Blogathon for SSA: Cardamom and Language

I was making cardamom simple syrup for a cocktail (recipe here), and having an imaginary conversation in my head where I tried to explain why I’m so obsessed with cardamom… and I was realizing that I don’t have good language for flavors. There are the obvious ones, obviously — sweet, sour, etc. But I was trying to describe in my head what cardamom tastes like, and realizing I had no idea how. It’s sort of sweet, but not quite; it’s sort of pungent, but not quite. It’s a Middle Eastern spice that goes equally well with sweet and savory dishes: it somehow makes sweet dishes more savory, and savory dishes subtly sweet. But that’s not very descriptive. Thoughts? And thoughts on how we use language for flavor? I can think of a zillion ways to describe what things look like, but very few (apart from the obvious ones) to describe how they taste.

BTW, it turns out you don’t have to shell a zillion cardamom pods by hand to make cardamom simple syrup. They do sell pre-shelled cardamom pods. Wish I’d known that for my 50th birthday.

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Blogathon for SSA: Cardamom and Language
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2 thoughts on “Blogathon for SSA: Cardamom and Language

  1. 1

    Mmmmm, yes, I’ve had a cardamom love thing going on for years. I think it started with that wonderful Swedish braided sweet bread. You know the kind with sanding sugar sprinkled over the top of it? And recently I had a cardamom ice cream at an Indian restaurant that was some kind of wonderful. I’m going to have to try that cocktail.

  2. 2

    The words I use to describe flavor of something are either references to other more simple foods (Rose, orange, smoke, etc), references to events that the flavors bring to mind (spring picnic grill, cold drink on hot summer day, etc), references to aspects that groups of things that have a similar flavor share (earthy, grassy, light, etc) or synesthesia sorts of things (it tastes green, it’s bright, it pops, etc).

    Cardamom tastes to me like exotic spiced flowers, but there’s also a bright note that reminds me of citrus. It’s a cool flavor that combines with warmer flavors like cinnamon very well.

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