Learning how to cook is like learning a new language. Words alone don't carry a lot of meaning, but put them together and you create a beautiful language of communication. A single ingredient tasted by itself is one note, but when you combine different ingredients together, you can create a complex dish that speaks to yourself and to the kids you are cooking for.
Before I started learning how to cook, I would stick to basic recipes with familiar ingredients. More than four ingredients? Not for me! Strange spices? Not for me! And then I realized that not only was that incredibly limiting for my taste buds, but it was incredibly limiting for my life. After all, spice is the variety of life.
The sensation of taste can be categorized into five basic tastes: sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness, and umami. The problem is so much of our food is overpowered with sweetness. It's because sweetness is cheap and easy to add to food. An overemphasis of sweetness in our food is also the predominant cause of our obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Simply relying on sweetness to flavor your food is like speaking in one word statements. On the other hand, using spices to flavor your food increases their complexity and transports you to other worlds. For instance, start with a simple and delicious chickpea chicken stew. Add cumin, paprika, and cinnamon and you've taken a Moroccan twist. Alternatively, add ginger, garam masala, and tumeric, and you've got an Indian chickpea masala. In addition to providing flavor to your dishes, spices like turmeric may have added health benefits such as reducing inflammation.