Spice...that’s salt, right?

I recently saw a greeting card with a young girl on the front reading a recipe and frowning. The caption read, “What the #&$*is cumin?” My sentiments exactly. I hope there’s not a quiz at heaven’s gate on what different spices are used for because my go-to spice is always salt. If a recipe is supposed to be spicy, I add a lot of salt; if it’s to be mild, I add less. It works for me, the world’s worst culinary expert. If there was a contest for nonedible cuisine, I’d win a trophy in every category, even participation, because I’d be the only dame to show up with a 2-pound tub of salt.

So, what spices, which you’re clueless about, should you have lined up on the windowsill to impress your mother-in- law? I’m too late. Gar’s mom has been on to me since the first Thanksgiving dinner I fixed as a newlywed when she unfortunately said “yes” to an invitation to try her luck with death. It took us all a little by surprise to find I’d left the giblets in the turkey prior to roasting. It’s good to know, on today’s package directions, it plainly states, “Remove giblets from turkey before cooking.” Thanks for nothing you jerks at Butterball.

As for spices, cardamom is the world’s third most expensive, after vanilla and saffron. Vanilla is a spice? Eureka! I use that, so obviously, I’m a spice expert. Holy! I should write a cookbook. Cardamom is comprised of several plant seeds that makes it citrusy, minty, spicy and herbal as a conglomeration, but it doesn’t contain salt so we’ll have to add that. I’m on it.

Marjoram, a cousin to oregano, is used in Italian dishes and has medicinal value, such as properties of anesthesia. Fine, but I’m still going with something a bit more expensive for my surgery, where I don’t wake up in the middle of a heart bypass and think, “Gee, I wish I had a pizza.”

Tarragon is considered a fine herb to the French and can be eaten on chicken, fish and vegetables, similar to salt, says I. Its other name is estragon, and shouldn’t be ingested medicinally by pregnant woman as it can cause bleeding. It did not say if lack of it can cause grouchiness during menopause. Gar is inquiring; I don’t know why.

Caraway, like tarragon, shouldn’t be used in high concentrations during

pregnancy. It is, however, held in legendary circles and superstition to have the power to keep lovers from losing interest in one another. At my age, putting a bag over my head before bed has the same benefit for Gar.

Fennel and anise are similar in that they fool you into believing they have something to do with licorice, which they do not. Licorice comes from the licorice plant and despite that Hershey’s calls them “licorice,” red Twizzlers are basically corn syrup. Anise does give the Greek liquor ouzo its taste, but can it be used as cough syrup on busy toddlers asks every Mediterranean mother.

Garam masala is a blend of ground spices, full of antioxidants, used extensively in Indian cuisine, which is regretful since the name sounds African, like it’s straight out of Lion King.

Mace is the membrane surrounding nutmeg; thus, it’s a less intensely concentrated version of nutmeg with notes of cinnamon and black pepper. It’s also the brand name for pepper spray, which is put in a can and often unwittingly fumbled until our only resort is throwing it at a

There’s curry powder, which may boost

the brain. I and a few others should be scooping it out of whiskey barrels and drinking it morning, noon and night.

Cilantro is Spanish for coriander but only cilantro’s seeds are actually coriander. Cilantro’s leaves are cilantro. Spices are complicated.

Saffron was domesticated, an article actually stated it as such, like its cousin to a cat, during the Bronze Age, and is the most expensive spice in the world. If that didn’t count me out enough, and let me assure you, that most certainly would count me out enough, since if I’m anything, I’m cheap, is hand harvested. This takes 200 hours of labor per pound and I don’t think we should harvest anything that takes longer than birthing an offspring.

Lastly, is sumac, not to be confused with poison sumac, which is, well, poison, but personally wouldn’t be a deal breaker. I could totally use it since Gar is pretty sure I’ve poisoned him for decades, so feels he’s developed immunities to a lot.

Trena Eiden – [email protected]