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Do They Have Twelve-Step Programs For This Kind Of Thing?

I have a confession.

And it’s not pretty.

And it’s really — really — embarrassing.

And I’d tell you when I share it that you have to promise not to judge me, but you’re probably going to judge me anyway because that’s like asking you to not pour that last half glass of wine that’s left in the bottle and let’s face it — that’s not gonna happen.


This is how I prep for cooking. Wine is pretty much necessary.

So last night I was cooking away — a cheesy, butternut squash and black bean enchilada skillet for a cold, rainy day — and I opened my spice drawer to retrieve some cumin and chili powder.

That’s it, kids.

Cumin and chili powder.

But when I opened the drawer, I was faced with this:



An entire drawer of spices.

And not some pokey little pre-tween drawer, either, but a massive wide mama drawer who’s probably given birth to seven sons — each one smelling like tarragon or smoked paprika or oregano or… I don’t know… poultry seasoning.


Poor bastard.

And like, I just don’t know how this happened.

This isn’t awesome like my underwear drawer.

This is my drawer of shame.

I used to be semi-normal with maybe a slightly above average accumulation of dried seasonings, back when we first remodeled the kitchen. There was still room in the drawer for measuring spoons, measuring cups, and a few other stove top and baking essentials.


But then it just kept growing.


With each new recipe came a brand new seasoning, and sure — I could have searched for an alternative that I already had on hand.

could have used ground cumin instead of buying whole cumin seeds.

could have used black pepper instead of buying white.

Cayenne instead of ancho chile peppers.

And dried parsley? Seriously? That’s like seasoning something with air.

Dry, crunchy air.

But I wanted to know how they tasted.


Each and every one.

I kind of want to cry when I stumble across blog projects or Pinterest pins that artfully display a few strips of those tiny magnetic containers of spices just above the stove.

I could fill a whole backsplash, my friends.


Which is why I hide my shame inside a drawer.


Of course, there are accidental duplicates: Allspice, nutmeg, oregano, and mustard. I would be at the grocery store, knowing I need a certain seasoning for a certain recipe, and I just couldn’t remember whether my drawer full — full! — of spices contained that particular one. Of course, it only did if I bought that spice again at the store, and it miraculously didn’t if I assumed it did.

Fortunately these are seasonings that tend to get used, but the two full-sized containers of coriander?

I don’t want to talk about it.

I have blends, too.

Usually impulse buys when I fall prey to clever marketing — pretty labels and descriptive words that appeal to my love of flavor.

Mrs. Dash’s Salt-free Italian Medley, Grill Mates Roasted Garlic and Herb, Cherchie’s Chardonnay Lime and Cilantro, and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute all took advantage of my weakness. They knew I wanted my food to taste like I know what I’m doing (it usually doesn’t), and they called to me from the shelves. Buy me! Your chicken will taste like you basted it in roasted garlic and herbs!

Why it never occurred to me that I could just baste my chicken in roasted garlic and herbs, I’ll never know.


There are the home blends, too. Little containers filled with homemade Cajun spice made from the seasonings we already had and my neighbor’s special seasoning for steak and kebabs, which is really just a certain ratio of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Sometimes I forget what’s inside each container and end up with really spicy steak kebabs or really weird Creole pasta.

And this isn’t even everything.

I have packets of Old El Paso taco seasoning and McCormick chili seasoning and special rubs and marinades from local festivals tucked inside another drawer.

The rest of the salts and peppers I keep hidden inside the cabinet above.

Yes, I said salts. Plural. Table salt and kosher salt and sea salt and flaky sea salt.


That’s not normal?

This, I think, is a sure sign of the chef I most definitely am not. Real cooks — naturally talented cooks — probably don’t need this many accoutrements.

But I’m always so curious and I just can’t stop.

I’m not going to lie, though. Some of them — especially the exotic ones — make me feel special.


Like travel.

There’s the smokey, mysterious mesquite that smells like the cookout I’ve never had in the Outback of Australia.

Or the sweet Chinese five spice reminiscent, perhaps, of Sichuan markets I’ve never been to see.

The garam masala and yellow turmeric and distinctive curry take me to the bustling streets of India where I have yet to step a foot.

And that’s okay, for now, because the spices bring me there through taste and smell with just a small dash of vivid imagination.

And for that, I think I’ll keep them.


(Safely hidden inside a closed drawer, that is.)

Do YOU have a drawer of shame? What’s in it? It’s okay. This is a save zone. Please tell me I’m not alone.


