Food Writer Mark Bittman Partially Retracts His Insane Advice About Spices

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June 29 2010 2:55 PM

Food Writer Mark Bittman Partially Retracts His Insane Advice About Spices

At the start of 2009, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman came up with a set of New Year's guidelines for stocking one's pantry . Most were good suggestions, in line with his sensible and helpful approach to cooking. Then there was this one:

OUT Spices older than a year: smell before using; if you get a whiff of dust or must before you smell the spice, toss it. I find it easier to clean house once a year and buy new ones.

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Throw out musty spices, sure. But everything? Once a year? Who does that? 

Not even Mark Bittman, he confessed today

I bought this bag at Kalustyan’s when I moved, three apartments ago; that was 2005 (I did transfer the leaves to this spiffy Ziploc). And despite my frequent admonitions to replace dried herbs and spices every year I can’t bring myself to get rid of these: They still smell pretty good, they’re high quality Turkish if I remember correctly, and there are just so many of them.

My bay leaves are fresher than Mark Bittman's. Mainly because a few months ago, I used up my supply of bay leaves for the first or second time in my adult life. The fresh new ones are sitting up there on a shelf next to a big, well-sealed shake can of dried oregano that has a price tag from a supermarket in a city where I haven't lived in 11 years. It still smells very strongly of oregano, and not at all of dust. Don't waste spices if they still work.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.

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