Most of us love to eat. Seriously, whether it is grandma’s secret spaghetti sauce or that delicious winter soup your cousin makes. We secretly (or not so secretly) envy friends who can whip up a delicious Indian dish or a spicy salsa.
Some of us have that magical talent of blending and mixing spice flavors, and some of us struggle to follow the simplest recipes while hoping our foodie friends will invite us over for dinner. But everyone, except for maybe your eight-year-old son, who lives on macaroni and cheese, loves to eat a well-flavored meal.
HISTORY OF SPICES
As humans, we have been incorporating spices to add some pizzazz into our favorite dishes for as long as we can remember.
It’s kind of fun to look at the most common spices on our kitchen shelves and realize they have been around for centuries. These seemingly innocent dried herbs and ground spices have inspired international trade, sparked wars, and been sought after by royalty.
If we look back at history, spices are almost as old as civilization itself. A quick Google search will lead you to the tales of spices like black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, chili pepper, and cardamom that have been traded from continent to continent.
At one point, the spice trade was the world’s largest industry, involving civilizations in Asia, Northeast African, and Europe. The excitement around spices sparked some of the first international trade routes, shaping the world’s economy in a way that continues to be experienced even today. If you can believe it, it is actually said that the very start of globalization started with an interest in spices.
The spice trade led to the world diversifying their palates, with the traditionally bland meat and potatoes diet of Europe transitioning to something a little less monotonous. Some of the most exotic tastes were finally within reach, but only for the rich. Spices were not always accessible for everyone. In fact, they became a new symbol of high social status for those of the Western world.
The versatility of spices only further solidified their excitement, with users worldwide ranting and raving about their transformative abilities to add flavor and aroma, enhance savory dishes, and improve health and wellness. For example, take sage, a herb derived from the Latin word Salvere, or “to save.” While this multipurpose spice was said to protect against the plague in the Middle Ages, today, it is known for its ability to improve brain function and memory, especially for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
What does all of this information tell us? While foodie trends come and go, the use of spices is a tale as old as time as they remain a staple in our pantries today. However, some of us new foodies might be a little nervous to use spices, not knowing how much or which to use when. We can assure you that a little practice makes perfect and when in doubt, less is more.
Here’s a quick tip: you can always add more later on to season the food just right, but subtracting a spice is a lot more complicated.
Whether you buy them from the corner store across the street, the local supermarket, or a specialty shop, spices are widely available. And we bet it’s easy for you to think about the top five spices you cook with the most. Which leads us to…
POPULAR TYPES OF SPICES
Feel overwhelmed while scouring the spice aisle? Find yourself a fish out of water in the kitchen? Unsure about the difference between garlic powder and garlic salt? Not sure if you should buy fine ground pepper of whole black pepper, don’t stress – here is a list of essential spices to stock your pantry with now.
A tried-and-true in Indian and Thai dishes, turmeric has recently gained attention from wellness lovers and foodies alike for its versatility. Its bright, floral taste is now seen as a superfood used in some of the most delicious teas and smoothies. Some experts even claim that it can be used to reduce pain and inflammation.
From freshly baked cinnamon rolls to a delicious french toast brunch, cinnamon is the star of the show for many breakfast and dessert dishes. While most of us in the Western world are familiar with the woodsy taste of Indonesian cinnamon, you can opt for a spicier, cinnamon heart flavor with the Vietnamese variety.
Smoked paprika is a powerhouse ingredient generally used on meat to bring out its smoky flavour. No BBQ? No problem. Its slight smoke flavour lingers on your tastebuds, similar to the scent of fire after leaving a bonfire. If you are not a meat-eater, it is also used often in savory vegetarian dishes to enhance flavor profile naturally.
If you are partial to the Mediterranean or Latin American taste, you’ve likely enjoyed many dishes using seasonings like oregano. Its warm, slightly bitter flavour is delicious and versatile. Sprinkle it on pizza, add a dash to Caprese salad, scatter it onto roasted chicken. The sky’s the limit with this one!
Never sure what to do with paprika? A little dash of paprika and you can easily spice up any dish, incorporating an entirely new element into some of the most bland cuisines. While most of us think about adding a little paprika on top of our deviled eggs, it is also often blended into spice mixes for pulled pork and whole chicken as well.
EXPERT TIPS + TRICKS
The best part about spices is their ability to up the ante on the flavor profile without the detriments to our health. While we might lean towards fats and salts, spices provide a delicious taste with added health benefits instead. To get the most out of those delicious spices, we would recommend to:
Store them properly
Secret tip: store herbs and spices in a ziplock bag in the produce bin of your refrigerator for long-lasting freshness. While you might be tempted to store them above your stove for easy access, this is a no-no!
Keep an eye on expiration dates
While you may think that spices last forever, surprise! they can expire sooner than you think. Old spices lose their flavor and coloring, so be sure to check the dates to ensure that they are still fragrant and fresh. Your dishes deserve the best.
Invest in a spice grinder
Instead of opting for pre-ground options, be adventuresome. Go for optimal freshness and purchase a spice grinder. Fresh ground spices are the most flavorful. Your palate will thank you.
Toast whole spices
Want to bring out the flavour even more? Give whole spices a quick toast in the pan before use to increase both flavour and aroma. Delicious for the tastebuds and will make your home smell fragrant, too.
Use a microplane
Not even sure what a microplane is? It’s a small grater made just for spices and lemon zest. Some fresh spices, like nutmeg, ginger and turmeric, are best used when they are freshly grated so don’t knock it till you try it.
WHERE TO BUY
guuguuds has all the guuds to add some pizzazz to your most basic dishes. Here are some of our favorite spices:
This 2oz jar of Magic Salt by Curio Spice Kitchen is a must-have for all of your cooking needs. Turkish Maras chili flakes with smoked paprika, chipotle, cayenne, and Maine sea salt will quickly season breakfast, lunch, or dinner with ease.
Smoke & Grille Set
Curio Spice Kitchen is at it again with its Smoke & Grille Set. The perfect spice blend for BBQ season, this kit includes one tin of Vietnamese Coffee Rub, one jar of Chile!, one jar of Applewood smoked Maine sea salt, one jar of smoked Spanish paprika, and one jar of Sicilian chili flakes. What more do you need?
Give this versatile ingredient a try. Black Lime is common in Persian cooking. It’s a savory, tart flavor that’s great on roasted meat or vegetables, in stews, and anywhere you’d use lime juice. It’s also an excellent alternative to Makrut / lime leaves in Southeast Asian dishes. Even if you are a beginner cook, give this one a try.
At guudguuds, we love food and good cooking. You are the heroes in your kitchen sharing the joy and fun that goes into preparing a simple or elaborate meal for family and friends. Together, we make the everyday into the extraordinary by adding an extra dash of kindness, good intention, and impact.
Join us in celebrating our purpose-driven spice vendors. Check out Curio Spice and Burlap & Barrel. Both of these ethical vendors produce high-quality products while supporting sustainable and responsible local farmers. It’s guud farming for guud.
We are looking forward to seeing you get creative in the kitchen. Have fun!