Penzeys has borrowed Home Depot's utilitarian design and promotes the same do-it-yourself ethos--in this case, the promise of a glorious state of culinary excellence that, as you wander through the faux-shipping-crate aisles, seems both eminently graspable and blindingly obvious. All those years spent cooking with supermarket spices? Wasted! Here there are not one but five types of cardamom--and for less than you've been spending at Rainbow. Here, too, are chile peppers rated by heat index, seven kinds of cinnamon, mustard seeds for grinding (did you know that homemade mustard starts out piquant and mellows over time?), and peppercorns sorted by "mesh size," all accompanied by recipes and mini-treatises on subjects like shortbreads and salad dressings. Did we mention the Australian crystalized ginger? Eaten straight, it's a panacea for all manner of stomach complaints; stirred into a curried tuna salad, it's heaven.


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