Back in January, while my hand was immobilized, E. took a spin at cooking for the two of us. This was fun, because he's much more adventurous than I am. One recipe we tried was found in the New York Times for "Hot and Numbing Chicken."
Looks good, sounds easy... except for the Sichuan peppercorns, which we didn't have on hand but figured we could get with a trip to Fox & Obel. Alas, there were none to be found--anywhere. (E. improvised and the recipe turned out OK--maybe he'll tell us how.)
A few weeks later the self-same NYT reported that Sichuan peppercorns are actually illegal (reproduced here, as they are charging for this article in the archives). I wish they'd noted that in the recipe, or identified some possible substitutes. I wanted E. to write a letter and complain about this inconsistency, but he is still miffed at them for not publishing the letter he wrote them two years ago about the forestry service.
Good thing we saved the recipe, because I read today the peppercorns may be available for sale again sometime soon:
Roasting the spice to a temperature of 140 degrees or more for at least 10 minutes destroys any chance the peppercorns are harboring a canker that destroys citrus plants, said Dore M. Mobley, an APHIS spokeswoman.
I note, with some glee, that this is reported in the Chicago paper, while the misleading NYT (apparently) remains blithely unaware.
But not everyone thinks fussing with food is fun. For them, this article: Who's Afraid of Nigella Lawson?
Random find while hunting for references to peppercorns: This guy's fun pix of NYC--the next best thing to being there!