In Search of the Spice Rack

On very rainy days (of which there appear to be a fair number in these Isles) I’m often in specialist kitchen shops like Divertimenti and Elisabeth David or Harrods kitchen section. The Italian pastamaker and Nigella Lawson’s latest book leave me cold.

I’m nosing around for the perfect spice rack. Easy, you might say; take your pick: hardwood tray, ten little glass bottles, secure metal lids, go straight to secure checkout. Well, yes, I can well imagine the neat little jars of oregano, marjoram, basil and herbes de provence, but what about Indian spice? No self-respecting Indian worth her/his er…salt (alternative: garam masala) would use those tiny bottles.

Indian spice is about largesse and generosity, abundance, too gloriously voluminous to be confined in small plastic or glass cases and spaces. The energetic explosion of turmeric, the raw richness of chili red, the sumptuous earthiness of cumin, pungent heeng (asofoetida)… those aromas need copious release to perform their magic, and not by the tiny teaspoon. Cornucopias of plenty.

The bad news: there are no elegant and large spice jars for Indian spices. If they are elegant, they are small; if large, they are like jam jars and as ugly as Cinderella’s stepsisters. That’s why many Indian designer kitchens have at least one cabinet/drawer strictly not on display to visitors: it’s almost always the one with the Indian spices. The cupboard with the neat rows of dill, parsley and chives, on the other hand,  is on show.

Open a typical Indian spice cupbaord, and motley smells pervade: too many spices to be contained in little jars, too many in the original packing — think of the worn flaps of the Everest Garam Masala carton…difficult to store, these cartons perch crookedly on top of the other like Brazilian favelas up a hill.

If you find the right size of Indian non-tacky spice jar, let me know. Until then, the search for spice (containers) is put on ice.

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