An old friend of mine is visiting from the East. Last night I made us a ( delicious) shrimp and veggie dish with white wine, and when I tasted it it lacked zing, somehow. As this particular pal does not do spicy foods, I was momentarily flummoxed as to the zing element required.
She asked me--"Well, back in the Belgian years, before chiles, what did you use? Thyme? Basil?"
Meanwhile, I was rummaging. No fresh ginger in the house. Zut, alors!
In the end, a dash of soy sauce provided the zing I was looking for, but I was indeed wondering if I had spent umpteen years unaware of the joys ( zing effects) of the American hot pepper. Basil is my next favorite, but it is not zingish.
Ah well--This morning, as I was cooking up potato cakes for breakfast, I carefully avoided anything but black pepper and salt on my guest's fodder. My own cakes were well spiced with a cayenne blend my local store stocks.