I saw my first nutmeg tree in Trinidad, from the window of a moving car. I immediately told my boyfriend, who was driving, to hit the brakes. The tree was spectacular, maybe 20 feet tall, with a canopy of glossy leaves and a riot of pale-yellow fruits bending the branches. More of those fruits lay all over the ground, and most of them had burst open to reveal a seed the size of a walnut, encased in a web of red fibers. Our friend Nigel, who grew up on the island, was with us, and he laughed as I snatched up one of the fruits and held it to my nose. "It's nutmeg," he said. Suddenly I understood that the musky jam I'd eaten at breakfast that morning wasn't spiced with nutmeg; it was made of it.From that moment on I noticed nutmeg trees all over that part of the island, and nutmeg in everything I ate and drank. It was the high note in the sweet potato cake called pone, and the earthy counterpoint to the Scotch bonnet chiles in a soup of beef, taro, and yam. Tasting the island's spicy, custardy version of macaroni and cheese, I realized I'd been eating nutmeg in cheesy, eggy, and creamy dishes all my life; it was both familiar and a total mystery to me.