TRAVELOGUE #36: Birmingham, Michigan 2016


What is travel, anyway? According to Wikipedia, it is the movement of people between relatively distant geographical locations…with or without luggage. Yesterday, I went to Tanya Christ's house to cook her a meal and my luggage was a food processor and juicer that weighed more together than any Delta-approved carryon.

Travel is also happiness, so I think it’s fair to say that I travelled last night to Birmingham, Michigan to do justice to a recipe that I learned about last month from a cooking class at Carrots n' Dates.

When you’re travelling in the traditional sense, you order a meal and flavours are served up on a plate. You taste and decide. You like it; you loathe it. You’ll eat nothing else it’s that good or you’d rather starve than eat another bite of cow’s tongue.

But to travel inside someone else’s spice cupboard, that my friends is a glimpse inside someone’s heart. So unexpected it was, to have this sudden taste of trust. When you think about it, as I was last night sorting through bottles, the spice cupboard is a private one. Guests don’t really go in there unless they’re looking for a glass. Minors would never be able to reach it, standard poodles included. Muggers would only ransack it for hidden money (teenagers might do this, too). If there are two able cooks in the house, let’s face it only one of them is doing most or all of the cooking. And very quickly, the spice cupboard becomes this private world for one. That one person stocks it, replenishes it, and knows every corner of its existence.

“Where’s the Worcestershire sauce? I can’t find it,” says your mother who swears she can’t find anything in your kitchen.

“It’s in there,” you say with 6th sense certainty. “Look in the back beside the rock salt and turmeric.”

She rummages about, knocking down small castles of salt and pepper bottles that you’d stacked for space.

“Found it!” she declares, like her mission to find it was Impossible. You smile your smile and rebuild your castles one by one.

Where was I?

Oh yeah: I’m whipping up Green Goddess dressing in Tanya’s kitchen. I’m also making a vegetable stir-fry and getting familiar with her spice castles. Cumin, yes please. And lots of smooth blends like celery seed meets onion, black pepper meets cayenne. The saffron is Spanish, the cinnamon ground. Her cupboard looks like mine, a jigsaw culinary puzzle with sandy surfaces from spilled over bottles. I want to remember the names of everything in there because I’ve sat at her table and I've eaten her last-minute whip ups and this woman can cook, let me tell you. She'll say she's just ok, but don't believe her. Leave it to Tanya (and maybe Gordon Ramsay) to make out of this world pancakes with corn meal and wheat bran. Bran, people; bran. And don’t ask me how she makes this sweet potato side dish with beans in the middle, but it keeps me coming back for more. Come to think of it, we haven’t had that in ages but the fact that I remember it tells you something about her ways with spice.

Thank you for the spice travel, Tanya – for trusting me in your culinary space to make us something that wouldn’t require paramedic intervention afterwards.

Love to all

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© 2017 S. Rebecca Leigh