Palate or Palette?

You know how you have to pick a set of colors if you’re going to renovate a room in your house? Like, the contractor might ask you to choose your “palette” before he shows you possible countertops?

Well, a couple of years ago we had our bathrooms redone. The friendly contractor was a big, jovial Italian American guy. He and I immediately hit it off, laughing a bit at our shared ancestry and talking about our families.

When we turned to look at the bathroom, he asked me what palette I preferred. Only I heard “palate” and thought he was talking about food. “Mediterranean,” I said immediately. I almost ended up with a blue and green bathroom.

Anyway, for me the use of spices is a lot like choosing my color palette for updating a room or doing an art project. I tend to think of my dinners by areas of the world, and the flavors that come from them.

So on this page I’ll share some spices and sauces that I’ve found to help me cook according to a particular “palate.” I try to keep most of these items in my kitchen. Don’t worry about getting everything. Just add on a few every time you shop or if you’re cooking for a special meal.

Please comment to add anything I’ve left out!!!!

Italian: (Dried or fresh) basil, oregano, fennel seed, crushed red pepper, tomato paste, garlic. Other ideas: Italian parsley

Asian: fresh ginger, candied ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, hoisin sauce, chili sauce, peanut oil, fish oil, five spice powder, star anise

Indian: cumin, hot curry, sweet curry, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, fresh basil coconut milk, coconut oil

Mexican: cilantro, chili powder, cumin, lime

You might say I’ve developed a little addiction to good spices (thanks, Penzey’s!) Sometimes if I open my cupboard to quickly, a dozen little jars land of my head.

At least after that I usually smell good.

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