In this country, cinnamon makes its mark in sweets. But elsewhere in the world this spice is decidedly savory, showing up repeatedly in curries, stir-fries and grilled meats.

In this country, cinnamon makes its mark in sweets. But elsewhere in the world this spice is decidedly savory, showing up repeatedly in curries, stir-fries and grilled meats.

Which makes cinnamon an excellent ingredient for expanding your culinary repertoire without having to buy anything new (that would sit in the back of your cupboard once the novelty wore off).

While there are several styles of cinnamon, from Vietnamese to Mexican canella, they can be divided into two major categories, best identified by their quills (sticks).

The first, traced back to Ceylon or Sri Lanka, is the product of the dried inner bark of the cinnamomum tree and is light brown in color, lightly sweet and when dried rolls into one familiar stick. The second, native to China and Vietnam, is commonly called cassis and is darker, stronger in flavor and forms a stick with a double roll.

Use of cinnamon has been traced back to the early days of China and the Middle East, and even is referenced in the Old Testament. The spice route brought cinnamon to Europe, then on to the United States and Mexico.

In Africa, it is a key ingredient in Moroccan tagines and the fiery Ethiopian spice mix berbere. In the Middle East, it flavors lamb and chicken. In India and Pakistan, it is added to the pungent spice blend called garam masala. In Mexico, it adds depth to chocolate.

Grated or whole, cinnamon is versatile and easy to experiment with. Add a few dashes to your favorite meat rub. Saute a stick with onions for your next batch of chili. Or toss in a few sticks with some wine when slow-cooking brisket.

— The Associated Press