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That is so fantastic I don’t even know what to say. Those pictures would make a great desktop background too :) There is nothing wrong with cooking with spice especially accompanied by a bottle/box (which ever you prefer) of wine.


Bottle. Puh-lease. ;)

(Thanks, Jamie!)

Bex Hall

O.M.G.! I am NOT alone!!!! Thank you for this wonderful post! Truly enjoyed reading. My spices are in a cabinet beside the stove. Hadn’t considered a drawer before now. My drawers are full (kitchen drawers, that is). My usual suspects are garlic salt and garlic powder. Cumin a favorite. Montreal Steak seasonings. But I have about three containers of cinnamon and nutmeg. Just because I think I’m out of stock. But not. I have alum. Can’t remember what I needed that for. Ground mustard seed.

Whatever it is, I absolutely love having all these spices and opening that door and the smells wafting out while I’m cooking. It’s like having a spicy safety blanket!

Great post!


Alum? That’s almost as bad as my arrowroot! Almost.

Having a spice drawer is awesome. It allows me to see all of them at once, and these — with the exception of the “mixed” and extra spices off to the right — are actually in alphabetical order.

Which actually makes me more of a freak than I’ve already admitted.

So let’s just pretend I didn’t say anything, okay?



That’s sooo awesome! I wish I knew more about spices. I only know how to use cinnamon hahaha.


I don’t know a lot – I just buy whatever the recipe calls for and put in that amount! I really should start experimenting more. :)

Marisa Wikramanayake

Why is this embarrassing? This is the sign of a good cook. This is your well stocked pantry and larder. Any good cook has an amazingly awesome spice cupboard. Mine is in an old bread box. My pantry is in a drawer. Neither is something to be ashamed of. I cook things from different cuisines all the time and the spices are different or are different blends. I make my own spice blends from what I have but I have some pre-mixed too for days when I don’t want to get out the mortar and pestle or dry roast cumin.

And i don’t have a drawer of shame – I have a digital file folder of shame with password protected files in it. :) It’s not porn but i won’t tell you what it actually is either. :P


See, I thought the sign of a good cook was someone who only needed a few things and knew how they all were supposed to go together for a simple-yet-decadent meal. But I like your version better. ;)

Ooooohhh Can I guess? Can I guess?? I’m going to go with poetry.

Marisa Wikramanayake

No it is not poetry. :) Something way more terrifyingly awful than that.

What makes a good cook? I think it is having fun and enjoying what you cook whether that is something that involves you having more spices than the spice aisle at the supermarket or whether it involves making three course meals every day out of what you can get for just $10 per week or baking your own bread and making your own stock.

There was this hollywood romantic comedy in the ’90s where a baker was able to make people feel whatever emotion she was feeling when she made her food when they ate it – so if she was sad when she was baking, then they would inexplicably become sad too when they ate it.

I like that idea so maybe a good cook is one that passes on the love of food to those who eat what they prepare.


I love this. And I’m willing to bet you’re a pretty wonderful cook. :)


Three full shoe boxes, two double-decker lazy susans and a drawer in my freezer. What can I say? I live close to a Penzeys!


I LOVE that you keep spices in shoe boxes. Awesome. (And probably a helpful tip if we end up moving overseas and half to downsize!)

I’ll admit I had to Google Penzeys. Let’s just say I am SO glad I don’t live near one of those. I would be in ridiculous trouble. :)

Jeannine Bruner

Penzy’s ships. And has a wonderful catalog that they send out. Aaaaand they have a wonderful crate of spices that makes an excellent wedding present. (I was a bride who got one- by far my favorite gift). Just sayin. I have a cabinet. An entire cabinet full of spices. You are not alone. And apparently I have Alzheimer’s when it comes to paprika. 5 containers??!! 5?!?



LOL on the paprika. Have you tried smoked paprika? It’s awesome. If you don’t have it, you might need to add it to your collection.


Correct me if I’m wrong – is your spice drawer alphabetized?



With the exception of the mixes and some of the duplicates off to the right, yes.

I realize this makes me even more of a freak, but look. I already get an eye twitch every time that drawer flaunts my weakness in my face. The last thing I need is undue stress caused by not being able to find what I need, or worse, not finding it, buying another, then realizing later that I already have it. This helps — sometimes — prevent incidents like that.

And also I’m a freak.


No no. I don’t think you’re a freak. I’m a little impressed, to be honest. Alphabetized spice drawer = has her shit together in my book. My spices are vaguely grouped into three categories: spices that go into curries, spices that go into desserts, other.

