“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” ― Maya Angelou

It’s eye-opening to peak in someone else’s spice cabinet. Some of their spices are familiar but others, not so much – with names I don’t know and can’t even pronounce. I wonder why there are so many choices in my friend’s cabinet?

“No one needs all this variety,” I think. I should give them my basic ten spices and they would be fine, even better with fewer choices to make. Right?

But then I enjoy a meal around their family table and I’m delighted with how the food is enhanced by the different spices. The conversation is even more enjoyable. Maybe the different flavors help.

I remember my mother’s look when I reached for the salt before I even tasted my food. That look taught me all I needed to know about “assuming.” She taught me to try something first, to get to know it, before I formed my opinions.

I’ve learned there are a whopping 8.7 million different spices in the world. The spice trade is both huge and ancient. It’s been around for over 5,000 years. Spice trading was a global industry even before we discovered the world was a globe, instead of being as flat as my kitchen table. Clearly there has always been a demand for more than my basic ten choices.

Some like a neat, well-organized spice rack, that’s their choice. Their bottles are all the same size and color – and limited. The photo at top of this post are my spices – different sizes, shapes and colors, that’s my choice.

It’s the differences that add interest to my life, to my conversations, and to my spice cabinet. Differences make everything better, more flavorful, more diverse.

How about you, are you a “salt first – taste later” person like I was until my mother gave me her look? Can you give me examples of how you enjoy the diversity of different foods, cultures, people?

Tell me what you think it would be like to live in a community or country were we all looked the same, ate the same food, used the same spices.

The world’s spice cabinet has been trying to teach us this simple lesson for 5000 years.

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran


Enjoy going inside a shop in Old Delhi, India with me as a Delhi-ite explains spices to the fascinated tourist from the west.