In my kitchen, I don't pay much attention to the expiration dates on spices. That's what fresh herbs are for. I'm probably wrong--and this is probably why I'll remain a cook and not a chef--but I don't think two week old ground nutmeg is more flavorful than two year old nutmeg; and if I really wanted fresh, I'd grate my own damn nutmeg.
I have spices that I bought in Bellingham, in college--a yellow and red canister of Greek seasoning, purchased either at the Mediterranean specialties store behind the Sehome theater or the Greek Festival that happens every September a little north of Western's campus. More recently, though still a few years back, I have spices that I bought in France. When I reach for nutmeg, you see, it's actually mouscade, and cumin is...wait, cumin is cumin...My herbes de Provence, unfortunately, is long since used up, and though I can find the mixture in grocery stores in America, I find it rather distasteful to pay $8.99 for something that's one Euro in France.
What's interesting is that I've moved, many times, and these spices are still with me. I moved from France, to Bellingham, to New Hampshire and around New Hampshire, and back to Seattle. And I stuffed my glass spice jars in socks and gloves and wrapped them in washcloths and rammed them in nooks and crannies of boxes and suitcases. They've been shipped via UPS, and USPS Media Mail, tucked sneakily in a sock under Harry Potter (you have no idea how tempted I was to write Socrates...), stuffed into U-Haul trailers being towed across America by a Ford Taurus and crammed underneath Clementine's hanging chub in a Hyundai.
To be fair, there are plenty of things that have made all of these moves with me, cookware I have owned for years, knitting needles that have traveled overseas, a birthday card given to me at age 13 by my Aunt Karin. And perhaps I should, instead, be mulling over the things that haven't made it: clothing I left at Goodwill, books I no longer want to read, love tokens and photographs, dishes I always hated. I guess instead of considering what we do and do not hold on to, though, this is more about what we choose to take with us, what we decide, purposefully, to retain.
In my case, I suppose, it's a particular spice blend called Quatre Epices, unlike any you can find in the United States.