Spice of Life
Since the emergence of Our Humble Beginnings, spices have played a bigger role in my cooking. The broader I experiment with my dishes, the more extensive my spice collection becomes. Like many, I purchase those little 2 oz spice jars available at most grocery stores and really don’t think much more about it! Like how long has that jar been on the shelf? when was it packed? and how long has it been in my cupboard?
My first exploration into spices was when I attended a lecture hosted by Greenhouse Grocery (the anticipated member-owned Santa Fe Community Coop of which I am a member — YOU should join too!) at The Santa Fe Culinary Academy where Chef Rocky along with Chef Muller, Deborah Madison, and Tanya Story spoke on the delights of using good spices, oils & vinegars to enhance one’s meals. Click here to read an article specifically about that evening.
I left the lecture excited and curious and immediately explored (googled) the world of spices when I found that right here in Santa Fe we have the locally owned and operated Savory Spice Shop (225 Galisteo Street).
Then (as “luck” would have it), an email showed up from The Santa Fe Slow Food organization who was hosting a dinner/lecture right there at the Savory Spice Shop last Thursday. I signed up immediately!
You MUST check this place out and meet Kate Wheeler, Owner/Operator and complete walking encyclopedia spice guru. The evening lecture as well as her wonderful cooking were amazing.
Last weekend I made the first of many purchases: Ceylon Cinnamon, Cardamom, Jamaican jerk seasoning, Tandoori seasoning, and pure Madagascar Vanilla extract. Most of us are buying/eating Cassia ( which is the cinnamon sold in most stores). Whereas the true cinnamon is called Ceylon (from when Sri Lanka was named Ceylon). Cassia is what we are used to and offers a brash, bold, sweet & spicy flavor; whereas Ceylon Cinnamon is milder, less spicy and its flavor tends toward vanilla — a warm floral note with hints of heat and honey fruit. Though it’s milder, true Ceylon cinnamon possesses a deeper cinnamon flavor that plays well in the background of dishes, especially savory ones.
What’s great about the Savory Spice Shop is that every spice has a “test” jar to smell and taste and so you can decide which aroma, flavors work for you. Kate provides a great resource to us newbies in the spice world and can guide you to the best options that suit your cooking style or specific dish. For instance, since I use Cardamom pretty regularly it is OK for me to buy it already ground… whereas someone who might not use it as often may decide to buy it in seed form and grind as you go.
Connecting with Kate and her team at Savory Spice Shop has brought a new level of excitement to Our Humble Beginnings and, if I may be so bold, is really upping the ante on the quality and flavor of the meals!