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Have Spice, Will Travel?

It's considered rude to season your food with salt, pepper or a condiment like ketchup before you've even tried a bite - doubly so when you're eating at a high-end restaurant. So what if you do taste it - and it's terribly bland, or not to your tastes? If you cook with high-quality seasonings at home (and you should) that dusty, flaky black pepper and iodized salt on the table just isn't going to cut it. Can you - and should you - smuggle seasonings along for the ride?

The Good

Do you think it's snobbish to discreetly carry some of your favorite spice in a purse or briefcase? Some spice-lovers swear by a surreptitious sprinkle or two when they dine out, courtesy of a filled-up tic-tac container or similar impromptu shakers. Hot sauce lovers in particular seem prone to bringing their spices along for the ride when trying a new place to eat. Curiously, provided it's broken out in an informal setting (think big-screen sports bars, not white linen tablecloths) the hotter the sauce, the more it becomes something of a social contest and less of a faux pas.

The Bad

So what do you do when you're out at a friend's house, then? You're naturally a little more cautious about a host's feelings than a restaurant chef's, so should you just grin, spoon and bear it when it comes to bland fare? Not necessarily. A thoughtful "hostess gift" doesn't always need to be a mid-range bottle of wine, it can also take the form of a seasoning set, and some soothing words along the lines of, "Your cooking is so delicious, I felt like it deserved really good quality spices to experiment with." Attractive grinders filled with high-quality salt and pepper are also both affordable and well-received, regardless of the cook's inherent seasoning skills.

The Yummy

One should never apologize for enjoying delicious seasonings, but using them "on the fly" is an act that should typically be done discreetly, or overtly through the use of a gift to a host or hostess. And remember, if you simply can't bear under-seasoned food in a restaurant, you always have the option picking at it, asking for a "doggie bag" and enjoying it once you have access to your entire collection of seasonings back at home. In your own kitchen, you have no one to answer to except the demands of your tastebuds!


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