One of my favorite memories from my childhood is my dad's spice cabinet. My dad loves to cook, and he likes to use premium spices in all his recipes. His spice cabinet is always well-stocked with the most delicious sounding ingredients: oregano, thyme, marjoram, curry. And the smells these spices create! I used to open the door to the cabinet and take big whiffs, trying to recognize the different spices I ate in my dad's cooking.
When I graduated college and moved into my first apartment, my parents gave me the best housewarming gift: a spice starter kit. They gave me bottles of any spice they thought I might use as I learned to cook on my own. To my extreme delight, after a few months, my spice cabinet had the same delicious, warm smell I remembered from my childhood. My spice cabinet is one the first things I unpacked when Jared and I moved to Jacksonville. It instantly made our apartment feel more like home.
I'm not a chef, but there are some spices I must have in my kitchen!
Kosher salt - most of you probably use kosher salt these days! I like it because the flavor is not as harsh as the traditional table salt.
Coarse ground black pepper - I learned this from my mother: good pepper makes all the difference! The "pepper dust" which you find in most places has lost most of its flavor because it is so dry. I buy the coarse or restaurant-style black pepper, and it is much better.
Red pepper flakes - on my journey from cook to chef, I have been developing my palate and learning to customize recipes to my family's taste. Usually the first thing I do is add more spice! Red pepper flakes is one of my favorite methods for doing this. For example, when I make spaghetti sauce, I put red pepper flakes in the warm olive oil for a few seconds to infuse the oil. Delicious!
Curry - I love to make all sorts of curry dishes, from traditional curry to curry dumplings. I have learned different curry mixes taste completely different. Some are spicy and some are very mild, yet flavorful. I tend towards something in the middle. But I always have this versatile spice in my cabinet!