Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

My Chai Caddy


In the kitchen there are a few things you hold dear. They're priceless much in the way an old Aunt's wooden spoon is priceless or an old cast iron pan bought from a flea market. For me, one of those things is my spice caddy.

It's an unassuming thing. Cirucular in shape, flat-topped and silver all round. But it's what within the lid and the 3-inch high container that's pure magic. Seven little tins, empty and ready to be filled with whatever aromatic you wish to have. In my case, it's whole spices: coriander, cumin, brown mustard, black onion (nigella) seeds, cardamom and cloves. Plus, there's a diminutive spoon to scoop out whatever you need. That's the closest thing to a measuring spoon I use.

My dear friends, Amber and her family, gave this to me as a house warming gift, back in the day when I was ecstatic to grow up and move into a place of my own. Now, after a rancorous year or so, I'm now part of Amber's household and so is this caddy.

It's been with me since my first cup of chai. It was a recipe I wasn't particularly fond of and from there I improvised and riffed until something I liked came about. It was with me through every pot of dal, curry and the like. It was also there the first time Andy, my boyfriend, and I hung out together, making Thai curry paste from scratch with the mortar and pestle that usually sits next to this shiny caddy.

Little comforts are of monumental help when you think the world will crumble around you. Whether it is making a cup of tea for yourself or friends or simply opening up this little container and breathing in all the Scheherazade-storybook scents or taking in the simple beauty of a few spices arranged, by chance, the way they are in your kitchen, you take them the way you would a friend's or lover's deep embrace. When you feel as if you can no longer hold the worry and fears in.

So I open the caddy, take in the view and inhale.