Were you ever a broke college student, a starving artist or just one of the multitudes of people that struggled to pay the bills and buy groceries?
You found out the hard way that eating the same things all the time is a certain recipe for food fatigue.
Sure, you can live on ramen, potted meat sandwiches or beans but there’s a way to add flavor to most any dish through the use of herbs, spices and other seasonings. With a little bit of practice, you can make natural and healthy meals with a tone of flavor that doesn’t add extra calories.
You can make spicy Mexican dishes with cilantro, cumin and chili powder (chili powder is dried ground chiles.) Or Mediterranean style foods with fresh flavors of lemon, garlic and rosemary.
Oh the possibilities…
That’s just the beginning.
There are herbs, spices and other seasonings from around the world to enhance the flavor of your foods. With history, certain flavors have come to represent different parts of the world (case in point the spicy Mexican dishes). The seasonings you pick to use in your own dishes might even reflect your own culinary development or your family’s culture.
Once you’ve mastered a simple ‘cheap’ dish such as making a big pot of beans from dried beans you can begin to experiment, switching out different herbs, spices and seasonings to make your recipes your own. You could add dried basil… or oregano… or onion and garlic. In fact those four ingredients when added to a tomato base make a great Italian sauce!
You can switch up the Italian herbs for Mexican ones such as cilantro, lime and peppers for a salsa recipe.
So, what herbs and spices are generally associated with what region?
Popular Kitchen Seasonings From Around the World
Cuisine Popular Herbs, Spices & Seasonings
Italian basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, parsley
French thyme, French tarragon, rosemary, basil, sage, mint, marjoram
Greek dill, lemon, oregano, fennel
Spanish saffron, smoked and regular paprika, rosemary, thyme
German mustard, rye, caraway seeds, borage
Mexican cilantro, chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano
Indian curry powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric
Chinese five-spice powder, star anise, fennel seed, cloves, cinnamon, ginger
Thai Thai basil, cumin, turmeric, lemon grass, cinnamon
These are JUST the beginning! You’ll find your favorites and create your own ‘most used’ spice rack (or shelf) of must-have herbs, spices and seasonings.
Everyone needs salt and there are some delicious salts from around the world too! I’m a fan of Himalayan pink salt, but there’s also French sea salt (Guerande), and red Alaea and black salts from Hawaii, as well as smoked salts.
And pepper? Peppercorns also come not only in black but green, pink and white!
Many seasonings cross boundaries too. Italian and French, Spanish and Greek often utlilize the same spices, such as basil, rosemary, oregano and time, just in a different way. These are good basic herbs to keep on hand for when the mood strikes you.
One can always save money by growing (zone allowing) your own. Fresh herbs are naturally more flavorful than dried and using your own fresh herbs you grew and harvested yourself just adds pride to your cooking. Can’t grow your own, don’t worry, dried herbs and spices are just almost as good!
Only buy quantities that you will use inside of a year so that your spices are always fresh. The last time I ordered a fresh supply of herbs, nutmeg in particular, I was blown away by how aromatic the scent was when I opened the bag!
Check your dates and replace as necessary.
Don’t throw the old ones out! Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and other holiday spices are wonderful when mulled in a simmering pot on top of the stove. It’ll fill your house with the scent of Christmas! Got old basil and other herbs, don’t toss them either. Add to your compost pile!