, was wrong with flakes? Even as I ask, I know. I know. Less full-flavored, less authentic, less something or other. One more thing to chop is what I am thinking. But I have vowed never to be the kind of old person who grumbles that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Next time. Whole dried red peppers. Got it.