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The Spices of Life: An Easy Way to Freshen Up Your Meals

What would life be like without spices? Imagine diving into a big ol’ slice of Grandma’s apple pie only to find no cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice. Why bother? Just eat an apple. What about a simmering pot of marinara, sans basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme and rosemary? Oh, yum, boiled tomatoes.
Life, at least at mealtime, would be so bland, blasé and boring without spices. Like the Mona Lisa with no enigmatic smile or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted white. Talk about Dullsville! Thank goodness for Penzeys Spices, a retail chain that carries more than 250 spices, rubs and seasonings, we don’t have to suffer that fate.
Last week, while recipe testing, I just couldn’t make do with the 50 or so odd spices already in my cabinet and was in search of sumac, a popular Middle Eastern spice. Of course, my regular grocer doesn’t carry anything more exotic than cardamom, so a trip to Penzeys was in order. And there it was, for a reasonable price, right next to a dozen other unusual Middle Eastern spices, including nine varieties of curry.
Always fresh, you don’t have to worry about mail ordering something that has been sitting on a shelf for God knows how long. Everything from Berber (the awesomely hot North African pepper blend) to Fenugreek to world-famous Madagascar vanilla, if you are looking for it, most likely they’ve got it. Their salt-free, hand-mixed and ground spice blends can save you the hassle of buying three or four individual ones.
Close your eyes, smell the samples and instantly be transported to a market in Marrakech or a street vendor’s cart in Brazil. Recipes are included with many of the more uncommon choices so that you can get out of that Monday night meatloaf routine.
With 50 stores nationwide, hopefully you have a Penzeys near where you live. If not, check out your local spice merchant, create your own culinary work of art and celebrate the flavors of the world with spices!
What is in your spice cabinet? Do you have a favorite exotic spice? —Karen

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