At yesterday evening's Knights of Columbus meeting, it was my turn to supply refreshments. I chose to make tacos, which are always a big hit. To save time, I bought everything---including the taco seasoning---in one trip to the grocery store.
Once the hamburger was browned, I stirred in the packets of taco seasoning and let it simmer for 15 minutes. As I went about grating cheese, slicing lettuce, and so forth, I couldn't help noticing that the simmering taco meat smelled a bit odd. Not spoiled or anything, but different from how taco meat smells when we typically cook it for the kids.
My wife buys organic spices in bulk from Frontier Herbs and keeps them in quart mason jars in the cupboard. It requires some foresight and planning, but they're outstanding seasonings---and, bought in quantity, always available when needed. When we make tacos, we typically brown three pounds of hamburger with some onion. We then add water and one tablespoon of each of the following: sea salt, cumin, chili powder, and paprika. It's incredibly simple, very cheap, and smells and tastes wonderful.
As last night's store-bought-seasoned taco meat smelled and tasted so different, I picked up a seasoning packet and took a closer look at the label:
Spices and color [whatever that means], corn masa, salt, dehydrated onion and garlic, cocoa powder (processed with alkali), hydrolyzed soy protein (caramel color), citric acid, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavors [usually means MSG], disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, maltodextrin.
Ugh. No wonder our kids have had such bad allergic reactions to this kind of store-bought stuff. My spell-checker didn't even recognize most of those ingredients as real words...makes me wonder why I ever thought any of those ingredients were real foods. Next year, I think I'm going to treat my brother Knights to our family's own Yeoman Farmer tacos. Will be interesting to see what kind of feedback we get.
What am I trying to say with this post? It really isn't hard to make your own taco seasonings --- or any of the other seasonings you might think you have to buy in a little packet at the grocery store. Do a little research. Buy a good variety of bulk herbs. And go for it.