For years I have kept my Pakistani spices in a large Tupperware bowl with a red lid. The kind that you use to bring the gargantuan pasta salad (that no one will eat) to a potluck dinner. The lid is sticky with the years that the bowl has held spices and (sometimes) dust. Christmas 2010 I received a proper spice box as a gift. Not a western spice rack, but a genuine masala dhaba (spice box) of stainless steel.
Yesterday, while making a chicken curry, I transferred the spices from the Tupperware to the masala dhaba. It was like someone had told me I had won the lottery. It is beautiful and I can’t stop looking at it.
It is shiny and beautiful, full of the colors of Pakistan – yellow/orange turmeric, red pepper, black pepper, red/orange masala spice, light brown coriander, darker brown garam masala, and to add a Middle Eastern flare – green/brown zahtar.
The spices sit contented in their round stainless steel bowls and a small spice spoon pokes out of the red pepper. The lid is see-through so the colors can be seen even as the spices keep fresh. It is magnificent.
These are the things I love about where I was raised. The simplicity of colorful spices, the feel of a dupatta over my shoulders as I wear a colorful, silk shalwar kameez, the smell of curry cooking, and anticipation of hot naan and samosas to come. I love being able to duplicate these small things even as I look outside and hear the sounds akin to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz – “Marilyn, You’re not in Pakistan anymore!”
- Diner’s Journal: Garam Masala: Many Recipes, and Even More Uses (dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Chana Masala Powder (jamesbonfieldrecipes.wordpress.com)
- A Recipe to Keep – Masoor Dahl