because what I am going to cook this afternoon is going to make the neighbours want to get to know me better.
I love cooking with spices, because it makes everyone think that you actually know what you are doing - the smell says it all.
It is true you can truly stuff up with too much of a good thing (remember the Jollof Rice I made for you in the early 90s, Bush Babe?), but if you stay your hand, reach for a teaspoon if you are unsure of the pour and have quality ingredients and a good recipe, you are well on the way...
I have a great recipe for tonight - I will possibly post it for you some time - but if you want to ever really drool and hanker for some great Asian food, Charmaine Solomon is a name to look for, and if you grab her Encyclopedia of Asian Food you will have hours of theoretical feasting. It is well worth the price.
I know that because I have paid about that amount in overdue library fines on the darned thing over the last 10 years and therefore I still haven't bought it - but I found it at the library again on Monday (they try to hide it from me).
Finding the quality ingredients has been no walk in the park, however.
I have heard rumours of an Asian Grocery in Paradise, but I was very sure it was part myth, part driving-Jeanie-mad.
I got told a street - only to find the long, residential street had nothing to offer except lots of houses. Lots of low-set, same-looking brick houses with twitching curtains.
I got a card in the mailbox - yay!!! Then I found no sign of a shop at the address.
I tried the phone directory - nothing. Do you know we don't even have a decent deli? And as we are a cane colony I was sure there would be at least one of them!
I was desparate. I try to stock up when I go to the big smoke (I used to live around the corner from some quality spice emporiums) but I haven't been cashed up and South for far too long.
This morning I set off determined that if there was goodness to be found, then darn it I would dig it out!
My plan of attack was simple (and suggested by someone else).
I went to an Asian restaurant and asked them. Great plan, unfortunately ruined by the fact that he had no idea of local outlets, as he bought in bulk from the big smoke.
He did tell me where the Hospitality Wholesaler was, who may possibly know. Heck, I didn't even know we had a Hospitality Wholesaler in town! I went there and was advised that the one from the card did exist at the address I had, but it was sneaky and hidden - I just had to look harder. Story of my life.
The address is the local bus depot, with some warehousey sort of shops/offices/spaces around the perimeter - think corrugated iron, think 1970s police dramas, think "gee, this could do with a lick of paint and some better signage" and you would have pictured the depot.
When I pulled up, I did actually see a big sign on top of the building that said "Asian Grocer". Considering I had driven RIGHT PAST that building only 1/2 an hour before and had not seen it PROVES TO ME that there is a conspiracy.
I walked up the driveway and saw the Depot, some coke machines, a Dive school and a food wholesalers - no Asian Grocery.
I went in to the food wholesaler to ask about the mythical Asian Grocery. She played like I hadn't actually said "Do you know where the Asian Grocery is?" and instead had said "Are you likely to have any Asian Grocery?" because she asked me what EXACTLY I was looking for.
I was looking for the Asian Grocery (and not necessarily specific ingredients, even though I had them on a list in my purse) because for me, shops like this are better than shoe stores for other women. I can spend hours examining the merchandise and dreaming about tastes. Barefoot and in the kitchen sounds fine for me, so long as I can remain a feminist!
She waved an arm towards the depot and said "over there".
As I walked across the drive, a man came across to accost me.
I was very wary - I mean, I have my own faith, thank you, and no I don't carry spare change.
"Are you looking for the Asian Grocery?" he asked when I finally saw the sign (yes, right in front of me and in plain view) and charged ahead. (My excuse has always been I hid behind the door when God was handing out looking ability).
"Yes" I said in my best "whats-it-to-you and I-am-a-busy-woman-who-can't-solve-your -problems" voice.
"Thats my shop - I am not actually open at the moment, but if you need to get something, I can open for you."
Darn, I hate wasting my "whats-it-to-you and I-am-a-busy-woman-who-can't-solve-your -problems" voice on people who really don't deserve it!
I ended up getting my list filled and chatting for a while - although, I shall go back in on the weekend to get my fill of inspiration!!!
Of course, I then forgot to get onions on the way home, so about to pop out for a few so I can start to create my Oooroomas Badun (Sri Lankan Fried Pork Curry - page 138) to be served with rice, fresh salad (brought by our guest), and Vambotu Pahi (an eggplant pickle - page 151).
The kids get spaghetti - so everyone will be happy!