With both daughters home for winter breaks, CurvyMama’s inclined to get a little sentimental. As each one reaches new stages of independence, I want–what else?–to make sure she has the requisite seasonings to bound happily into her culinary adventures. Much to my proud delight, both have turned out to be damn good on both the savory and sweet sides of the kitchen.
So when my firstborn, Hannah, turned 21 last month and began staring down the barrel of the-rest-of-her-life-after-college, I thought it was time to commemorate this passage with a spice rack, made just for her by her mama.When I ran this idea by her, it seemed to resonate. She declared that she had to have a spice rack just like the one she grew up with: a crappy little white plastic double-tiered turntable stocked with little clear bottles. She accompanied this declaration with such a beaming smile and an assortment of happy mewing noises that I knew there was no room for discussion. And it was fine by me; my family hasn’t been heavy on tradition, shall we say, so this seemed like a fitting kind of tradition to embrace.
I got on Amazon and ordered the exact same Rubbermaid double-decked turntable I’ve used for years. And I found a place online that sells the little spice bottles for about a buck apiece. I hunted down some labels at a local art-supply store. And today I went to my local organic-food store and dished up dozens of little envelopes of freshly ground spices.
A momentary aside: If you still buy your spices in McCormick bottles, I beg of you: stop. Who knows how long that shit has sat on the grocery store shelves? And you pay for the same damn glass jars again and again. Start saving those empty jars, or buy a new set of cheap glass jars, and refill them with fresh-ground spices bought in bulk from a local organic market. Some Whole Foods branches are now carrying bulk spices like this. When you smell these spices, you will faint from joy. You will never know how good–how intense, how head-spinningly amazing–cardamom and cinnamon are supposed to smell until you buy them this way. And a little packet big enough to refill your jar will cost you less than a buck in most cases. Do it! You won’t regret it.
I composed a starter set of about 40 spices, and threw in some empty bottles with blank labels so she can expand on her collection as needed.
As I wrote out the labels and filled the bottles with seasonings, I thought about the dishes I had made with them as the kids were growing up. There were the dinnertime lasagnas and beef stews (before both became vegetarians in middle school); then came the Pad Thais, shrimp biryanis, and pesto-and-red-curry-paste pennes.
Filling the upper rack, which I’ve used mostly for baking spices, I imagined Hannah making my pumpkin pie recipe in her little apartment, perhaps for roommates or a gathering of friends who just can’t wait until their respective trips home for Thanksgiving to have their own mamas’ pies.
Glancing at the bright yellow and orange jars of turmeric and curry powder, I thought of her whipping up exotic dinners for friends, or even for me and her younger sister when we pay her a visit. What a thought: to walk into her apartment and smell some of the same smells that used to fill her kitchen here at home during her adolescence.
So much to look forward to at this stage of life: both for her, as she sets out to discover the wider world after years of school, and for us, her family, as we look forward to meals and sweets made for one another, and together, while we share stories of how our lives have changed, and keep changing.
Happy birthday, Hannah, and welcome to official adulthood. May your days in the kitchen be filled with friends, love, good memories and great smells.