I'm a connoisseur of spices. I went through a phase (another one of my phases) of studying spices and their many uses---both culinary and medicinal.
Last summer, while suffering from a bout of adult chicken pox (argh), my Saveur magazine had a little article about the Spice Islands and the history of spices from this tropical source of almost all things spicey. The pictures were wonderful to just gaze at while I was in my feverish stupor----I dreamed of traveling to these islands if only to smell the scent of cloves upon the air, as described. Alas, the article also included information about traveling to these exotic islands and the price matched the island's extravagance of beauty.
So, I just enjoy the island's bounty in spices-----little seeds carrying the islands' heat.
I also own some very useful books on spices. My favorite is Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference by Jill Norman. It contains large, colorful pictures of the spices and valuable information about every spice you can imagine. Also, any spice book collection wouldn't be complete without one of Tony Hill's books, like The Spice Lover's Guide to Herbs & Spices. He owns a spice store in Seattle's famous Pike Street area.
My favorite place to order spices from right now is this little shop out of Colorado, Savory Spice Shop. Their spices are freshly ground and of high quality----I feel that it really makes a difference in your cooking. I also secretly covet their shop----I also went through a phase of wanting to own my own spice & tea shop!
And one of my go-to spice mixtures is my All-Purpose Spice Rub. Ever since I found the recipe for this concoction somewhere amongst my many cooking mags & books, I have praised its usefulness. We use it on everything from chicken, to pork, to beef, and even grilled vegetables, too. I mix up a big jar of it for the summer.
Here's the recipe:
All-Purpose Spice Rub
1 T. ground black pepper
2 T. cumin
2 T. chili powder
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. white sugar
4 T. Hungarian Paprika
2 T. salt
3 T. garlic powder
1 T. celery salt
Mix the ingredients together and keep in an air-tight container in a dark cupboard away from heat.