Spices make everything better


It’s all in the seasoning

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year that I’ve spent attempting to make myself a better cook, it’s that spices make all the difference. Yes, salt and pepper always, but lots of other spices too. Thyme, rosemary, cumin, turmeric, anything and everything helps make a boring dish better.

My sister sent me a text recently, complaining about a bland plate of rice and beans she had made herself for dinner. When I asked what spices she’d used she said none. Two things you should know here: one, poor cooking skills do in fact, appear to be hereditary in our family and two, I felt like quite the freakin’ pro when I went off on a text rant about how she had to use spices and seasoning in her cooking or else everything was going to taste like wet cardboard.

But you know what, at the end of the day I’m not a pro (or even remotely close to one), so don’t take my word for it. But you could, and should, take my talented and worldly friend Mark’s word for it, because he just wrote a beautiful book called Cooking with Spices: 100 Recipes for Blends, Marinades, and Sauces from Around the World. 


Mark’s an old friend I met in Italy when I first studied there in college, and since then— oh so many moons ago— he’s been pretty much all over the world, working and adventuring in Africa, South America, hell even Antarctica! The man’s been everywhere and he’s accumulated tons of stories and knowledge about the world’s cuisines and specifically the spices that make each of them unique.

It’s a beautiful book full of information, recipes, pictures and stories that will make you want to hit the road and eat your way around the world. Or if you’re like me and can’t actually leave it all behind, you can start in your own kitchen with this book as guidance.

Leave a comment in the section below and I’ll pick someone at random by the end of the week to receive their very own copy of Mark’s Cooking with Spices! If you weren’t already with me in suffering from culinary wanderlust, this might just get you there.



Shouldn’t have but I did

How do you say no?

How do you say no?

Sometimes, no, a lot of times, no wait, practically all the time, I do things I know I shouldn’t do. Willpower is not exactly my forte. Eating a big fat hunk of bacon, for example? Yup, that was one of those things I was fully aware I shouldn’t do today, but then yet, well, I did it.

Sitting right in front of me at the Landhaus table at Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg, loaded up on a hot grill, glistening under a coat of maple syrup and dusted with mysterious reddish spices, the chunk of bacon on a stick was practically begging to be eaten, so I did just that. I ate it. And I loved it.

Maple bacon on a stick. Yea, you heard me.

Maple bacon on a stick. Yea, you heard me.

Yes, it was probably my caloric intake for the rest of the weekend, and yes, it probably beelined straight for my already soft midsection, but you know what, it was so freakin’ good. Good in that gluttonously delicious, juicy, soft, buttery, so-bad-for-you but so-good-to-you way that only a truly great piece of chunky bacon is.

I try to make up for the things I do that I know I shouldn’t have, and even though it was just one thick, chunk of bacon, I can already tell I’ll be atoning  for my food sin for a good long time on the treadmill. But man, was that bacon good.