Put Down the Pepper Grinder, Ma'am
Because black pepper should be treated like cloves or cinnamon
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A recent Google search returned more than 468 million hits for the phrase “salt and pepper.” Even accounting for references to hair color, it suggests the two ingredients enjoy a cozy relationship. Too cozy, I’d say: Over the years, I’ve moved away from robotically adding salt and pepper to every savory dish I cook.
Salt, while it obviously has a recognizable flavor that can stand on its own (on a pretzel, for example), is generally used to heighten, balance, and round out other flavors.
Pepper, though, is all about its flavor: Think of the Roman pasta preparation cacio e pepe, where that flavor is, I’ll estimate, two-thirds of the appeal. Pepper is a spice, like cloves and cinnamon, which raises the question of whether you would use cloves or cinnamon in just about every dish you cooked. A response might be, “No. They’re too distinctive; they’d intrude; they’d grow monotonous.” But is pepper any less distinctive and intrusive? No: It’s just that we’ve grown accustomed to it, at least in the Western cuisines that are the foundation of what I for one cook much of the time.