Since herbs, spices, spice blends, and salts (H&S) vary by culture, it is imperative for recipes created for specific audiences to include H&S that are both culturally relevant and readily available. Yet, lists of H&S used by immigrants residing in various regions of the U.S. do not exist.
To document and investigate the H&S available to low-income Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in a small, urban NJ community.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This was a descriptive study of H&S available in the largest grocery store frequented by the Mexican community in New Brunswick, NJ. With the store manager's permission, photographs were taken and used to document all H&S in the store.
The names of all H&S in the photographs that did not appear on a previously developed list of H&S commonly used in the U.S. were recorded and translated into English by a bilingual research assistant (when necessary). An internet search was conducted to determine the H&S's common use among Mexicans and other Latinos.
Forty-five H&S that did not appear on the previously developed list of H&S used in the U.S. were identified. Notably, 21 H&S were not used for culinary purposes, but instead had a wide range of functional and medicinal purposes ranging from weight loss to combating parasites.
The researchers, despite being experienced nutrition educators, were surprised at the number of unfamiliar H&S, and that many were used for medicinal purposes yet were grouped with H&S used for culinary purposes, sometimes even on the same shelf. These findings support the following implications: 1) inclusion of community members in nutrition education materials development is essential for cultural relevance; 2) nutrition educators could benefit from additional cultural cuisine training; and 3) approaching the study of non-Western cultures with an ethnocentric bias may prohibit a thorough understanding of how people may use H&S at home.