Black, white, pink, green. I imagine that most cooks, much like me, use pepper everyday and don't think much about it. Not like the thought that goes into adding a favorite herb to a dish, or, indeed, creating a dish to spotlight a favored herb. Pepper is simply a "well, of course" spice that is added to most savory dishes without a second thought.
When I was a child, the only pepper in my parents' house was from the Schilling or McCormick can, already ground. I never liked it and consequently never used pepper in my cooking until I was well into adulthood and discovered the joys of freshly-cracked black pepper. Now I can't imagine not using pepper, either as a condiment on top of, or as part of the deep, warming spices of a savory dish as it's cooking. My favorite black pepper is Tellicherry. The taste is deep, smokey, pungently intense, with just the right amount of bite.
Wikipedia tells me that "Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe berries of the pepper plant. The berries are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the fruit, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The berries are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the fruit around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer around the seed. Once dried, the fruits are called black peppercorns." Originally grown only in the Malabar area of southern India, black pepper is now also grown in Malaysia, Brazil and Indonesia.
My husband puts freshly cracked black pepper on his cantaloup then proceeds to eat every slurpy bite while groaning in ecstasy. I am horrified. As I was growing up, my parents put salt on their home-grown cantaloup. I followed suit until I realized that a good melon actually tastes better to me without salt. Since then I've eaten my melon unadorned. Until the other day.
Yep, I can still learn a thing or two about taste. As I was cutting up a luscious, honey-scented melon for breakfast and watched my husband grind pepper all over his serving, I thought of the taste of the Tellicherry peppercorns. I thought of the taste of a chilled, ripe melon. Lo and behold, the light bulb went on. I tried it. I liked it. All these years... Who knew?
Although I realize that pepper is a spice, I'm hoping this post qualifies for Kalyn's Weekend Herb blogging. Check out what other herbs food bloggers are talking about this weekend at Kalyn's Kitchen. If you're a blogger and want to join in, read about WHB here.