Friday, August 14, 2020

Penzey's Spices

I'm out of Quebec Beef Spice.  The Fox Point vanished months ago.  People seem to need brownies and cookies in these troublous times; I just opened the last bottle of Madagascar Vanilla, bought on sale before the prices tripled.  It is time to order from Penzeys.

Do you know about Bill Penzey?  A Wisconsin boy, he gre up in the spice trade and followed his family's footsteps.  He writes lengthy posts on Facebook, decrying the state of our country, urging us to come together, reminding us that cooking is love.

I never really got that cooking=love thing.  G'ma was many things, but a good cook was not one of them.. Food was sustenance; I rarely took delight in putting what she made into my mouth.  There were, of course, certain things that I loved; the crust stuck to the bottom of the pan when she made fried chicken comes quickly to mind.  But sitting here, looking at my freshly wiped keyboard (donate one of your precious disinfectant wipes and be amazed at the shiny reflection that gleams beneath your digits), I am hard pressed to come up with another meal that made me happy.  

Rock hard meatballs.  Minute steak cooked to within an inch of its life.  Chicken in a variety of broiled states.  I could always count on a fresh salad and bread or rolls, and I never remember being sad at the table.  I didn't know any better.  

When Rita's mother made me pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse, I was stunned.  Who knew that food could be fun?  For G'ma, cooking was a chore, a necessity, something she did for us but which she'd rather skip entirely.  The only cooking I remember us doing together was when we tried to make an angel food cake.  I inserted the beaters in the electric mixer incorrectly and 12 egg whites went flying all over the kitchen with reckless abandon when we turned it on.  We laughed, spent a loooooong time cleaning, and that was that.

I don't remember when I discovered Penzey's.  It sits on the corner in a low-rent strip mall on Oracle Road, AZ Rte 77, a major north south thoroughfare in Tucson.  I drive past it on my way downtown, on my way to Prince, on my way just about anywhere midtown.  

The salespeople are delightful, engaging, funny, and kind.  No one laughs when I say that I have no idea what to do with marjoram.  They are happy to discuss the relative merits of single or double shot vanilla, of Fox Point vs Sunny Paris (it's the salt), of the best way to roast vegetables.  These are not conversations I have on a regular basis; cooking is still something I view with apprehension.  But Penzey's makes it easy.

There are recipe cards. There's a website.  There are always freebies; today it's 2 jars of cinnamon and a hug coin

They asked for suggestions - organizations that are in need of Hugs - and I sent them a link to Youth on Their Own (imagine trying to couch surf during the pandemic.... as a 15 year old).  It seemed only appropriate.

My favorite Penzey's giveaway is this one, though. 
It's huge, it's as vibrantly colored today as it was when I got it years ago, and the message makes me smile.  I may not be good at it - whether that's healing the world or cooking dinner - but with Penzey's help, I'm trying.


  1. That sounds like a delightful place with an inspirational business model.

    1. He opened a store in Paul Ryan's home town to get to know the people and went they voted for Ryan. His letters are amazing. There are always specials and freebies. Ordering online is what most do, since the stores aren't everywhere.

  2. I also love their spices and that store, which I discovered some years back after buying the spices in Portland for years.

    1. The store is so much fun..I miss the smells and the advice. Having a masked employee put the bag on my front seat was just not as much fun!


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