Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Spice Rack

I dump a spoonful of curry into the waiting pot.  As it hits the butter and onions, a savory plume fills the air causing my eyes to water.  I give the mixture a few turns before setting the timer.  Opening the cans of pumpkin and broth, I wait.

The curry stains the spatula, a pervasive seasoning that invades my nose ... and my mind.  Smiling, I remember a game my kid sister and I played.  During long days or slow nights, we wander to the kitchen to explore our mother's spice rack.  One stands, eyes squeezed shut, while the other riffles through the cabinet.   Seizing upon a bottle, the chooser unscrews the lid, holding it out to the sniffer.  We can't touch it and our eyes must stay closed, but we can take our time dwelling on the mystery smell.

With eyes clenched tight, we breath deep, hoping that the aroma will spark a memory -  a dish our mother might have prepared recently.  If we were lucky, we'd helped with that dinner and maybe, just maybe, we'd had the job of seasoning.  Suddenly the name springs to mind and we exclaim, "Cumin!"

As the curry dances above my pot, tears prick my eyes and this time it isn't the onions.  My head swirls with memories of that childhood kitchen:  the slanting floor and the crooked door jam leaning to the right;  the upper oven that never worked and the little shelf above the sink holding an army of penguins because my mom commented one time on their cuteness; the louvered pantry door stuffed with Christmas cards.  I learned how to bone a chicken in that kitchen and I watched my mother roll out tortillas.  She made both look easy.

The timer beeps and I'm jarred back to the present.  Aaron saunters up, putting one arm around my shoulders.  "What's that smell?"

"It's curry."

"Can I help?"

"Sure, Buddy."

The tradition of "Name that Spice" and "Help Mom in the Kitchen" continues for another generation.


Linking up with Trifecta: 33-333 words inspired by the single word dwell (to keep the attention directed.)

Linking up with Write at the Merge this week - inspired by the sense of smell.


  1. I love cumin! My husband does the cooking and he often uses it. As I'm sure you know, it has such a strong smell on its own, though. Every time I make a cup of coffee, the smell of cumin sometimes overpowers the coffee!

    Great memories!

  2. I love this! What a great memory to share.

  3. Smell of spices can really conjur up memories of youth. I remember when my dad learned how to make paella and I loved the saffron he used in that dish.

  4. Such a sweet little slice of life (:

  5. Love how this piece seduced my senses... and now I'm hungry! :)

  6. Ah...curry. I was there in that kitchen, right down to the watery eyes.

  7. I loved your story, and I'll tell you why. It was not the wonderfully descriptive way you set the scene in her childhood kitchen... I am jealous about that by the way. I do not do much in that regard in my writing, and you have given me a challenge without knowing it... but a part of it. The collection of penguins, and your putting one in italics. It instantly brought to mind my mother and the huge collection of Mona Lisa images she ended up with... she never told my sisters Mona didn't mean much to her, and I have kept the secret even after she was gone. So, in honor of your beautiful story, I will cook something with curry, and strive to put some descriptive passages in my next story... that might be tough, since it is the Trifextra.

  8. oh my, now I am hungry! I love this story. Terrific memory!

  9. that's a delightful tradition! :) and such a sweet sweet memory. your post, of course, made me hungry ^^ i enjoyed your descriptions thoroughly ^^
    happy valentines day! :)

  10. Lovely nostalgic piece redolent with all the senses. I love that touch about the penguins when one mention suddenly acquires a house full of the little darlings.

  11. A flavoured trip down memory lane:-)In India,we use spices in our food everyday & so could relate to your narration as well as the beautiful tradition that has been passed down the generations:-)

  12. I love the spices and the memories all woven together... so sweet--even the oniony bite.

  13. Such traditions should be preserved in this world. They make living bearable when nothing else can.

    Well done!

  14. How sweet! I can totally imagine playing that game as a kid; you made me wish I had!


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