Remember when I talked to you about flavor building? (Well, not talked, but typed.) Now, I want to talk to you about spice layering. It's like flavor building's first cousin twice removed.
Everyone has either a favorite dish or a native dish. It can be the same dish or two different ones. It's also something that's been made several times by several different people and it probably has a standard recipe. Spice layering starts with these dishes, because things that grow together often taste good together and before we had globalization, you had to eat stuff from your 'hood. So, all the things you ate were more or less from one region.
For a class, I did a handout about how to use spices in cooking. As a demonstration, I brought four spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. I used instant hot chocolate as the base and asked people to sprinkle whatever they liked into their drink with two recommendations, which were cayenne with cinnamon and nutmeg with cardamom. The spices paired with another (hidden) flavor, the cocoa powder, gave the hot chocolate a new spin with no cooking involved. Also, by using spice, you can reduce some of the other ingredients that tend to add extra calories such as full-fat whipped cream, full fat milk or added sugar, because the flavor is so potent.
Spice layering is akin to listening to a good song on your i-pod, and loving it over and over. But, then you hear that song in concert in a specially designed acoustic hall with live musicians and instruments. Your ears get the full range of the music that ear buds CANNOT produce. Spices work that way. One note leads, and you love it, but the really beauty is combining it with other foods and spices to get the full effect.
Science can be really tasty AND analogous AND musical.