I grew up in a Cuban-Puerto Rican household, where bay leaves are ever present, although they always seem to appear in large pots, seemingly lost, somewhat irrelevant in their unimpressive dark hues, yet resilient in maintaining their shape through hours in oils on the hearth, swimming obstructed by a variety of bones, chunks, and beans all around them.
Bay leaves belong in that weird realm of trust which comes from passively accepting that things are there for whichever reason. How many times are they tasted in their raw state, hoping to be understood in their profile characters? Seldom. Hardly ever — or the first try is often the final cure. And how often are they allowed to rest with the rest on the fork to be ingested? Possibly never. But they are always there, leaving their impressions, and we always trust that our capable palate is perceiving those impressions — however subdued and hidden but being nevertheless a significant taste necessity. So we trust their taste importance, unaware of their actual qualities.
But now I know much more. Sixty-three years later, I know more. Decades eating the meals of my parents, aunt, grandmother; decades tasting in Spain, Austria, Italy, Cyprus; in rice and beans, lamb, goat —now, suddenly, I know more.
The path to knowing was quite indirect: forgot to put some fresh ones back in the refrigerator, and decided to photograph them the next morning; woke up, saw them, and spontaneously chose to mix one leaf in the coffee grounds….et voilà!
Spectacular! Condensed taste, intertwined with the earthiness of a Vienna roast Hawaiian Kona blend. Notes of minty rosemary, cedar, toasted oregano.
And yet, even in the memory, I am wordless.
Once more I must reaffirm, the reason we drink coffee in all variations, is NOT primarily caffeine. It is the manifestations to the palate, particularly to the attentive palate.