The Happiest Seasoning

Like many people, when I saw the trailer for the edgingly imminent lesbian holiday romcom The Happiest Season, I knew I wanted more. Specifically I wanted one syllable more. While there’s broad societal acceptance of which season is the happiest season, what about the happiest seasoning? Considering the internet can’t really agree on what a seasoning even is, I realised I had my work cut out answering this pressing question. So, after minimal research and a commitment to “following the science” to the level of the average Western government, I present a shortlist of seasonings.

I’m not ranking seasonings by lesbianism, like we usually do, but rather by the visceral, emotional reaction each of these herbs, spices and others elicit in me personally. But then, feelings are gay, and also have their own category on this gay website, so I guess we are implicitly ranking by queerness.


two sticks of cinnamon with a small mound of cinnamon powder

Cinnamon, usually in a clique with allspice, nutmeg and cloves, is a menace to any cake or pastry that had the misfortune to stand within dusting distance. I appreciate this sentiment is not universal, but at this time of year when even your loo roll has probably been pumpkin-spiced, I am leaning into my cinnamon-resenting victimhood.

That being said, I have no problem with cinnamon in savoury food, where its flavour tends to be a lot more subtle. This led me to the revelation that cinnamon is a bottom in savoury dishes, but a top in sweet stuff, so I will give it credit for being the switchiest seasoning.


a turmeric root with some sliced pieces and a mound of turmeric powder

Oh, beautiful turmeric! The gorgeous colour of golden morning sun, or the rich yolk of an egg laid by a particularly delighted hen. And therein lies the problem: whenever I use turmeric, that deep yellow will invariably transfer to my fingers, somehow turning a particularly bilious lemony shade in the process. I’ll admit, I get concerned when my primary sex organs look like they’ve been dip-dyed in Mountain Dew; it’s no mystery what lies beneath your fingernails when your cuticles are flashing neon chartreuse. The most offputting seasoning?

Bay leaves

3 bay leaves

Bay leaves are a conspiracy. Do you even know what a bay leaf tastes like? No? That’s because nobody knows what a bay leaf tastes like. Even once have you questioned why you diligently keep adding them, purely at the behest of a shadowy cabal of international recipe writers? What’s in it for them? It’s only one short skedaddle down that thought-path before you start suspecting that bay leaves cause 5G and stole the moon landings. The happiest seasoning only if you find joy in paranoia.

All Purpose Seasoning

a large jar of bright orange-red seasoning

Like “all-purpose grout” or “all-purpose filler” or you on a weekend, this robust seasoning definitely has the vibe of hanging out in a brightly-lit DIY store waiting for a practical dyke to pick it up and smear it all over a wall. In truth, I’ve only avoided using this because of the crushing disappointment that is bound to happen. It’s a bold claim after all; is this really the seasoning for all purposes? If my purpose is overthrowing the patriarchy, will this help? I sense this seasoning cannot live up to its promise.

Liquid Smoke

a bottle of colgin brand liquid smoke

Sounds sexy, right? Like someone hot, glanced across a dark dancefloor; heavy on eyeliner, light on gender. The Shane of seasonings! But then you look at the bottle and realise it’s actually your racist uncle with a giant dollop of carcinogens.


a whole ginger root with some pieces sliced off next to a fallen canister of ginger powder with its contents spilling out

Ginger is a real solid performer in both sweet and savoury meals and really is everything cinnamon wishes it could be. I wasn’t sure if a root could count as a seasoning, but then I remembered that Ginger Spice exists, and spices are seasonings so we’re all good here. Don’t worry, I did not apply the same logic to include babies, or sports.


a mound of red chilli powder next to a whole red chilli

As someone who not infrequently eats vindaloo for breakfast, I welcome heavy doses of all forms of chilli, for any occasion. I like every dish I cook to be a small, consensual assault and there is no better partner in crime for this than a blunt force heaping of chilli powder. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Several of my lining-stripped internal organs say yes, and also did I mention fingernails already?


two unpeeled garlic cloves alongside a spoonful and small mound of garlic powder

I live and breathe garlic which is why social distancing has never really been an issue for me. I think there’s a garlic binary: you’re either the kind of person that actually uses the paltry number of cloves listed in a recipe, or you have your own equation that takes that number and turns it into something more sensible, like every bulb you own. Can we all argue and fall out about the veracity of this constructed binary? I hope so!


A mound of cumin seeds

This one is easy! Cumin goes in everything and the first syllable is “cum.”

Smoked Paprika

A clear glass jar full of bright red smoked paprika that has fallen on its side so the contents are spilling out

Sultry smoked paprika, the heady spice of my eternal pleasure. At first I did not think I could put smoked pap in my number one spot because it’s a bit intense, an unremitting passion on the edge of overwhelming.

But if reading 75 lesbian ebooks in the last three months has taught me anything, it’s that you really can have a happy ending with someone based purely on your instant chemistry and in outright denial of your long-term compatibility issues. Truly the happiest seasoning!

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Sally lives in the UK. Her work has been featured in a Korean magazine about queer people and their pets, and a book about haunted prisons. She never intended for any of this to happen.

Sally has written 80 articles for us.


    • This is also my favorite thing you have ever published. Which is not a diss on other content, but a righteous celebration of the pure genius and delight of concocting this perfectly spicy dish of lesbians, Christmas, wordplay, and seasonings. I salute, applaud, and lesbian head nod everyone involved in this. I anoint your feet with my joy sprung waters. I carve your names into the newly soft flesh of my opened heart. This, THIS is all that I have ever wanted. Thank you.

