In my never-ending endeavor to cook the perfect meal--I attempt a new recipe at least every two years--it occurred to me that the reason so many of my offerings are not the high-quality caliber I desire is most likely due to no fault of my own. Rather, my sadly outdated spice rack is doing me in.
I think we may still own spices purchased around the time we were married. The trouble is, I can't tell those spices from more recently purchased ones. I can't go by how much has been used. I currently have one unopened bottle of white pepper and another sealed container of orange peel. Both are technically "new" in the sense they are still cellophane wrapped. But can anything sitting on our shelf for five to eight years really be considered "new?" Yet I hesitate to throw them out. If I do, you just know a great recipe calling for orange peel will show up tomorrow.
But I should probably ditch them. I'm not one of those people who can taste a recipe and say, "Oh, I need to add a dash of this or that." I have no sense of spices. In fact, the only spice we use with any regularity is chili powder. We put it on everything. Our motto is, "Anything tastes good hot." And also, "Anything Dena cooks tastes better when masked by copious amounts of chili powder." But beyond that, we rarely use spices.
Or, rarely used to. I in fact have cooked quite a few meals this year and have been dusting cobwebs off spice jars and using the ingredients. This does not make me happy, however, as I'm convinced the herbs have lost their potency and I might as well be throwing cut grass in the pot.
I want new spices. Pretty matching bottles lined up in alphabetical order in my cabinet. The fact that the price of purchasing a full new complement of household spices comes in just under the sticker price for a 2008 Porsche deters me but a little. Well, kind of. Does anyone else besides me go into sticker shock over the price of spices? And WHY do they sell spices in such huge jars when most recipes call for 1/8 teaspoon of a spice? Spices ought to be packaged in itty-bitty envelopes and sold at the checkout counter next to mints and gum.
Meanwhile, watch out cooking world. I'm saving my pennies for some coriander. There'll be no stopping me then.