Lessons From Growing Up in the Spice Trade

Caitlin PenzeyMoog grew up in her grandparent's store, The Spice House. Her mother worked there, and so did she, eventually. Of course, this meant her childhood memories are particularly aromatic.   

This is where my grandparents would call my brother, sister, and me back when the rush of customers slowed, to read Gurdjieff out loud or mix cinnamon sugar while reciting the poem “Desiderata.” We’d do this while making a blend, which we’d stir in an enormous metal bowl exactly 111 times. My grandfather would make us pork chops on a George Foreman grill, seasoned with some unknowable pepper mix. The air was perpetually thick with the commingling of hundreds of spices, herbs, sugars, and salts, blending into a distinctive smell that lingered on your clothing and in your hair all day. It formed thick dust motes that floated in the sunlight coming through windows.

You’d think that spending a lot of time here would numb your olfactory senses, but the opposite was true. My nose learned to cut through the background smell to identify specific spices within the store—a good thing when replacing the apothecary jars with their correct lids, which is easily done when you can discern oregano from parsley and garlic from ginger.

From her lifetime of experience, PenzeyMoog offers us some simple advice about using spices, which is almost as interesting as her description of growing up in The Spice Shop.

(Image credit: Lenore Edman)

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