I realize I am fortunate to have the life I have: a sound marriage, a Victorian house on a hill, a garden, a challenging job, a still-healthy mother who is 86, good friends and fond memories. Especially in rocky times such as these.
But for the purposes of this blog, I sometimes wish my life were a bit less pedestrian. What if I lived in Morocco? Wintered in Antibes? Summered in the Hebrides? What if the food I prepared in my little kitchen were inspired by something other than the thought "I think it might be fun to make a tagine today."
Two weeks ago, I had that thought. You can prepare a tagine in many vessels. But I wanted a real one. I imagined my kitchen redolent with the spices of Northern Africa while meat and vegetables or dried fruit simmered in a clay pot with a tee-pee-like cover.
And so today that was how it was.
Usually around Easter my appetite demands spicier foods. This tagine recipe calls for turmeric and cinnamon and paprika, with saffron for a shot of brilliant color.
Saffron was not something I grew up with: Instead, I discovered it in a rice mix from a short-lived gourmet store in my hometown when I was in college (the first time, before my "gap" years). Only when I brought the mix home did my father tell me he always kept saffron on hand, but used it sparingly.
Saffron, derived from the crocus, seems like the perfect spice for spring. It supposedly has great medicinal properties, is thought to be cancer suppressing, and - they say - can be an antidepressant.
It is grown in the Mediterranean, including in parts of the Quercy, in the southwest of France, and I have seen it for sale there, and in the markets.
My tagine, which I slow cooked in my clay vessel, was passable for a first attempt. The chicken was tender, but not as moist as I expected, while the apricots melted in my mouth. I agree with some of the reviewers that the spices and garlic should be stepped up. I did not use cilantro this round, but I will try it again.