August 16th, 2009

Spice, Spice Baby — My Turn!

Greetings fellow spice/herb enthusiasts (and any others reading this)! Welcome to week 12 of the Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour, which I am hosting in honor of poppy seeds. Enviably nestled here between BadAssKona and P. S. Haven, I feel especially honored to host the first organized get-together following the beautiful in-person gathering at which a number of fellow erotic writers and partners/family members convened in Gettysburg last weekend.

So to start off, for anyone wondering, yes, poppy seeds do contain what I have read to be “negligible” amounts of opium. Both snopes and MythBusters have addressed the question of whether poppy seed consumption can cause a positive result in a drug test, and both have said yes. It is also stated that the amount of opium in poppy seeds is negligible to a degree that eating them will generally not result in feeling any effects as such — but consuming them has been documented to cause non-drug-users to test positive in a drug screening. (That being said, I myself consumed so many of the muffins while I was testing the recipe below that I wonder if I got close to feeling such effects. It seems unquestionable that I would have failed a drug test!)

So, no opiate party here today. ;)

Moving on, the Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour, as well this summer, are nearing their close. Of course, they have not concluded yet — they’re just getting close. According to Traditional Five-Element Acupuncture, we are currently in a season of transition. Commonly known as Late Summer, it is one of the five seasons (along with the familiar four of spring, summer, autumn, and winter) corresponding with the five elements that give Five-Element Acupuncture its name. The Late Summer season symbolizes transition, which is reflected right now in the transition between Summer and Autumn.

In that spirit, I am offering two poppy-seed-including recipes today. One reminds me of Summer, and one Autumn. They are an honoring of both seasons and of the invitation of Late Summer. Fittingly, poppy seeds themselves seem to transition smoothly between the two.

“All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, first released at the end of last summer, particularly speaks to me of the seasonal transition theme. Here’s a performance of it live:

The affinity in me for poppy seeds stems as much from their aesthetic qualities and texture as from their flavor. I do like their flavor. As a spice, poppy seeds seem relatively subtle. Perhaps, having rarely been characterized as “subtle” in my life, I appreciate this in a vicarious way. Or maybe I just like the way they taste. : ) But their subtlety aside, I actually find their flavor quite appealing and have been known to use them liberally in the kitchen, sprinkling them on various (sometimes random) things from salad to pasta.

One of the reasons I like poppy seeds in baked goods is texture-related. I like texture, particularly crunchy/chewy, and poppy seeds add a textural dimension to baked goods that is not as abrupt or pronounced as, for example, raisins or nuts. Poppy seeds contribute to an even texture throughout — the texture is transformed (again, subtly) rather than conglomerated.

This evenness carries into poppy seeds’ aesthetic as well. Their appearance is a large part of why I like them so much. (While I have viewed them as black and round, Wikipedia has informed me that poppy seeds are actually “slate-blue” and kidney-shaped. I prefer black and round, so I appreciate their size precluding me from really discerning the difference.) I love the aesthetics of food, and I like to pay attention to how food looks as I’m preparing and presenting it. Poppy seeds, to me, add a dash of aesthetic depth, evenness, and (no pun intended) spice to almost any dish. As with texture, they seem to spread evenly, both in baked goods and sprinkled on things like noodles, so that they seem to lend an appearance of evenness and symmetry that I find appealing.

So, on to the seasonal duo of poppy seed recipes — first, an offering of appreciation for the Summer coming to a close. This is a recipe for Emerald’s Summer Salad (the counterpart to the “winter salad” I presented in February for the Progressive Blog Dinner):

-Approximately 6 cups romaine lettuce
– 1 cup sliced/diced strawberries
-1 to 2 diced avocado(es)
-1/2 of a ruby red grapefruit*
-1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or Gorgonzola
-1 T. fresh chopped parsley
-1 T. fresh chopped chives

-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
-2 teaspoons poppy seeds
-Grapefruit juice squeezed after fruit has been removed*

1) Cut grapefruit in half and section with a grapefruit sectioner or small knife.

