If most of our life consists of basic repetitive tasks that are simple and predictable—some would say boring—it’s the people we interact with who make our days interesting. If our life were a soup, the people we know would be the spices.
Some people, like salt and pepper, are always nearby, always present at the table, every day. They are our basic fallback for a good meal. Even though we may get fancy with varieties, the basic flavor is familiar, easily accessible, comfortable to use. Other people are more rare in our lives, and have very particular ways in which we interact with them.
This morning, missing a particular friend, I found myself thinking that she makes me think of chipotle pepper. My handy dandy search engine told me that the adjectives often used to describe chipotle pepper include: intense heat, dark, smoky flavor, wonderfully hot and smoky. Yep, that describes my friend in a nutshell. When you miss her, you miss her particularity.
Reading those adjectives made me wonder about the adjectives commonly used to describe other spices, and how they might also describe people.
Do you know someone who is strong, sweet, and familiarly cool? That’s the mint in your life. And someone nutty, warm, spicy, sweet? That’s your nutmeg friend! On the other hand, if you are friends with someone who is bitter when raw, perhaps they are more like juniper berries.
Some friends, not to mention acquaintances, are like cayenne: They are very hot and spicy, so should be used with caution. Or like savory, should be used sparingly. Others must be interacted with very carefully, as they can stain, like turmeric. Or, like cloves, can quickly become overpowering—we need to use great care when working with them!
Some folks we know are slightly bitter, just like celery seed, marjoram, and paprika. Some are kind of nutty, like poppy, sesame, or carroway seeds. Some are earthy and pungent, like bay leaves.
Clearly not all people, or spices, combine well together, and all are best in particular kinds of situations, or dishes. Some are very versatile. Some are associated with particular cultures or nationalities. Some are great fresh and some really need a lot of careful cooking. Some, like cinnamon sticks, add flavor while cooking but should never actually be consumed.
In my kitchen, and in my life, I like to have all kinds of different options. Just as I would be unhappy with only using salt and pepper for my spices, I would be much less blessed if my friends were all of the same age, temperament, race, gender or culture.
In my kitchen, and in my life, I love variety. And while salt and pepper may be my go-to spices, I have no interest in a salt-and-pepper life! Thank heavens for a wide variety of friends who are spicy and diverse!