Essay // Rituals at Home

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PERHAPS I’VE SIMPLY BEEN INFUSED with a sense of the positive mysticism of the psychedelic-drug-induced religions that were being discussed on Radio National the other day, but I’ve suddenly been awakened to the truly sensory and sensual practice of toasting and blending spices at home.

Although I have certainly ground a few curry powders and pastes in my time, I have never before employed so much mindfulness in cooking as during the making of the above garam masala. When my boyfriend and I moved into our first apartment, one of our most treasured housewarming gifts was a stocked masala dabba (an Indian stainless-steel spice container) from his mother, along with a bountiful supply of home-dried curry leaves. There is something exceedingly comforting about a pantry stocked with these warming and pungent ingredients.

I can only give voice to my sense of poetic pleasure in words as scattered and mutable as the seeds, leaves, and powders themselves.

Darkening, hospitable. Warm colours of earth. Scent intensifying as the heat builds, elements swell at once individual and fused: sinus-clearing red chilli, warm cinnamon, Christmas cloves. Coriander seeds crackle. Faint smoke rising.

Making your own curry powder is something to be done in solitude and silence, ahead of time. It’s something to build into an indulgence, a soulful treat, rather than a quick dinner-time chore. For this (and for the sake of conserving some sense of my adopted-in-love-hereditary Indian culture in daily life) I intend to lift from-scratch masala from the realm of domestic work to that of secular ritual in our home.

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