Jamie Oliver is an artist. Not because he can paint or sculpt but instead because he knows how to subtly use cinnamon in his cooking without the food tasting like an Atomic Fireball in a bowl.
Having grown up in New England, some of my finest culinary memories involve cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. When I smell those spices, I think of fall, pumpkins, warm buttery cookies, and rum flavored eggnog. Those spices weave a blanket of comfort.
It takes an artist’s touch though to not over use these flavors, a hint, a dash, a mere suggestion is what pleases the palate, not an overwhelming hit over the head. Which is precisely why I never order anything at a restaurant or bakery that is cinnamon flavored.
Cinnamon is over done. It’s everywhere and in the traditional American style – everyone assumes that more is better. Cinnamon doesn’t belong in a lot of the foods we find it in and it definitely doesn’t belong in coffee. Ever.
Too much is simply too much.
So imagine my dismay to find out that Jamie’s Good Old Chili Con Carne (Jamie’s Food Revolution) required:
- 1 heaped teaspoon chili powder – so far so good
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin – this is also doable
- 1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon – are you kidding me?
Not wanting to cheat on the recipe, after all the purpose of making these is test how truly easy and edible these recipes are, I reluctantly added the spices, including the dreaded cinnamon.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the table. The Chili started smelling good, I mean really good – good like in everyone who entered the kitchen mentioned how good it smelled. I can smell the cinnamon, each person told me as they walked over to the stove to inhale the fragrant chili steam.
And then an even funnier thing happened at the table. Every single person who sat down couldn’t get enough of this dish. Even the kids who after noticing the beans (mom! You said you were going to start cutting back on the beans!) ate bowlful after bowlful.
I want to take this to school for lunch, I was told.
They all tasted the cinnamon but like an artist’s subtle wisp of pink in a skyline, it didn’t overwhelm the dish and instead cast it’s delightful glow over the entire landscape. As much as I have a love/hate relationship with cinnamon, when we make this dish again (oh and we will) I will not skimp on the cinnamon. It’s a full heaped teaspoon for us.