How far will you go for ingredients?

While I appreciate recipes that allow me to use ingredients I have on hand, I don’t mind ones that present me with unusual ingredients if they promise a particularly tasty result. For instance, seeking out a particular spice blend for a curry dish at an ethnic market or going to a specialty bake shop for a particular flavoring every once in a while is no problem. I even look forward to the trips, as they usually turn up other goodies. But there is a point when what you might want/need is just too far away to justify a trip -  or without your ingredient quest turning into a road trip. Where do you draw the line? How far are you willing to go?

For me, the line is drawn when a recipe calls for a special or unusual ingredient as a garnish. Unless a major food critic is coming to dinner and I’m planning to turn a meal into a “dining experience” (as opposed to “dinner”), I’m not going to drive around town looking for a particular leaf or flower to complement the plate. Other than that, as long as the dish sounds promising and I have some time to spare, most places within a reasonable drive are fair game.

6 comments

  1. With gas around $3.50/gal here in No. Calif, if I don’t have it and I don’t need to go to the store for anything else, I will either try to sub some other ingredient or not make the recipe at all. Call me a tightwad, but I can’t stand filling up my car anymore than I have to and if that means eliminating unnecessary trips out, I will do without……….

  2. Sometimes it can make or break a dish. But for a garnish? Forget it!!! I have been known to substitute some times.

  3. I agree & follow your same criteria

  4. I don’t mind a trip to a specialty store (often ingredients are cheaper at ethnic stores) especially when I can combine it with other errands in the area. But I don’t like getting ingredients that I only use for one dish, especially if I don’t know and love the dish. I have too many jars and boxes missing a tablespoon or half cup of its contents that I probably won’t ever use again. Sometimes I end up in a cycle of trying to use things up but having to buy other groceries just to do so!

  5. I live near a medium size town but there are some ingredients I haven’t been able to find, like whole wheat pastry flour and Mexican vanilla and instant expresso powder. I know I can order them over the Internet, but I’d rather not pay shipping.

  6. Depends on what it is…for a special spice, dried mushroom, nori or other ingredient that will last a while I would drive but I can usually find those pretty close to home, but for a fresh ingredient like a yellow beet, mini pattipan squash, or meyer lemon I’m more inclined to substitute or skip the recipe all together if they aren’t at the grocer or farmers market that week in part because short of calling every market there is no way to ensure that a particular ingredient will be there just because I saw it once before.

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