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Basil and Oregano

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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:33 pm    Post subject: Basil and Oregano Reply with quote

I guess this should go in the food and cooking category, but I wanted to contrast basil and oregano not just as Italian spices, but as concepts.

Every since my college days and nascent Yuppie-ism, basil has been the spice of choice. The best is fresh basil, bought at $4 or $5 a bunch...and it will go bad if you don't use it right away. Typically you will use a few leaves. Second to that is dried basil, and you should (they tell us) put it on everything...veggies, pasta, sauces. Basil is the universal solvent of all things nouvelle. Basil is Versace and Florence and 2007 Fiats.

Oregano, on the other hand, is the Rocky Balboa of spice. It is the only spice I remember for Italian food prior to 1980. Oregano would sit on the table of every pizzeria or Italian restaurant in Queens, NY, next to the crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese would always be dry, sitting in a glass shaker with big round holes in the lid, but great (no pun).

Oregano is Southern Italy and my grandparents living in their brownstone in City Line, with my grandma speaking only gutteral Sicilian to my parents, aunts and uncles every Sunday when we went for lunch and dinner there. Oregano is the stanky, stuff...the meaty Italy...the Italy that stock brokers and politicians like <b>Rudy</b> Giuliani try to get away from when they make it big.

Today I made a brilliant lasagna...with oregano. The smell is in the apartment. I'm back in City Line, in 1967, playing on the steps of the brownstone with my cousins...driving little Matchbox cars along the cracks as if they were the Belt Parkway or Southern State...and the smell of grandma's cooking is driving us wild with hunger. We sneak in and stuff ourselves with slices of fresh real Italian (not "French") bread from the bakery around the corner.

Memories...but time marches on and however much I went tradition with the spice this time, I did, however, use buffalo chopped meat for the red sauce.

Change is inevitable.
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