I don’t seem to have this disease with spices. What I do have it with is fancy olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Currently, my olive oil collection includes regular, blood orange, and harissa flavours. My balsamics include regular, maple, lavender, and a mango white (divine, but I kind of don’t know what to do with it.)


I know, it’s surprising. Sometimes I can actually be organized. It’s a rarity, though. :)

Your olive oils and vinegars sound amazing! I have quite a few of those as well, but not so many exotic flavors. I actually made a recipe during that cleanse that called for Harissa paste and couldn’t find it anywhere, so I settled for sriracha. And here you are with some harissa flavored olive oil! Crazy. As for the balsamics, make dressings. Dressings, dressings, dressings. I’m guessing the mango white would be delicious as a dressing for the salad I featured in today’s post. Just sayin’.


Yeah, dressings are the way to go. Although the maple and lavender ones are pretty lush on sliced strawberries or ice cream, or dare I say… both.


That. Sounds. INCREDIBLE.


Oh, also, with that spice drawer, you could totally make your own harissa paste.

And you should.


Seriously?? It sounded so exotic, I didn’t even bother to look up a recipe because I just assumed it was something that needed to be purchased! Ha!

RHome410 @ Friday is Pizza, Monday is Soup

At least you can see what you have, which is an improvement over my spice collection. Plus, I think some of mine were passed down from my mom and are close to being antiques. My drawers of shame don’t have anything nearly this interesting or spicy.


I DO love having them in a drawer where I can see everything at once. It makes me less likely to forget about them. :)


Okay, so I am not the cook in the family, but let me just say…my hubby has three of these drawers!


A travel, food, and photography loving couple. I wish we lived closer so we could hang out!


I have the exact same thing above my stove. My 30-in x 18-in cabinet is filled from top to bottom with different spices. I also have overflow on top of the stove (particular for the things I use most often) and I have a bin up in my attic that has a bunch of spices from when I moved last but that I haven’t had a chance to go through.

I also tend to buy the eastern spices (curry, cumin, tumeric, etc) by the bag as they are a whole lot cheaper in the Indian food section than they are if you buy them in the regular spice aisle. They don’t come in a fancy container, but you get a whole lot more bang for your buck. Also, I’ve found that with very few exceptions, Spice Islands is way cheaper than McCormick’s. And the bottles look cooler.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I have multiple different blends of Ras el Hanout. I haven’t figured out which one I like the most yet. But that is part of the fun, isn’t it?


That. Is. Awesome. Though if you can spare the real estate, I would highly recommend drawer storage. It’s so much easier to see them all!

I do like Spice Islands, but our selection here is very limited. I’ve seen a few places now where I can buy spices by the bag, and I agree — I need to do that more. Plus, I can just save my old containers and throw ’em in those with some masking tape labels. In some countries you buy spices in bulk, picking up just the amount of what you need. PERFECT!

Oooh running off to Google Ras el Hanout.

Yes. It’s definitely fun. :)


The funny thing about lots of spices….they breed. Like rabbits and wire hangers. People know you cook (or the husband cooks, in my case) and buy you spices for gifts. If you’re lucky, they are useful and wonderful spices from Penzeys. If you’re not, they aren’t. In our previous house, all the spices used to fit in one wonderful cabinet. Now they are in multiple spots. Which is less fun but lets you know which spices you really don’t use. :)


Ack! Multiple spice locations would drive me CRAZY. I recently bought a cookbook called “The Best Recipes in the World” by Mark Bittman, specifically to help me use up a lot of these spices so I don’t feel obligated to transport them all when we move next year. Then, I’m going to look for places where I can buy spices in bulk – just little bits at a time so it’s fresh and I have what I need. :) I hear wonderful things about Penzeys! Maybe I’ll switch to that if I can’t find my local bulk spice store…

[…] Apparently, Justin and I are hoarders of condiments. And also, we have zero respect for expiration dates. We must have emptied no less than 37 partially used bottles of accoutrements from our refrigerator, at least 27 of which were expired — oils and dressings and everything in-between. This was beyond ketchup and mustard and Dijon, dear readers. This was an ethnic explosion of sauces — barbecue, chili, cocktail, and fish. Oyster and Hoisin and Tabasco and verde. And this isn’t even counting the cabinets full of oils — (sesame and grapeseed and olive and macadamia, just to name a few), vinegars (balsamic and red wine and champagne and pomegranate), and spices. Oh, remember my spices? […]

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