Wait, I've got it -- Cubeb was that race of people on Next Gen who only spoke in metaphors.
Nuh-uhh. One more guess.
All right, I’m going to say that Cubeb was . . . an early 20th century art movement?
And you retire at a perfect 0-3.
OK, I'm going to throw all the cards over and tell you that cubeb is actually a spice. A real friggin’ obscure spice in these parts. Back in the 80s, Maggie and I turned the town upside-down trying to find some, or to even find out what it was. We knew of it only as an ingredient in a medieval recipe that Maggie was eager to prepare for one of her feasts, but the recipe gave no clue as to what cubeb might be. It was just a word on a page. Maybe it had a modern name and was available at the supermarket; we just didn't know.
But here in the 21st century, the bulk of human knowledge seems to be no further away than a few deft mouse clicks. But before I get to that, let me tell you how I got there. I hadn't thought of cubeb in years. But as chance would have it, I was tagging along with our friend meryddian last week when she paid a call to a well equipped suburban spice shop, The Spice House. The moment I walked through the front door, my nostrils were ravished by the assorted aromas of the place. It had been many a long year since I'd set foot in a spice shop, and those aromas caused my brain to be instantly swarmed by a rush of long-buried memories, chief among them that unrequited search for cubeb.
I approached a man who worked there and asked him if he stocked something called cubeb. Well, no. But he'd heard of it! He'd actually heard of it! “It's been two years since anybody asked for cubeb here,” he said. Not often enough to keep it in stock. But did he know where I might acquire some? Yes he did! He recommended the San Francisco Herb web site. On Thursday, I finally got around to checking it out. It seems that the San Francisco Herb web site isn't an actual on-line store, but rather more of an on-line resource for all things spice-related. I ended up at a site that sold me a 1.6 oz. stash for about $16 (half of that being shipping and handling). Maggie is coming to Chicago next week and I'm going to surprise her with it. “Oh, some surprise Chuck! You’re writing about it on your blog, for Chrissakes!” Yeah but y’see, Maggie doesn’t have a computer these days and has never visited this site, so if any of you happen to see her this week, don’t say anything, OK? Thanks.
A bit more about cubeb, if you’re curious, courtesy of chefshop.com.
Cubeb pepper, Piper cubeba is a dried berry native to Indonesia. It is also known as Java Pepper and "tailed pepper" due to the presence of its stem. This aromatic spice was a black pepper substitute in Europe in the 1500-1600s, introduced from India by way of Venice. In contrast to black pepper, though, cubeb heat is also bitter, and its aroma is peppery and pungent, with touches of camphor and nutmeg. Cubeb is still a commonly used spice in Morocco, especially as a component in Ras el Hanout, in Indonesia in curry blends, and here in the West is an ingredient in premium gins. Because of its aromatic qualities, cubeb goes well with meat, cheese and vegetable dishes. It may be substituted for pepper in spice mixtures such as quatre-épices for flavoring patés, sausages, gingerbreads and spiced biscuits. Another use for cubeb is in place of allspice, where it will give a more peppery flavor.
Extra credit – on a completely different topic
A simple question: Can anyone tell me why the icon at the top of this posting constitutes a pun? Fabulous prize for first correct answer, and sincere gratitude for amusing wrong answers.