2) Remove grapefruit segments. Add with strawberries and avocado to lettuce.

3) To make dressing, mix olive oil, vinegar, poppy seeds, and juice squeezed from the grapefruit rind.

4) Add all remaining ingredients to lettuce mixture, add dressing, and toss.

*Note: I highly recommend tasting the grapefruit first to make sure it is a good one. If the grapefruit is bitter at all, the juice in the dressing will introduce a bitter flavor to the salad.

In cooking (as in eating) I aim to use the least processed, most healthful ingredients practical — sometimes, admittedly, to a fault, subverting focus on the taste in favor of preparing something most optimally nourishing for the body. Ideally, of course, the two come together complementarily. : ) The ingredients in this recipe reflect this focus to some degree, most notably in the use of 100% whole wheat flour.

Invitation into Autumn recipe: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins

-1 3/4 cup 100% whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 cup poppy seeds
-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon allspice
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet (you guys have such dirty minds)
-1 egg (beaten)
-3/4 cup milk
-1/4 cup safflower oil (any cooking oil is fine)
-1/2 cup pumpkin
-2 teaspoons vanilla

1) Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2) In a separate smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients.

3) Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add egg mixture all at once. Stir just until combined (batter should be lumpy).

4) Fill lightly greased muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 400 degrees about 20-22 minutes.

I have found these muffins to work well both by themselves or with condiments like cream cheese or strawberry preserves.

So while you’re here I’d like to invite you to muse about transition in whatever way strikes you. Particularly sex and transition — any particular progressions or transitions you find sexy? An example that comes to me is a woman dressed very elegantly, hair and makeup done meticulously, changing out of her dress clothes into jeans and a button-down shirt — but her hair and makeup are still perfectly done. There’s something I find very sexy about that image.

Thank you so much for coming by today! I want to thank Rick Write for being my food photographer and providing the salad and muffin photographs above (and also for throwing out the title of this post, which I promptly stole to use lol). And of course a big thank you to the magnificent Marina St. Clare and Donna George Storey for organizing this delightful blog tour and inviting me to participate.

Next week be sure to visit P. S. Haven for something salty! By which I mean, of course, visit his blog for his presentation of salt as next week’s host. ;)


“Now nothing seemed as strange as when the leaves began to change, or how we thought those days would never end…”
-Kid Rock “All Summer Long”

33 Responses “Spice, Spice Baby — My Turn!”

  1. Wow, Emerald, I’m definitely going to have to give those muffins a try. I have a lemon poppyseed muffin recipe that I make from time to time :D

    I had to laugh at the “round and black” part – I adore the slate blue color of poppyseeds!

    Hmm. Transitions. There are lots of transitions that I find fascinating…where fresh water meets the ocean, the time between day and night and night and day. And definitely the transitions between the seasons…the first crisp tang of fall, the cool moist fall of snow, that tingling warmth of the sun on a spring day…

    Then there’s sexier ones…the tanline at a man’s waistline from working shirtless in the sun just draws the eyes and fingers to that protected skin. The sensitive skin on the inside of a wrist compared to the palm of the hand…

    Well..I likely could go on, but I need to go help Mr. Greyson work on his truck(hopefully he’ll be shirtless!)

    I’ll stop back to add more later!

    Lovely start to the day, Em!

  2. Hi Em!

    Sorry I’m a bit late! Struggling with a small computer issue this morning. Feel like the day has wasted away. ;-)

    Your post is very interesting to me spice-wise as I have absolutely no experience in food preparation with poppy seeds.

    Add to that the challenge of finding someone named Poppy to reference at my introductory blog to come to your place, and then computer…well…

    I digress.

    Regarding transitions, like Scarlett, I love transitions in general. Sunrise and sunset are my favorite times of the day. I’ve been known to sit on the porch and watch Venus slowly disappear from the sky as dawn progresses.

    She winks when she disappears.

    We go through lives of transitions, and truly, one of the things that defines us is how open we are to transition, and how we adapt to the changes.

    Do we embrace change, see deeper into ourselves, or do we shy away from it unless forced into it?

