Spices have been around since ancient times, used for flavoring and preserving foods. With the countless spices available today, both common and exotic, it can seem daunting to anyone looking to experiment with flavors. Sometimes a recipe asks for something you've never used before and can't often find. In recent years, the internet has become an excellent resource for hunting down spices that you can't get in the supermarket. For those who want to learn more about spices, there are many great resources.
These aren't the only books that focus on spice. Food writer Monica Bhide, who has written extensively about Indian food, shares her understanding of spice in her book Modern Spice, which features an easy-to-use glossary and usage guide. More recently she has released iSpice, an iPhone app that serves as a dictionary of spices. It's great to have on hand when you're trying to decode spices in the supermarket.
Looking through these books or researching online, you'll find it isn't hard to become a master spice-mixer. You'll also realize that none of these combinations or flavor pairings are set in stone. Through experimentation, you'll find your favorite spices, combinations, and flavors--and you'll have lots of fun doing it. Enjoy!