Favorite Links: Seven Websites I Can't Resist
Who? Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, Toronto-based world travelers, photographers and authors of five cookbooks. Their latest--Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent—won the Julia Child IACP Award for Best International Cookbook in April, 2006.
What? Bios, cookbook summaries, recipes, essays, photos--and culinary tongue twisters. As the authors say, “Yikes!”
Why? Playful, very personal site; changing selection of recipes from their cookbooks; articles about their farmhouse, their quilt collection and a lovely one, “The Fabric of It All,” about the memories conjured up by a chest of textiles from their journeys.
Who? James Oseland, Executive Editor of Saveur, cooking teacher, award-winning food writer, and author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
What? Great bio, cookbook, ingredient of the month with recipes, teaching schedule, photos.
Why? Attractive website spotlights delectable ingredients such as lemon grass and tofu, with easy to follow information on how to buy, store and use them. Delicious recipes from his cookbook, nice photographs.
Who? Website of Penzeys, a Wisconsin-based spice purveyor with stores in 21 states. CEO Bill Penzey grew up in his parents’ spice shop, launched his own company in 1986, travels widely to find top notch spices.
What? Shop for over 250 spices, herbs and seasonings, plus Zassenhaus peppermills. Spice essays, employment opportunities, recipes. Strong populist bent: Spices are for everyone.
Why? Very fine, very fresh spices at reasonable prices. Amazing depth in some categories: 8 kinds of peppercorns (Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns are a staple in my kitchen); true Ceylon cinnamon, plus cassia from Indonesia, China, Vietnam; vanilla beans from Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti. Interesting essays about single spices, where they’re grown, how they’re harvested, etc.
What? Website of Kalustyan’s, the granddaddy of New York Indian spice shops; started in 1944 by K. Kalustyan; now owned by Sayedul Alam and Aziz Osmani who've turned it into a source for worldwide foods.
What? Shop for over 4,000 international ingredients: 550 spices, herbs and blends, plus oils, nuts, grains, coffee, tea, honey, mustard, noodles, cooking utensils and much, much more.
Why? If you can’t find it here, you probably can’t get it: smoky Turkish urfa biber pepper, rose-scented masala for chai, white Penja peppercorns from Cameroon. Four kinds of za’atar from Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Jordan—could the peace process begin at the dinner table?
Who? Website of Herbies, a Sydney-based spice purveyor. Owner Ian Hemphill worked on his parents herb farm, ran a spice company in Singapore before returning to Australia to set up his own shop. He is the author of The Spice and Herb Bible, one of the best reference books on the topic.
What? Shop for 400 spices and herbs, including Aussie exotics such as wattle seed and bush tomato, plus Hemphill’s books, DVDs. Recipes and tips for using spices; diary of a biannual spice tour to India and Sri Lanka; free quarterly 3-newsletter.
Why? A really cheerful, upbeat site, with lots of spice chat in the newsletter. There’s always something new that Ian and his wife Liz have discovered on their travels: Egyptian rose petals, caraway seeds from Bhutan, plus all those Aussie goodies. Next year I really will take the spice tour.
Spice Reference Websites
Who? Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages, website of an Austrian chemist who took a sabbatical from his work on silicon hydrides and thermochemistry to travel through Asia and explore his consuming passion for spices with camera and pen in hand.
What? Voluminous information on 117 spice and herb plants: etymology, history, chemical constitutents, use in ethnic cuisines, plus many photos of fresh and dried spices.
Why? The most marvelous way to get lost in the spice world. Katzer tells us how to say “pepper” in 50 languages, including Estonian (pipar) and Tibetan (fowarilbu or pho ba ril bu); details its chemistry (the pungent principal is piperine) and etymology (Sanskrit pippali via Greek peperi and Latin piper); traces its origins to ancient India—and so forth, for 14 fascinating pages. And he does it for 116 more spices and herbs.
What? An on-line spice exhibit from History and Special Collections at UCLA’s Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.
Good essays on history of spices, their use as perfumes, aphrodisiacs, and medicines, plus a spice timeline. Individual entries on 30 spices and other substances such as sugar and frankincense, with photos and botanical illustrations.
Why? Exquisite botanical illustrations from Henry Bentley’s and Robert Trimen’s 1880 book, Medicinal Plants, accompany thumbnail sketches of each spice with history, culinary and medicinal uses. The table of “Taste and ‘Hotness’ of Spices” is a useful quick reference guide.