Awaken your meats with Greek seasoning

Aerial shot of Santorini, Greece
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I rewatched My Big Fat Greek Wedding on a whim last weekend, curious to see if it held up as the perfectly delightful rom-com I remember. It did, largely because of Michael Constantine’s performance as the Windex-toting Greek patriarch. Constantine’s character is constantly wielding a spray bottle of the stuff, advising loved ones to “put some Windex” on warts, rashes, acne, and other blemishes. I, too, have a Greek catch-all remedy—but mine’s edible, and it has a permanent place in my spice rack. It’s Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, an all-purpose spice blend I’ve been slapping on meat and veggies for years.

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Cavender’s originated about as far from the Greek isles as you can get. According to the brand’s website, it was invented by one Spike Cavender in Harrison, Arkansas, an Ozark Mountain town about an hour south of my hometown. And even though I’m quickly becoming The Takeout’s resident Ozarks evangelist, I swear to God I had no clue Cavender’s was made there. Cavender’s was ubiquitous in friends’ pantries back home, but I always just assumed everyone knew about it.

Regardless, the blend’s backstory is pretty fun. Turns out that grandaddy Spike had an entrepreneurial flair that led him to open a Honda motorcycle dealership, a downtown Harrison retail store, and even a few root beer stands. In 1969, he decided to market his secret weapon: a spice blend based on a recipe he scored from a Greek chef. When I called the brand’s hotline, a Cavender’s representative told me that Spike wanted his spice blend to incorporate more ingredients than Colonel Sanders’ famed 11 herbs and spices. If you can believe, you can achieve: Cavender’s now contains 13 top-secret ingredients. From then on, members of the family spent weekends blending the seasoning so Spike could deliver orders during the week.

I love this stuff. Cavender’s is zesty and bold, with an unmistakable tang that feels vaguely Dorito-y. During the week, I use the blend to liven up just about everything. That includes popcorn, burgers, steak, chicken breast, salad, and mashed potatoes. Cheesy polenta? Add some Cavender’s. Pizza dough? Cavender’s. Wake up with a giant zit on your wedding day? Hell, dab a little Cavender’s on it. At the very least, you’ll taste like steak, which is the key to any long-lasting marriage.

One more thing: I think spice blends like Cavender’s get slept on a lot, either because shoppers are afraid of preservatives or because blends have been falsely billed as a lazy option. But a pre-mixed spice blend is a quick, affordable way to level up weeknight meals and lunches. Seriously, just use a spice blend! It does all the work for you!

Ready to experience the meaty, zesty glory of Cavender’s? Fortunately, it’s pretty accessible. You can order the blend online in a five-pound tub, but you can also get it at most major supermarkets and novelty food stores. Or you can purchase it directly from the Cavender family at the brand’s Harrison storefront. While you’re there, you can also get yourself a Cavender’s Greek Seasoning baseball cap (I desire it) or a festive tank top. And if you’re hesitant to wear the tank top in public after the long winter, you can always douse yourself in a few layers of Cavender’s. It really is an all-purpose blend.

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Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

“Cavender’s now contains 13 top-secret ingredients.”

From the label:

Ingredients: ‘SALT, BLACK PEPPER, CORN STARCH, GARLIC, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, OREGANO, FLAVOR BASE SEASONING (HYDROLYZED CORN SOY PROTEIN, SUGAR, ONION POWDER, SPICE EXTRACTIVES), PARSLEY AND FIVE OTHER SPICES.’

There, they narrowed down the “13 top-secret ingredients” to only 5 for you.