If you had seen my spice cupboard in 2005, you might have laughed.
A half-empty cinnamon bottle, used vigorously during the holiday season, then not touched for months. The same was true for the nutmeg and cloves. I think I may even have owned a squat Pumpkin Pie Spice. Honestly, I don't even know what Italian Seasoning is, but I kept it. Iodized salt. Ground black pepper.
That was it.
Now, the spice drawer in our pull-out pantry is stuffed full of little bags and mismatched glass jars: smoked paprika; gomashio for poached eggs on brown rice; star anise; turmeric; dried lavender; fresh vanilla beans. We still have cinnamon, but it's from Saigon instead of Schilling. Those holiday cookies taste a hell of a lot better now, even if they are gluten-free.
I really don't think I would have discovered the world of spices without letting go of gluten.
It's too easy to rely on old standards when you think you can eat everything. It was only when an entire world of food was closed to me that I became voraciously interested in every food I could eat.
The other day, my friend Sharon and I walked into World Spice here in Seattle. The mingled smells of cumin and fenugreek, lemongrass and mustard seeds, nigella and sumac made us both stop and smell, smile at each other, then smell again. Honestly, every time I walk into that store, I slow down. I lift lids and breathe in, close them up and wonder what I would cook with that spice, move to the right and lift another lid. It's meditation through inhalation.
At the counter, I asked for two ounces of juniper berries, among other spices and herbs. When we left the store, Sharon said, "What are you going to do with juniper berries? I would never buy those."