There isn’t a hispanic cupboard in the world that doesn’t contain Sazon. Not one. My mother cooked with it. As did hers. As ubiquitous as salt, Sazon is the Spanish version of…well, salt. I never read its ingredients, as I would always mindlessly toss a box of Sazon in my grocery trolley as one might do with…salt. I can think of few meals that I didn’t use Sazon in, mostly in lieu of – you clever thing – yes: salt. And then I got pregnant.
During my pregnancy I began my green journey in earnest. After reading several books on nutrition, chemicals and our toxic environment, I became more petrified than a toddler seeing his first clown. From BPA to VOC’s, I had nightmares about the chemicals and compounds that were trying to get to my child, like limping, arms out stretched, undead creatures in a 1950’s B-movie. I had the dirt analyzed in our yard, (yes, I was THAT crazy), to find that it’s lead content was basically that of a Superfund site. (It seems that someone had power washed lead paint off of our brick abode, and the lead still lurked. My dreams of a potager, dashed.) I tossed out all of my cosmetics. I gave away my perfume. I washed our clothes with soap nuts. (So named, as anyone who uses them has gone nuts.) I bought an organic mattress. I bought an organic…everything. I only cooked with an iron pan. I made my own almond milk. I wouldn’t even TOUCH receipts, as I had read that they were covered in BPA. I was basically a lunatic. Last one: I wouldn’t get into a cab with a fragrance tree dangling from it’s mirror. I wish I was exaggerating. So. You can imagine how careful I became about food and drink. (You can’t, actually. It was so much worse than you think.) Which brings us back to Sazon.
I was making an (organic) picadillo, when I reached for the Sazon. I stopped, and for the first time in my life, read the ingredients. Madre Santisima. My beloved Sazon contained MSG, and two food dyes: Yellow 5 and Red 40. It was also extremely high in sodium. I barely read as far as the sodium, as I was too shocked to think of the pounds of MSG, and gallons of dye that I had consumed over my life. Into the bin it went, tossed with the vigor of a Sammy Sosa pitch. I felt as betrayed as a woman who has discovered that her husband is having an affair. More so. You can live without a husband, but how can you live without Sazon?!
You don’t need to. You can make Sazon, and it’s much, much tastier.
Though this Sazon recipe is for one meal, I make it in large batches, to store. It actually tastes best a few days after being made.
Mix, or grind together one tablespoon each of coriander, cumin, annato or achiote, garlic powder, salt and oregano. Add one teaspoon of black pepper and voila! Sazon!
We all were raised with at least one packaged seasoning. I know. You don’t think that you can live without it. Read the ingredients, and take heart. There is a healthier way to spice up your children’s meals, that will allow them to savor the same flavors that you grew up with. Just without the dreaded dyes and preservatives.