First appeared on Food Riot, by Jill Guccini
I am not typically one to advocate feeling like a grown up. As Roald Dahl accurately warned me when I was a kid, grown ups tend to be dull and arrogant and generally not the best folks to be around or listen to.
But the more I cook lately, the more I tend to feel, well, grown up about it, although less grown up in the let's-talk-about-financial-investment way, and more in the look-Ma-I-can-competently-sustain-my-household and I-am-making-less-box-mac-and-cheese-these-days sort of way. My chest particularly puffs up with pride and self-esteem the more I look at, and use, my ever-expanding spice collection.
Whenever I discover I need to buy a new spice, while part of me grumbles because those suckers are expensive, another part gets a little giddy. One more little container of powders and leaves to add to my other powders and leaves! One more tiny step up the ladder of kitchen adulthood! I love standing in front of the spice section at the grocery store, undoubtedly taking too long to make my final selection as people maneuver their carts around me. The alphabetical, organized order is soothing, and I love the color blocked variety of amber and golden hues, rolling the names of ones I haven't yet acquired around on my tongue.
I've lived in the same apartment and cooked in the same kitchen for over six years now, a significant amount of time in my not-really-grown-up brain, enough time for me to accumulate and then forget about spices I didn't know I had. Whenever I make one of these unexpected discoveries whilst clinking around my collection, I feel REALLY jazzed about myself. Wait, you DO have garam masala? Look at you! You got a thing of bay leaves? Really? HOLLAAAAA. Coriander? Turmeric? Cream of freaking Tartar? Who run the world? GIRLS. (And you. And spices.)
Obviously, there is no moment more triumphant in the world of grown up spice usage than when you have successfully emptied an entire bottle o' spice. I feel strongly that some type of tiny blue ribbon should flutter down from the heavens and fall on your shoulders at this occurrence. My first bottle I ever had to re-stock was cinnamon, which I realize is pretty pedestrian, but in the past year, I've also knocked out an entire bottle of chili powder. This also might not be that much of an accomplishment, but give me a break, okay, I am only a sort-of grown up.
Speaking of sort-of grown up, we should clarify that my spice collection is also nothing like those you see in IKEA model kitchens: I have no swirly spice rack full of perfectly identical and sophisticated glass jars. Maybe one day when I also have a wrap around porch with a swing and I have won the lottery and my life is perfect. Until then, my apartment kitchen is like most things in my life: purchased cheaply and one at a time, shoved onto a shelf in absolutely no order but in colorful variety, some high class and organic, some store brand and in plastic.
And there is something comforting about the fact that whenever I move on from this 1970s kitchen with the olive green stove that I have also come to love, I will probably have to get rid of most of the furniture and assorted crap I've gathered in this apartment over the years. But along with necessary things like photographs and books and journals, I know that I will pack up all my mismatched spices into a little box to take with me, a testament to something that I can't quite perfectly explain but that feels weirdly personal, like tiny, only sort-of grown up friends.
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