Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Depending on who you ask this is either the stinkiest of stinky spices or the most wonderful smell ever.

De gustibus non disputandum est.

What is clear is that this seems to be the grandchild of the legendary silphium which has long since vanished into extinction.

The plant is legendarily stinky. When the CC bought pure asafoetida in India, he packed it in four, count 'em four bags of plastic, and an air-tight plastic case, and he could still smell it. He was terrified that it was not going to make it through customs but the cold weather in the airplane cargo at 30,000 feet seemed to do the trick.

When fried, which is how it's supposed to be used, it smells sublime. It's like a combination of leeks, onions and garlic. That's why we put up with the stinkiness. That's why the Romans did too, and no less an authority than Garciá de Orta defended it vociferously.

The love-hate affair is quite clearly expressed linguistically. The French call it merde du diable (= devil's shit.) Even the English name channels the "fetid" part from Latin.

What you get commercially is laced with wheat flour. It would be a stretch to call this adulteration since there is a method to the madness but it's still not the real deal.

The real deal is priced more like a precious metal than a food ingredient, and there's a reason that connoisseurs adore it. It just smells great (and it's an excellent anti-flatulent to boot!)

It's almost impossible to make people "switch camps". Either you love it or you don't.

The clerk who sold some to the CC in Spain of all places, was like, "What do you see in this? It smells awful." His boss, who was clearly knew better said, "Ignore him. This stuff is amazing. I love it."

Which camp are you in?

1 comment:

Heguiberto said...

Nice post!
How can you make a great dal soup without it? My pantry is always a bit smelly but I don't care lol
I had no idea the French called it Merde Du Diable. How about those stinky cave aged, barn-yardy smelly delicious cheeses they make?
Do I see double standard here?
I'd say cheerio to both,lol