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Foodies of New England
New York isnâ€™t the only state with historical ties to nutmeg. Connecticut, in addition to being the â€œConstitution State,â€? is sometimes known as the â€œNutmeg State.â€? Two variations exist as to the reason why: One story claims that early settlers of Connecticut had a reputation for being shrewdâ€”so shrewd that they made and sold â€œnutmegsâ€? made of wood, thus pulling one over on nonNew Englanders. Another (and more plausible) version suggests that southern customers were simply frustrated with â€œYankee peddlersâ€? who sold them genuine nutmegsâ€Śbut perhaps neglected to explain that nutmeg is to be grated, not cracked.
A Nutmeg Trip? If you want a natural highâ€”from something other than running, perhapsâ€” consider the nutmeg your good-time spice. It contains myristicin, a natural compound that can get you pretty trippyâ€”think mind-altering effects and hallucinationsâ€”if ingested in large doses. Sounds cool, but it isnâ€™t. In all seriousness: Itâ€™s all fun and games until someone tosses back a bit too much nutmeg. First comes nausea and gastrointestinal distress, then heart and nerve reactions, then the hallucinatory effects. That translates into toxicity and dangerous situations not unlike glue-snifďŹ ng, â€œmagic markerâ€? highs, and other poisonous-play with household products. (Needless to say, Foodies does NOT recommend ingesting nutmeg in this fashion. Stick to its culinary uses, kids!)
Onward to Healthier Uses... Like many other spices, nutmeg was valued for its medicinal properties, once-upon-a-time. Reference to it is made in Indian writings (as a remedy for headaches, fever, and bad breath) and Arab texts praise it as an aid to stomachaches and heartache (that is,
as an aphrodisiac). Nutmeg still retains its reputation for relieving nausea, and modern homeopathy uses it to treat anxiety and depression. Nutmeg oil is used in toothpaste, perfume, and cough syrup, as well as in the cosmetics industry. A little nutmeg goes a long way, assuming you keep your intake under control, and itâ€™s among the more versatile spices. So if youâ€™re near the eggnog at a Christmas party and the conversation is slow...well, you can always talk about how the British got Manhattan from the Dutch thanks to nutmeg.
Although nutmeg is a popular ingredient in traditional New England dishes, its connection to the colonial era has to do with more than ďŹ‚avorful seasoning.