i made saffron shiitake pappardelle for dinner last night [stay with me here, i promise this isn’t a blog post about food]. anywho, those that know me well know that cooking is cathartic for me. just as writing helps me work through any overanalyzing or negativity that i may be experiencing, cooking provides an avenue to channel my creativity and allow my left brain to rest. while i’m cooking, nothing is important except what my hands are touching. if you try to have a conversation with me while i’m wrist deep in food prep, it will be fruitless. not only am i not a fantastic multitasker when it comes to unrelated activities, but that vidalia and i are having our own conversation and you haven’t been invited.
back to last night. lately, i’ve been craving something saffron. i have been trying to cut back on my cheese intake [OH, THE HORROR!!!!!!], so i’ve needed other strong, distinct flavors to help take my mind off of how much i’m dying for a spoonful of triple crème brie [specifically delice triple crème. see, i have a problem.]. i’ve been trying to incorporate some diversity into my cooking as well. while i love it like a baby, rosemary is pretty straightforward, and i’m kind of worn out on basil at the moment. saffron is unlike any other spice i could describe. the aromatic sweetness causes my senses to become a muddled mess, and i dig it. so, i did it.
pasta bowls on the table, forks in mouths, eyes may or may not have been closed in ecstasy, tom looked at me and asked, “what exactly is saffron?”
my response was a bland, “a hella expensive spice.”
because his brain is ALWAYS moving, he said, “but i mean, where does it come from? how is it grown?”
we do this line dance a lot. i looked at him and delivered a shoulder shrug and unconcerned “not sure, look it up.”
we’ve got an enormous dirt plot behind our house that will someday be some sort of garden or backyard or anything that looks just slightly prettier than its current state. right now, it kinda looks like a middle-aged man who is trying his damnedest not to be bald…you can see the skin, but there are still random hairs poking up on top that he’s not ready to admit aren’t reproducing. those hairs are the grass we tried and failed to grow last minute. we joke that we could have one heckuva stand at the farmers’ market if we ever tapped into said dirt plot’s potential.
“it’s got to be hard to grow or harvest or something to be so expensive,” i offered.
looking at his phone, he replied, “it’s actually extremely hardy and can be grown just about anywhere. what makes it so expensive is how difficult it is to harvest and how much is needed to produce a small amount. it takes an average of 150 saffron flowers to produce one gram of it, and it looks like a pretty tedious harvest process.”
to put it succinctly: 150 saffron flowers + lots of sweat = 1 gram dried spice = $19.99 at the grocery store. expensive AF [which is why i don’t use it often], but worth the cost because SO GOOD.
i was mulling over the whole conversation this morning whilst pounding espresso, and there seem to be a lot of parallels between saffron and how our lives have seemed lately. as humans, as americans, we take very little time to slow down and do the beautiful things like cultivate the more challenging spices. there are toilets to be cleaned, bills to be paid, and mouths to feed. there are businesses to run, jobs to find, and sheets to wash. we are overprogrammed, overworked, and overtired. we can crush the grind for a million hours and complete a hundred tasks and still not feel like we have much to show for it. to-do lists seem endless, and the day is never long enough. the struggle is real. in the precious in-between moments, we are too exhausted to notice the sweet bits of progress and productivity that we’ve accomplished, and isn’t that a shame? because if all of that effort and all of those hours gives us even one tiny, miniscule gram of fulfillment and pride, then i’d say it was all worthwhile. even if it’s costly and even if it takes work…life is too short not to eat saffron.