Spices? What Spices?

spice racks

My spice racks. Yes, I have three. I’ve accumulated a few spices.

When I got married, I didn’t know what spices I needed to be able to cook food that actually tasted good. I received a spice rack as a wedding gift so I thankfully had some spices I needed, but I quickly learned it didn’t have everything I needed to make tasty meals. Not. Even. Close.

After several years, there were spices in the spice rack that I never even opened because I just didn’t need them. (If anyone knows a good recipe that uses Marjoram, let me know!) I wish I had known what I needed and purchased those spices all at one time instead of making a trip down the spices aisle for every new recipe.

One key is knowing what types of food you like to cook in general. You can find lists online that tell you what kind of spices you are most likely to need depending on what kind of food you like to cook. I like to cook Mexican and Italian food the most. Just search “spices for _______ food” (insert your favorite type(s) of food in the blank).

I use dried spices and herbs more than the fresh versions because dried spices are easier to keep on hand. For example, fresh basil is awesome when I actually have it, but fresh herbs and spices usually spoil faster than I am able to use them. However, for some recipes like pesto, fresh basil is the way to go and I know I’ll use the whole bunch in one recipe.

Below is the list of common spices in my house. These are the only spices I had to buy more of in the first few years of cooking because I actually ran out. Martha Stewart includes a few different items on her basic spice checklist.

  • Basil
  • Chili powder (we go through so much of this every year!)
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Thyme

What spices would you add to this list?

If you want to experiment with some new recipes, visit your library’s Cooking neighborhood or our online catalog to browse and check out some of our cookbooks.

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Abigail Siemers

Abigail is the Community Services Librarian. She loves to read, write, listen to music, crochet, watch DIY television, and eat pretty much anything that involves potatoes or chocolate. Some recent reads that she loved were "The Invisible Library" by Genevieve Cogman and "The Rose and the Dagger" by Renee Ahdieh.