For The Love Of Spices, With Yaniv Cohen

Sonja Garnitschnig

Yaniv Cohen takes you on a culinary journey through the kitchens of the women who raised him. The oldest of four boys and the son of an Iraqi woman and a father from Tunisia, his palate is both exotic and thoughtful. In My Spiced Kitchen, Cohen takes you into the world of spices with his very unique spin on the traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.

Photo Credit: Sonja Garnitschnig

His love affair with the kitchen started at a very young age, centered around his culture and the preparation for the biggest meals of the week, the Sabbath. It was during this weekly two-day preparation of meals that he observed his own mother effortlessly create elaborate dishes for his family. “I took to cooking at a very young age. I was fascinated by it,” shares Cohen. What began as the oldest child helping mom prepare for Shabbat, turned into a lifetime appreciation and celebration of the magic of spices.

But the memories come from outside the kitchen as well. He paints the scene for us of his first memory of the many uses of spices. He lives in an old neighborhood where the clothing lines went from one building to another, neighbors would hang out by their windows gossiping all day. He was 10 years old; this was a time before computers and video games, all the kids were outside.

My Spiced KitchenPhoto Credit: Sonja Garnitschnig

He recalls, “I fell on a piece of glass and cut my palm. The cut was deep, and blood was gushing out. My neighbor who watched me fall ran down within seconds with a big jar of turmeric, she took a handful of the turmeric and put it directly on the wound and the bleeding stopped. As a kid, you don’t think about it. You just think this is what our mother’s generation did—you get cut, you put turmeric and it disinfects and it stops the bleeding. To this day, Turmeric is the first thing I reach for when I cut myself.”

Yaniv, known on social media as @TheSpiceDetective, has contributed with his in-depth guide to spices and his family recipes a trip down memory lane where we witness the child whose imagination was set afire and inspires us to learn to play flavors to enamor the senses. His five favorite spices: Cumin, Za’atar, Sumac, Turmeric and Cinnamon. To learn more, pick up his new book My Spiced Kitchen out now.