    How about a transition of your image of a woman from formal dress to jeans and button down shirt, to the simple removal of high heels? The change in her posture, the contrast of dressy clothes to bare feet.

    A favorite mental image of mine is a woman in a long, silky, dress, which covers her feet, her shoes dangling in her hands. Such promise when she prepares to walk!

    Speaking of transitions, my suffering computer keeps coming up with a warning that “software installation is complete” and the bugger wants to restart itself.

    Who knows what it has been up to, but I better reboot so I can find out.

    Maybe it’ll take off it’s high-heels?

    Wish me luck…

  3. Emerald says:

    Good morning Scarlett and Craig! Both of you said such interesting things about transitions it blew me away — somehow you managed already to offer far more about the topic than even occurred to me when I tossed it out.

    Silly me, underestimating you guys. ;)

    I love the water meeting the ocean transition, Scarlett. It hadn’t even occurred to me as a transition — such a beautiful example!

    And Craig — that image of a woman with shoes dangling in her hands. Wow. So simple and striking. It reminds me of a way I’ve experienced your writing in general: Displaying something I’ve seen before in a way that makes me appreciate it a way I haven’t, with simple, striking, exquisite imagery.

    Also, Craig, I was so late in posting (the sun was already coming up!) that you might not be have been as late as you felt like, heh. ;) Certainly best to you with the computer issue(s) though.

    Thank you both so much!

  4. It seemed the reboot went okay, and my computer is behaving well…post transition.

    You know, I may just have to write a short-short story for Mini Monday about a lady in an evening gown with shoes in her hand.

    The shoes, of course, would be emerald shoes.

    Thanks for the kind words about my writing!

    Happy Sunday.

  5. I am a muffin whore! I love them. I don’t care what’s in them, I just love muffins. And yes, esp the tops and I have been known to leave the stumps (see Seinfeld for details).

    I’ve never been a fan of poppy seeds, or sesame. But as I age,I’ve grown fond of them. I never understood this until I started to watch (became addicted to) Gordon Ramsay’s The F word and Kitchen Nightmares. Apparently, our palates age with us and we begin to accept flavors and textures we once thought horrible. So there you go.

    I think that pumpkin poppy seed muffins sound like heaven right now and I might have to go rummage the pantry. I’m very ready for the transition from summer heat to fall leaves and breezes. I am ready for boots and jeans and fishnets and big clunky sweaters and a scarf. God. Am. I. Ready.

    But that is not my transition. I like to see a man go from neat and tidy to filthy dirty. I mean, crap under his fingernails, ridged in his skin, smudged across his jaw. Hair standing out sweaty twirls, clothes covered in debris. And then I jump on him and–

    Well, as you see. I like that transition from clean to dirty. Go figure, eh?


  6. Another transition…

    A man in formal attire, tie(bow or regular) loose, just draped around the neck, collar unbuttoned, jacket in hand or over the shoulder. Similar to the woman in the evening gown, there’s the sense of a lingering promise…

    Emerald – in regards to the fresh water/salt water transition – in the Mayan(I believe) culture, the meeting of fresh and salt water was sacred. Beneath their temples ran underground rivers, that they believed they could travel into another realm. It’s a fascinating concept and very interesting studying.

    The transitional spaces with regards to water are fascinating. Waterfalls, deltas, springs, all places where water changes paths. Fog makes everything a transitional space, hiding what’s just out of sight.

  7. P.S. Haven says:

    Nice muffins, Emerald. ;)
    Great post.
    Transitions. First one that comes to mind (which usually means it’s my favorite) is the transition from black-laced stocking to milky white thigh. Yeah. Yeah, that works.
    I also am quite fond of the transition from calm, composed self-assured I-am-in-control-of-this-situation woman to disheveled, hair-messed-up, sweaty, panting, I’ll-do-whatever-you-say minx. Perhaps that reveals me as an old school caveman, but it’s the truth.
    Thanks for the post, E!

