Letter from The Publisher
Once upon a time, several work lives ago, I visited a small Asian restaurant in Toronto named something akin to Tiger Lily, located close to downtown on a street with a lot of other small shops and places to grab a quick dinner. I was in town for a conference and decided to step out of the hotel on a chilly, rainy, raw spring day near the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario.
Heeding a local’s advice, I headed to the restaurant with a good book, stepped in and was greeted by the aromas of sesame oil, lemon grass, lime leaves and other exotic Southeast Asian spices. The waiter brought a steaming bowl of noodle soup and a pot of hot jasmine tea, that was perfect for the weather, he said. It was delicious, with flavors unlike anything I’d tasted before. The steam, the noodles, the flavorful spices and the overall experience are all saved in my memories.
Flash back to 1970-something, and my first visit to Ivar’s Salmon House, on Lake Union, near Seattle. I’ve dined there a few times since the first visit with my parents and again, the spices and flavors are etched in my mind. To this day, the smells of alder wood, smoky paprika and salmon bring me mentally to Ivar’s. The strong scents of cilantro, pineapple and lime bring me back many years to a quick meal of tacos al pastor at a neighborhood taqueria in Mexico City, while the combined aromas of freshly fried donuts and cinnamon sugar transport me to a seven-year-old version of myself standing in the rickety wooden building of the long-bulldozed Bell’s Apple Orchard, at the corner of routes 12 and 22, in Lake Zurich.
Spices, herbs and flavors form some of the strongest connections to memories. Yet as our world continues to homogenize and the more affordable restaurants are the same no matter where we travel, typical meals tend to incorporate the same few spices and expected flavors. Yet we can change that in our own kitchens with a dash of creativity, a blend of reading and experimentation and a sprinkle of imagination. Toss in a few tasty recipes and some fresh spices from local sources such as Wisconsin-based Penzey’s (local stores or Penzeys.com) or The Spice House (local stores or TheSpiceHouse.com), and you’ll be on your way to extending your family’s flavor horizons. To help you in that endeavor, we’re focusing this month on healthy ethnic cuisines and hearty spices in our main feature articles by Judith Fertig and Amber Lanier Nagle.
We love healthy recipes and new flavors, particularly those that incorporate local and organic foods, small producers and garden-grown veggies. If you have a favorite recipe that you’d like to share or the transporting memory of an exotic spice or cuisine, we’d love to hear from you! Please send us a note at Editor@NAChicago.com or via Facebook or Messenger @Natural Awakenings Chicago, tweet to us @NAChicago or tag us on Instagram @NAChicago.
As the days lengthen and the season transitions to spring, we gently remind you to be sure to step outside each day, look up at the sky, stand next to a tree, listen to a bird, smell the damp earth on a warm day, feel the snow or rain, observe a squirrel and look for slowly fattening buds and the emerging green leaves of spring bulbs and early plants. Enjoy the glorious experience.
Happy Spring Equinox!