  1. Even though I disagree with the placement of cinnamon (gay because it, like queerness, is everywhere) I still love this list! The only major spice I would add is Cardamom(mi); it even comes in cute little pods, like a poly constellation of flavors.

  2. Get fresh bay leaves. Grow a plant if you have a garden. Or get them from a friend with a garden and dry them yourself and don’t let them go stale. They smell and taste fantastic!

    Do nutritional yeast flakes have a place in this? They’re popular in vegan cooking and they look like fish food flakes and it’s the best thing ever and I use it in almost everything I make. I also really love mace, because it’s both a spice and the name of a weapon.

  3. Will never see paprika without thinking of my Hungarian friend asking me “Why do people stereotype Hungarians?”…as she liberally poured paprika onto our dinner from a container that required two hands to lift.

  4. Every bulb I own is also my default reading of garlic amounts in recipes, and I apologize to anyone who expected something else when I asked if they minded if I spiced things up, French-style.

    (ail ail ail…désolée!)

  5. When I’m not feeling well, if I have any, I eat a raw clove of garlic or two. I don’t know if it helps sometimes or that’s just a placebo effect. Surprisingly, even considering that, I don’t put large amounts of garlic in my actual food.

    Turmeric just tastes like bitter carrots, though.

  6. I come here in defence of bay leaves. Bay leaves, like fresh sage, turn a plain thing that is plain (rice, tofu, tempeh, beans, seitan, pasta, veges) into something with (gah I don’t know how to describe it), muted sharpness that is bitter but umami, depending on the quality of its friends such as garlic, onion, vege stock, thyme, sage, wine etc.

    Bay leaves are like the Elder Stateswoman of the meal. Bay might seem a bit bitter, unimpressed, forthright and irreverent but she balances the excessive sweetness, innocence and wastefulness of onions and garlic, much as I love them. The Meditteraneans use it. The Indians use it. It is good either way.
    I use it added to a mix of caramelised red onion, garlic, to soups, to all soups.
    Bay is analogous to having a bass player in a band. It gives things funk, depth and rhythm.

    Also conspicuous absences

    Where is thyme? Thyme is lemon/tomatoes/mushrooms/beans best friend.
    Where is white and black truffle oil (either the cheap fake shit (at least its trying to be wonderful) or the expensive shit although I have never tried the expensive shit so I will leave that to someone who has tried it). I love the cheap white or black truffle oil and it isn’t cheap, it just says its cheap. But that is the mystery that I love.
    Where is sage? Sage is also another bass player or rhythm guitar player. If you add sage the savoury or umami flavour gets real moreish.

    Where is lemon? Lemon is right there with caramelised garlic and onion, making everything fresher! brighter! acidic! cheeky!
    Where are the limes? Limes hold down the fort with the lemons, throwing grenades of citrusfirelight at your tastebuds.

    Also where is parsley, chives, rosemary and coriander? These add herbaceous light to salads, marinades etc, and increase the life factor of a meal. They add life.

    If it says 3 cloves a garlic I call it a bulb, and it is caramelised.

    Rant over. Thank you. I’ll go and make myself a few cups of tea now and probably a snacky snack in the kitchen.

    • This is exactly the level of passion I was hoping to see!

      Re: bay leaves, I understand you must be being paid a lot/blackmailed into saying this stuff, but is it really worth the price of your soul?

      • If you rethink your strategy towards bay leaves I will rethink my strategy towards turmeric.

        When everyone else can play a musical instrument or sing in the band, turmeric plays air guitar. Its all promise and no substance. BayLeavesForever.

        • I admit. I don’t know what to do with Turmeric besides use it as colouring. I have nothing against it, but my taste buds cannot taste it, just as I cannot taste saffron. I just cannot discern the excitement with them as you Sally cannot discern the excitement with bayleaves.

          • Friends have told me stories of having turmeric milk and other turmeric-based cure-alls foisted upon them, so perhaps in combination with my discolouration fear it’s more accurate to say it induces terror rather than excitement?

      • I presumed that this was excluding “herbs” (mainly, dried leaf), because culinary jargon distinguishes herbs and spices as separate categories, and this was confusing “seasonings” (supercategory covering herbs, spices, and salts) with “spices”… except, bay leaf. So I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here.

        • As the definition of seasoning is a bit of a grey area, I largely based it on my wife’s definition which is “a seasoning should be in a jar and you should be able to shake it” with various deviations when warranted.

  7. So by your own seasoning reasoning, cinnamon, which gets everywhere, could be considered the glitter of seasonings.

    And glitter, as I am certain we can all agree, is gay.

    Feelings are gay, as noted, and gay is etymologically a synonym for happy.

    Ergo, cinnamon is in fact the happiest seasoning. I rest my case.

  8. I hope the Epi-curious bb’s find Autostraddle thanks to this excellent guide to queer seasonings.

    And dare I hope this is only Part One of a flourishing series ? I’m sure it’s mint to be.

  9. Habaneros. Old Bay. Cilantro. Mitmita. Saur kraut isn’t exactly a seasoning, but it makes everything taste better. You did include garlic, but not enough. There’s never enough garlic.

  10. Bay Leaf slander will not be tolerated around her, o! If you wanna know what they taste like, make tea out of two or three. Its wild (and great for digestion).

    Also no cayenne?? anti-Blackness is a bitch. Lmfao.

  11. “But if reading 75 lesbian ebooks in the last three months has taught me anything, it’s that you really can have a happy ending with someone based purely on your instant chemistry and in outright denial of your long-term compatibility issues.”

    a stunning and comforting conclusion i will carry with me always

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