Cooking is easier now than it’s ever been. It’s easier to shop in ways that reflect your principles, from buying local to meeting farmers. It’s easier to find obscure grains and fancy vinegar. An ever-growing glut of cookbooks and resources exists to shepherd us through all cuisines, techniques, and fascinations. You can easily find a recipe for just about anything.
But does all that make us better cooks? If Padma Lakshmi’s Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices (just out) and Lior Lev Sercarz’s The Spice Companion (out this week) are any indication, the common thread in great cooking is the seasoning. The fact that these guides come on the heels of each other suggests that we’re turning our attention from macro ingredients (obscure grains, hyperlocal microgreens) to those little nuts and bolts that set them into motion, whether they’re as simple as salt and pepper or have names we can’t pronounce.
If your pantry is littered with jars picked up once for a recipe and then abandoned, or if you reach reflexively for the same handful of spices without knowing how to branch out, Padma and Lior aim to bridge that gap by helping you use spices better (which is to say: more adventurously, more effectively, more).