  8. Neve Black says:

    Of course I went right to the opiate drug reference when I knew poppy seeds were the Emerald du jour. I like to think I get a bit more loopy than usual (haha) when biting into one of those seeds. I suppose all spices act as drugs in some way. They each create new flavors/experience for our tongues and minds – yes?

    Transitions: Oh boy, like Sommer I like the sexiness of clean to dirty. Yum, yum, yum. I also like dirty to clean too, but with the twist of finding a smudge of garden dirt behind an ear lobe, or a sliver of oil under one naughty finger nail that refused to be clean. It’s that little taint of dirty against crisp and clean that makes my knees wobble.

    Oh and Craig, I’m looking forward to your mini-Monday story about the woman in the gown holding those strappy, sandals.

    Emerald, wonderful recipes and fabulous post. Rick did an excellent job with the photos too.

  9. Emerald says:

    Your computer’s feet probably feel better, Craig, and it’s resulting in improved performance. ;)

    I too look forward to that potential Mini Monday! I want the emerald shoes…. (I have emerald boots, which I love, but alas, no lovely strappy emerald formal shoes.)

  10. Emerald says:

    Ah, yes, I remember from the progressive blog dinner your preference for the cooler seasons, Sommer. (And Craig’s appreciation of the transitional times.) How interesting that you’ve developed a liking for poppy seeds. I suppose it makes sense that taste buds would evolve along with the rest of us. :)

    That was a hot transition description, lol! Thanks!

    How’s the knee, by the way?

  11. Emerald says:

    Scarlett said,
    “A man in formal attire, tie(bow or regular) loose, just draped around the neck, collar unbuttoned, jacket in hand”

    Okay, so seriously, that is one of my favorite looks on a man. I find that loosened tie unbuttoned collar look so sexy it almost always gives me pause.

    That is so cool about the water transition. Thanks for sharing. I like the comment about fog too!

    (I think Rick and I need to get dressed up and go out somewhere…heh, and he can wear black eyeliner. :))


  12. Emerald says:

    Jeez, Haven, I dare say that description got me a bit hot and bothered! Just a bit of course.

    I think I’ve experienced that transition a time or two (or 50). ;)

    Thanks for coming by! I’m looking forward to next week’s salty offering. ::innocent smile::

  13. Emerald says:

    Haha, indeed Neve, it was your influence that led me to double check and post the drug test info. ;) Seriously, I feel like I could probably still fail a drug test from the way I stuffed my face while I was testing the muffin recipe.

    “It’s that little taint of dirty against crisp and clean that makes my knees wobble.”

    How interesting! I am so enjoying these observations about transition.

    I liked the pictures too, Neve, and I’ll let Rick know you mentioned it. : )

    Thank you!

  14. Hi, Emerald! Just poppy-ing in briefly here, on the fly. Delicious! Back later to transition into the transition discussion … : )

  15. Emerald says:

    Jeremy said,
    “Just poppy-ing in briefly here”

    Hahaha! Sounds like you may be in transition yourself at the moment. : ) Thanks for poppy-ing in!

  16. Erobintica says:

    Emerald, on this hot day, that salad sounds delightful. Might be tempted to try it with dinner. I probably would go wonderful with salmon. As for the muffins – I’m back trying to avoid grains, so it’ll be awhile before I partake. One poppy seed thing I’ve always loved was the poppy seed loaf where the filling was thick with seeds. But I haven’t had a good one in years – I’m sure the ingredients used aren’t as good as in times past. There was a thick gooey crunchiness about them that I just loved.

    Transitions. Well, today I’m transitioning to low carb again and it’s making my brain just not function at top speed. So it’s hard to think of transitions that I like – I seem to be more focused on negatives.

    Those first hints of seasonal change are always nice – a cool breezy day dropped in amongst hot steamy ones promising cooler weather.

    I do like that time “between” – like when you’re just laying in bed reading, with nothing else on your mind and then something shifts and you both close your books. That’s always nice.

    If I think of anything more I’ll pop back. ;-)

  17. Isabel Kerr says:

    Hi Emerald and all!

