Beyond Dill

I grew up with five spices: salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon and dill weed. I have been using these five spices almost exclusively for fifty years.

Given those limitations, I have been the principal food shopper and cook for our family for the last thirty years. During that time, it has occurred to me that that there are other spices, but I had some fear around trying them. I guess you could say I was caught in a rut, repeating the same dishes my mom and my grandmothers cooked which did not go beyond those five seasonings.


I don’t know if sugar is a spice, but cutting it out of my diet has coincided with a desire to explore other flavors. Today, for example, I tasted rice and beans and said aloud to Steph and Beth, “this has no zing! What should I add?”

“Coriander, Cumin, a little more salt and lime juice,” came the responses. And so I did. And it helped A LOT, expanding the taste experience. To me it was like adding a horn section to a song.

Our friend, Sandi, is an excellent cook. She explained to me that different cultures have their own selection of spices. Indian cooks, for example, have a different set of spices than the Japanese or Mexican chefs. Makes sense. “You’ll understand more spices and flavors when you try cooking those foods, Scott.”

The World of Spices

But is this considered cultural appropriation? Some might say so, but I disagree. I love the idea of musicians sharing their instruments or styles across boundaries and feel the same way about cuisines and most cultural traditions. As long as we say, “this dish or idea came from Mexico,” I feel it is a way to honor our differences.

Otherwise, I’m stuck with five spices and that’s not enough anymore.

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