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I got sick many years ago after eating a chicken with cumin dish. since then, I have not eaten anything with the cumin added to it. However, i would like to reintroduce myself to this spice. So, b/c there are various types of cumin, which of them is the least strong that you would suggest I use?

November 7, 2012
Thanks for the question.

I think the first thing to acknowledge is that this is clearly a mental association. There are several things that could have caused you to get sick (such as the chicken itself, shelf life, outside bacterial sources, etc), and I think it's important to recognize that before going forward.

With that said, there are really two different types of cumin used in America - that is, unless you go to a specialty store that sells rarer types of cumin - black and white. White cumin is more commonly used and is the kind that is sold ground when you purchase it in a grocery store. Black cumin (another name for this is Nigella, Kalonji, or Bunium) is a bitter, pungent, strong variety used in naan, armenian cheese, and middle eastern spice blends. In mentioning both “types” I think I covered the various types you have seen as they are most likely a derivative from the white or black varieties.

With this said, I would start incorporating cumin into your diet by using blends. For instance, taco seasoning, chili powder blends, adobo, sofrito, garam masala, and curry powder all contain cumin. I would not start off with adding straight cumin to your dishes, whether it be white or black (though I would advise against black for the aforementioned descriptive reasons), but a blend that contains it.

From there, you can add a 50% spice blend (for instance, sofrito) and 50% cumin combination to your recipe, followed by 100% cumin. Weaning your way into this fragrant spice is the best way to get your mind to recognize it as something to be desired, as it seemingly once was. Also, adding a little to some dishes (using the method listed previously) will help you to identify whether or not it was the cumin that made you sick in the first place. You can even try making your own taco seasoning (or other spice blends) with varying levels of cumin to taste until you are more comfortable using the spice as you did in the past.

If you begin feeling sick after you started incorporating the spice back into dishes that you normally had no issue with, then I would discontinue your experiment altogether; you may have developed an allergy to the spice. This is only something that can be confirmed through tests with your physician.

There are a few recipes on the site that contain cumin (such as ropa vieja, roasted chickpea risotto, and spice-rubbed lamb) that you may want to try this experiment with. From the above, the risotto and lamb dishes might be your best bet as the flavor profile of the ropa vieja may change too drastically and may not turn out right.

Good luck in your endeavor to incorporate one of my favorite spices back into your diet. Happy eating!

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