    THIS makes me want to go out and eat everything poppy! Mmmmmm, muffins, I’m with you Sommer, I love em in all their forms and flavors, look delish! And what an intriguing salad, sounds wonderful!

    Hmm, transitions… I’m digging in my heels at the transition from summer to fall right now. No, no. While I like fall, it means winter’s coming and there are just too many clothes involved with winter. I am, as we write, loving wearing as little as possible so I’m not looking forward to more clothes. I love the transition from spring to summer, I get all giddy thinking of, yes, taking off my clothes, so maybe that’s it the transition from clothed to not. : )

    Yummy post emerald, thanks.


  18. Emerald says:

    Ooh, salmon…that does sound like a great combination, Robin.

    Well the invitation was to muse about transitions however they strike you, so thank you for sharing about the dietary transition. Yeah, those can feel intense. I was just talking a day or two ago about how interesting it seems to me how our bodies seem to adapt to how we feed it — if, for example, we decide to eliminate or mostly eliminate something from our diet, after a while the way our body (or mine anyway) responds to it seems to change. Especially if it’s a dietary change that serves/served the body, it may then after a while seem to reject something we think we want to eat or used to love to eat. Our bodies are so amazing. ;)

    What a cool description about both suddenly closing your books. : )

    Thanks for coming by and for sharing, Robin!

  19. Emerald says:

    Hi Isabel! Thank you! I love summer too — I have tended to feel the same way about the spring to summer transition. Heh, it even seems for similar reasons, as I also love wearing few clothes!

    Thank you again, and thank you for coming by!

  20. Donna George Storey says:

    Oh, my, first of all my hat is off to Rick for those amazing photographs that make we want to kick off my shoes, loosen my bow tie, and go bake some muffins while I’m enjoying a deliciously fruity poppy seed salad! The lighting really evokes late summer for me, too. Delish!

    And thank you, Emerald, for an evocative and provocative celebration of poppy seeds. I’m now craving a nice bowlful of noodles with poppy seeds, too. There is something magical about those little round/oval black/blue seeds, a subtle spice but mysteriously complete in their sensual offering.

    Being on the road, I am late to the party, so I feel like my favorite transitions have already been well-described by the more timely guests. I also love a man in formal dress who’s a bit deshabille. I well remember my boyfriend heading home in the early morning after a formal at our eating club, the tux shirt half buttoned, the bow tie draped around his neck. He told me he crossed paths with an older man who grinned knowingly as he made his way back to his dorm. The older fellow probably enjoyed that transition, too.

    And I love seasonal transitions, the hint of the future, especially the end of summer, so bittersweet. And of course that amazing leap from “rational life,” the public self, to the utterly private part of myself, stripped of inhibition, even thought, when my husband and I cross over to Sex Land.

    But I also got to thinking about the transition back to ordinary life, in the wake of the orgasmic climax. When you’re with someone you don’t trust, this is a time of some sadness, but when you’re with someone you love, this transition is the very sweetest moment of all. I never feel more content. It may indeed be like eating lots and lots of poppy seeds ;-).

    Transitions are always tricky moments for writers…but I have to mention one that is very much on my mind these days. Watching my teenager grow from child to adult right before my eyes. I have to confess it’s enthralling. Sometimes scary, but mostly powerful in the most joyous way.

    Thank you again, Emerald for an very thought-provoking celebration of change and good eating!

    Best wishes to you all from rural Virginia–a place for lovers!


  21. Emerald says:

    Donna! What a (not surprisingly) beautiful comment. Thanks for stopping in even amidst your travels!

    I’m loving this focus on dress up, lol — that description of your date’s appearance seriously made me hot, heh.

    That insight about the transition from sex back to “ordinary life” was so fascinating. I never thought about it that way, but it seems to me you just described something seemingly abstract in a poignantly precise way.

    Ah, the transition of watching someone (especially one’s own child) grow from child to adult — what a transition, and I can hardly imagine what that’s like to watch. Thank you for sharing that.

    Thank you, Donna, for stopping by and sharing such beautiful insight, and safe and lovely travels to you and your family!

