This morning I discovered an Aladdin’s cave in a local spice shop. Bulging and exciting sacks of pulses and spices greeted my daughter Alice and I, as we squeezed our way in past an equally bulging and excited Indian man! He welcomed us with open arms (with a hint of suspicion), his eyes almost popping out and shouting “CHING-CHING” when I asked “do you accept cards?”
I was in heaven! The vast array of jars, sachets and enticing looking ingredients all catching my eye as I edged my way down the cramped aisle. I was overwhelmed by the choice, like a kid in a sweet shop. The little Indian man was quite off-putting at first, hovering constantly at my elbow… while Alice and I shuffled awkwardly between his intriguing stock. I can only assume he was expecting us to line our pockets with his lentils and stuff our bras with his mustard seeds!
Once he ascertained that we weren’t common thieves (in a very uncommon way, a teenage girl with last night’s mascara and pyjama bottoms and a slightly disabled woman with a cane, for a speedy getaway!), he was very helpful.
Tomorrow’s headline: CUNNING THEIVES USED DISABLED PASS FOR EASE OF PARKING IN CITY RAID. A local woman saying when interviewed, how surprised she was, “this is a quiet area, we are all shocked and appalled that such crime would be committed under our noses”. It’s the aroma of spices around the shop – they bring out the seedier side of us all, no wonder the Indian was wary…
As I filled my basket with his tasty delights, the Indian’s excitement grew visibly. I asked where the cumin was – I bought the stone sack! I asked where the green lentils were – the bag was so large it barely fit in my boot! I am lucky my car’s roof box was safely tucked away in my attic, who knows what volumes I would have bought in, all in the name of economising… If I had a saucepan big enough, I could invite you all around for a tasty Dahl.
My new found Indian friend had one last trick up his sleeve. After the many trips to the car were over (I may have got over excited myself!), my one last question, at this stage we were all out of breath from the exertion, “do you have any curry leaves?” He smiled and disappeared over some boxes at the back, his head popped up and he handed me out a bunch of curry leaves!! Proffered as a valentine would a dozen red roses. I was expecting a little plastic sachet of dried leaves, instead I ended up with a whole bush of fresh ones! Well I couldn’t reject them after all his effort, so I squeezed them in between Alice and the lentils, and we made our not so speedy getaway… exhaust scraping off the ground… waved off by a happy little Indian man.
So… now I’m home and scratching my head in amazement, in hindsight perhaps smaller bags would have been more prudent. If any of you know what to do with fresh curry leaves, (or have any spare jars / tupperware) and don’t mind climbing over sacks of pulses and spices to get at them, you are welcome to join our feast that we are calling ‘Overindulgence in Indian food – A Celebration’. I am hoping it will be an annual event. Just discovered the best before date on the curry leaves was February 9th! Ah well, greater depth of flavour, the Indian definitely saw me coming.