I’m traveling again (post pandemic) and have decided that I should try to travel with a “spice kit” now and again - especially when I’m traveling for an extended period where I know I’ll be cooking (staying at an Air B&B for example). In the past I’d buy basics and just leave the leftovers but it also impacted what I decided to cook.
I’ll be traveling to Tuscany for 2 weeks, plan to cook (and of course eat out). Of course I will do my best to buy fresh herbs/etc when available but figured this was a good time to try out my “spice kit” idea. I bought a 2 week pill sorter (similar to the image), it has 14 compartments, each holding about 4Tbs.
So my question is, what would you bring along - no planned dishes, just things to have on hand “just in case” . . . .
Here is what I was thinking (given Tuscany in June), again 14 compartments-
1-2 Kosher salt
3 - Black pepper
4 - Chili Flakes
5 - Bay leaves
6 - Oregano
7 - Fennel Seed
8 - Cumin
9 - Rosemary
10 - Thyme
11 - Smoked Paprika
12 - Baking Soda
13-14 - Baking Powder
( I like making biscuits sometimes, thus the Baking Powder/Soda add in)
I did a test run recently and wish I had ground clove, but it was cold and wintery that week and made a bean dish, so tempted to replace either Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme with clove . … since I figure those might be easy to get fresh in Tuscany . . but it will be summer so not sure I’ll want/need clove…
For me… I’d try to bring hot sauce. If I couldn’t bring a bottle, I’d try to find packets of hot sauce.
It looks like Amazon has all kinds of hot sauce in packet form, so I’d probably check the TSA rules and see how many packets I was allowed to fly with.
I would agree about leaving the “Mediterranean” dried herbs home (rosemary, thyme, oregano) and bring LOTS of kosher salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, baking powder and soda. I’d be wanting to bring their dried herbs back if it’s allowed.
I brought home spices from Tuscany! I love visiting grocery stores and gourmet shops in places like that.
I bought chiles there. I cooked 4 nights out of the week in my Tuscan villa. We went out for dinner twice and had a chef cook dinner in our kitchen.
I think the kitchen was stocked with salt and a pepper grinder. I bought fresh basil, and some Italian spice blends. I don’t think I used an dried herbs and spices other than maybe dried oregano those 4 nights.
There are so many nice sea salts in Italy I think I would just buy some there.
Bomba hot pepper condiment is easy to find in Tuscany. Adds some oomph to sauces and other stuff. There are lots of brands, artisanal versions, etc.
Mexican oregano- I like it better
Lots of kosher or sea salt flakes (Phoenikia is probably right though)
Ditto lots of back pepper- ideally in its own pepper mill
True Lemon (That’s the brand, it’s a powder- look it up)
Tajin chile powder- condiment
That’s what I’d bring, others have a more complete list.
I flew back from India once with, among other things, a bag of finely flaked desiccated coconut. They opened my bag on arrival at JFK and the official there asked with a straight face “Is this cocaine?” I said, “No, it’s coconut.” They let me through.
Love your idea. Sometimes I’m a spice kit person when traveling. Though on a trip to Italy I would leave most of my spices at home if going somewhere with easy access to a grocery store. Grocery stores are a highlight of any extended trip for me.
I always want to visit an Esselunga supermarket when there’s one nearby. My experience is that the selection will be geared to the traditionally Italian though, so forget what I said if your desired spice palette is more international than that.
Beyond the spice aisle: Snacks (like taralli), chocolate bars (at least some with hazelnuts, please), and a jar of hazelnut and cocoa spread (not Nutella though) are items I want on an Esselunga run.
When I do pack spices, I used to tote a broader selection but usually now I am down to my top travel three with sometimes a bonus pick:
Flaky finishing salt
Small pepper grinder with black pepper
Chile flakes—Aleppo is a fave
Optionally, a spice blend of some type, such as za’atar, togarashi, or a curry powder—depends on the food at the destination
if my trip is long enough that I’ll be cooking, I prefer shopping and buying my own local spices. The only spices I carry are Thai “Bird Peppers and Garlic” and a “Mala Chili Powder”. Those go with me on every trip, even if it’s just to spice up airline and lounge food.
I spend 2-3 months in Berlin every year, so I tend to buy whichever spices/herbs/seasonings I need while there, and keep leftovers in a suitcase I store at a friend’s place (yeah, **exactly ** like that famous Marlene Dietrich song ;-)) until the next summer.
(Keyrock the unfrozen caveman lawyer; your world frightens & confuses me)
I’d be hard pressed to kick anything off your list (I’d forego the leavening myself, but you specified your reason for having that), but I use garlic in so much of what I cook that I’d probably find a way to shove some granulated garlic in there. Maybe pack it in with stuff that’s fairly easily separable from the garlic, like in the bay and rosemary bins.
Normally, I’d be all over loading up on spices. But Tuscany in the summer? Hmm. That threw me a bit, because I wouldn’t be looking for most of my usual stock of Asian and Indian goodies.
Are you planning to powder your bay leaves to fit them into one of those compartments?
Also, have you tried a shake test to make sure they aren’t going to spill? I used similar ones for pills, and the whole colorful part lifts out – it’s not exactly well-sealed. There are tiny plastic jars in packs of 6-10 available at the dollar store that are airtight.
Chicken bouillon or Veg/Mushroom bouillon
Tajin or Chile lime salt
Mustard powder or Sumac
Curry powder (yes, really, it’s me!)
Still thinking about the other slots.
I’m going to split off salt & pepper as either bought on site or small separate grinders for larger quantity. I might also pack a tiny jar of truffle salt in anticipation of pasta and steak!