Month of September: “660 Curries” Masala Dabba or Spice Box

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Arundhati Roy

I have always wanted a spice box ( masala dabba) and here it is! My first one! Isn’t it beautiful? I could just stare at it all day. Spices are the backbone of Indian cuisine so I wanted to share a few things about them. According to this cookbook, in the glossary of ingredients, the author lists 35 spices and flavorings. Yes, that’s right, thirty five!! I find that extraordinary. Don’t you?? He emphasizes the importance of buying whole as much as possible and grinding them yourself. He claims that one spice can elicit different flavors depending on the technique used, such as roasting alone, roasting and grinding, soaking, adding oil, mixing, etc.

Starting out, I just went with the freshest spices I could find. I have good luck with our local co-op which offers spices in bulk. In the grocery stores it is unclear how long spices have been sitting on a shelf and freshness is crucial. Pictured above are seven spices: cayenne powder, turmeric powder, coriander seed, cumin seed, mustard seed, star anise and cinnamon sticks.

Thinking about this palette of fragrances got me thinking about oil paint palettes which led me to think of art and how very true it is that good cooking is an art. Abby was an artist. Her medium was willow, stained glass, fiber, wood, oils and pencil. I am an artist. Mine is food. The more I understand what connected us the more I realize that appreciating beauty and creating was central to our way of seeing and being in the world. We felt like family to each other because of it. And with family comes ups and downs and we certainly did have ours. It’s crazy now to let in that we lived a span of 9 years of not talking. What the hell that really was about I don’t think either one of us ever understood. We never dug deep about it for some reason which is odd because we would deep dive all the time. I guess it was like a growing spurt that we both had to do alone and it was accepted. In 2012 we reconnected coming back even stronger, closer than we had been even in our twenties, more seasoned and weathered. I never thought she would die so young and the dreams we shared for the future will never come to fruition. We had what we had and that was all. But that was no small thing.

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