The first time I visited Miami, I was shocked.
It was hard to imagine, given how much Miami had changed since Hurricane Andrew in 2006.
Miami Beach was the city’s largest commercial port.
It had become a hub for luxury resorts and shopping malls.
And there was something about the old buildings that made me want to walk through them and see what it would be like.
The buildings were crumbling.
The water was rising.
The city was in chaos.
And the pumpkin spice cookies were the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted.
They came with a hint of pumpkin spice and a hint in the spice of cinnamon.
But there was also a hint from the spices I ate: black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon.
They were spicy and sweet.
I felt a kinship with the spice merchants, but I couldn’t help feeling that I had more in common with them than I did with the locals.
And I couldn-t wait to make my way to Miami Beach to celebrate Halloween with my family.
In fact, I decided to head there anyway.
But not before I got some good Halloween supplies for myself.
My mom was in the kitchen and I was at my kitchen table with some pumpkin spice cookie mix.
I had been meaning to buy some spices for years, but my mom told me that she had no money for them.
She had to be able to pay for the spice store.
And she had to make sure I had a way to get there.
My first trip to Miami, in the fall of 2009, was a disaster.
The storm tore down the city and left a trail of destruction in its wake.
But we made it to the coast and arrived at the beach.
I got to work making cinnamon and gingerbread cookies.
And my family made pumpkin spice meringue pie, cinnamon-covered marshmallows, and pumpkin spice coffee cake.
The experience was magical.
But I was also overwhelmed by the fact that we had no idea how to cook the spices.
My mother had a kitchen-saver oven that she used to cook baking spices, so I bought the oven for my family as well.
But that didn’t stop me from experimenting.
My parents didn’t have access to a spice store and had to buy their own spices online.
And while the spices we purchased were a bit too pricey, the mix I bought was so tasty, it made me happy to spend money on it.
So we tried making gingerbread and cinnamon cookies together, too.
We tried mixing pumpkin spice cinnamon meringues with gingerbread, but it wasn’t enough.
And when I saw the pumpkin spices at the spice shop, I knew I had to try them.
I spent the next year working in the shop and learning to cook them.
And it was a year I never wanted to go back to a place that I knew was ruined.
But now I’m ready to make pumpkin spice dessert cookies again.
I’m just hoping that my family won’t be as shocked when I return.