  22. I’m finally poppy-ing back! I love your celebration of the subtlety and versatility of poppy seeds, Emerald–and I like how you note the distinction between their true shape and color and how your naked (ooh la la) eye perceives them. Hmm, that must be true of a lot of plant and animal items (which seems like a funny word for me to use, but I’m not coming up with a better one) at the edge of our visual tolerance.
    One of my favorite sex-related transitions is the moment when, as a reader, an erotic literary experience crosses over from “I’m engaging with this narrative” to “I’m turned on!”

  23. Emerald says:

    Oh, that is such a cool transition note, Jeremy! I really like that articulation. And yes, I didn’t say much about discussing writerly transitions, but it occurred to me that that (there I go with my “that”-gasms, lol) definitely seems like a ripe area for discussion, no? I noticed Donna alluded to it as well.

    Thank you so much for coming (“poppy-ing,” ha) back by and sharing all that! : )

  24. Gina Marie says:

    Hi Emerald,

    I am very late to this party! It’s been a busy day here in Portland with the “Where the Girls Are” and “Girl Crazy” tour with D.L. King. I went through a brief period in my life where Pampered Chef parties were the “thing.” I bought a mini-muffin pan that promised to make everything in my life perfect. Um……I gotta make the big muthas. No mini muffins for this mama. I made plenty of hockey pucks. But I do love poppy seeds and that wonderful, nutty texture, which reminds me of transitions. From soft to hard. From sweet to spicy. From dry to wet. My favorite transition: those magic moments of falling over the edge, letting go, leaving “everyday life” for something else. The clothes coming off. All the way off. That no turning back point where maybe becomes yes. Yes. Yes.

    Thanks Emerald!!!

  25. Emerald says:

    Hi Gina! I hope you had a wonderful time at your reading! And what a delightful, effervescent comment. I love the way you invoked poppy seeds specifically in a description of transition. They seem reflective of that to me too — they so easily seem to transition from dish to dish, flavor to flavor.

    A beautiful description also of the “falling over the edge” phenomenon…thank you. Thanks so much for coming by, and have a fabulous reading tomorrow!

    P.S. It doesn’t surprise me that you felt drawn to make big, full-size muffins. ;)

  26. Marina says:

    Hi Em – just walking in the door from the trip to Vermont (boy, that was a long walk lol!) – so I’ll get caught up with everything and pop back in the morning to comment for real! Looks like everyone’s been having fun!

  27. Emerald says:

    Hi Marina! Welcome back, and glad you (it seems) had a safe trip!

    I’ll save some muffins for you for breakfast. ;)

  28. Marina says:

    Good morning! Oh, yum! Thanks for the muffin!

    I like this discussion on transitions — my life’s been full of them lately! It was interesting to drive to Vermont this weekend. I was struck by the fact that a few of the trees were transitioning to their fall colors. It seems early, but it was a reminder that everything happens in its own time, at its own pace.

    In personal encounters, I especially like those moments after all of the excitement, when you’re just in each other’s arms, breathing. In the beginning, everything’s out of sync, but as things calm down, everything gets peaceful and cozy and just belongs, and you end up quietly breathing together….

    The salad looks great, and I may try the muffins for a family gathering this weekend! Thanks, Em, for the interesting, thoughtful post!

  29. Emerald says:

    Hi Marina! Thanks for stopping back by. Interesting that you mention breathing — an action filled with transition itself (both from inhale to exhale and exhale to inhale).

    I too have much enjoyed the discussion on transition — everyone had such interesting things to say! Thank you again for coming by, Marina!

  30. Alana says:

    I actually eat a lot of poppy seed muffins.

  31. Emerald says:

    Hi A! I think I might have eaten more testing this recipe than in the last year or two combined, lol.

  32. danielle says:

    what can i say but tasty tasty tasty…?
    delightfully written post miss emerald..i enjoyed every*..word i mean…

  33. Emerald says:

    Hi Danielle! Thank you so much for coming by! I’m so glad you liked it. : )