Sunday, 26 June 2011

Day 253-254 & 261- A Spice Platter

There was a time, for a handful of peppercorns, you could have someone killed. Throw in a nutmeg or two, you could probably watch. There was a time when grown men sat around and thought of nothing but black pepper. How to get it. How to get more. How to control the entire trade in pepper from point of origin to purchase.--Schuyler Ingle

Here is an exploration of the centuries-old desire for spice in food, in medicine, in magic, in religion, and in sex--and of the allure of forbidden fruit lingering in the scents of cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and clove. We follow spices back through time, through history, myth, archaeology, and literature. We see spices in all their diversity, lauded as love potions and aphrodisiacs, as panaceas and defenses against the plague. We journey from religious rituals in which spices were employed to dispel demons and summon gods to prodigies of gluttony both fantastical and real. We see spices as a luxury for a medieval king's ostentation, as a mummy's deodorant, as the last word in haute cuisine.We discover how spice became one of the first and most enduring links between Asia and Europe. We see in the pepper we use so casually the relic of a tradition linking us to the appetites of Rome, Elizabethan England, and the pharaohs. And we capture the pleasure of spice not only at the table but in every part of life- Tom Standage

I know not of any cuisine  more evocative of the word -spice- than the Indian one. Spices are so important in an Indian kitchen that there's not a home without at least one masala dabba or spice box. So I decided I needed one for the Rolla kitchen as well. Except I didn't make a box, but a platter of spices. 

It took me three tries of shaving various shades of incense cones into tiny little steel bowls before I could get decent pictures of my spice platter. As you can see from the picture above, I had also used dried leaves and seeds. Those were the easy ones. 

Look at my first attempt and you can see what I mean by sloppy shaving. My spice platter looked more like it belonged to a nursery than a kitchen. 

Here is attempt No. 3 on a rattan mat, finally earning its place, at least for now, in the Rolla kitchen. The wooden ladles were made by me using tooth picks, dried pods (same as the ones I used for the lotus leaves) and strings.

This is my favourite picture of a spice platter. It was taken by momofuku ando when he was in Shimla, India 2006. Perhaps my next kitchen will have one just like this.

Up next, ingredients for curry fish head.... 


rosanna said...

I love spices, I love pepper and nutmeg. I adore curry and cinnamom, coriander and cumin and you can add more and more.
And I'd love to have a masala dabba in m kitchen but most of all I love yours in Rolla's kitchen and I love reading you again.
You worried me my dear.
Have you received my mails?
Big hugs to you and now I shall go to the harbour where a suq takes place :o)) I'll think of you ((^_^))

Eva said...

Alex is a bif fan of spices although we do not too much about them :)
You make laugh with the "nursery". I am not agree :) it is true that the last one is better but all of them ar ok.
I understand what you like the picture of the spice platter :)

Rosamargarita said...

Es increíble tu capacidad de reproducir objetos en miniatura! el plato de especias es divino, un detalle que no podía faltar a tu cocina.
Un beso

Daydreamer said...

Dear Sans! As usual, your ability to take the tiniest details and make them beautiful and Rich with meaning astonishes me! Your spice platter is beautiful.... awaiting the deft hands of the cook who knows just what to use and how much.... and we ignorant westerners who have always craved the Spices of the EAST... so much so that we have fought WARS over them..... really don't know how to use them at all! Yet they represent the mysterious culture of a world we don't know, but get glimpses of from time to time... the Words are some of the most EVOCATIVE in our language.... Spice, cinnamon, curry, nutmeg, saffron, paprika, clove.... they mean nothing less than a magical transformation of the simple to the sublime.....! As does your creativity with the mini version!
I hope you are getting better... I have been thinking of you. :)

Flor said...

¡Que bien quedaron Sans!!!! ( =
Un abrazo

CWPoppets said...

I love Indian food and when I saw your spices I got hungry immediately ... lol.

The Old Maid said...

This spice platter looks so good I almost can smell them overhere:) When you wrote it is your third attempt to make this I started to think I have no patience at all cause I always want everything to be made at once and perfect ;) So again I admire your talent and patience in creating perfect miniatures, dear Sans:)
Hope you are better too:)

Miniatures by Natalia said...

Ok, Sans!, you've made me eager to get a new experience and go to try Indian cuisine to see what I have missed. I am a big fan of spices. I will let you know. Nice to hear from you

Josje said...

Goodness me, I found an update of both your's and Rosanna's blog on my readers list....maybe the reinstall of my computer helped with that as well!

Love the spice platter Sans, especially the one with the cone in the middle. Using insence for it is a good idea.

Drora's minimundo said...

It looks like a perfect everyday use plate of spices for a busy kitchen. I wish I could taste the food. Hugs

malu2 said...

Hola Sans, cuantos días sin visitarte
falta de tiempo, gracías por venir a mi blog!!!!Este trabajo te ha quedado perfecto, como todos los tuyos, con estos colores tan fantasticos que solo tú sabes hacer. Besos de las Malu´s. MªLuisa.

Susanne said...

Just a brief comment, dear Sans: You are marvellous, what a beauty!
Love, Susanne

My Realitty said...

Love it so rich. Your scenes are so sensuous and evocative. Brava! C

Glenda said...

It's amazing how spices are so powerful emotionally. Your tray is another mistresspiece, Sans! You're our very own mini Mistress of Spices!! (have you seen that movie?)
xxx Glenda

BiWuBär said...

Amazing as always... and your struggling for perfection is stunning. I'm really curious to see the curry fish head now... ;O)


P.S.: Being a great Asterix-fan since earliest childhood I can truly recommend Goscinny's books to you, I looked it up, in the English version it's "Nicholas". Of course it's a children's book, but in my opinion being good for children can't be bad for adults... and Sempé's drawings are fabulous. But now the explanation why Flutterby was upset: Little Nick is famous for a bad habit of writing very, very long sentences... and Flutterby was wondering if I tried to tell him something by giving him this book... but of course I was only recommending him a good book for a rainy day. As if he was a little bear with too long sentences... never!!! He who is known for short and precise statements... ;O)

cockerina said...

I love to put the spices in my cooking, in reality!
My favorites are nutmeg, in tomato sauce, cinnamon in peas, and curry in eggs!
I LOVE your pot of spices in miniature, it is very inviting with its bright colors.
I can come and eat at your house? ha ha!
kisses, Caterina

Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

Your spice platter is a feast for the eyes! I'll bet the Rolla kitchen smells really good too :)


Piikko said...

Sans, I have water in my mouth! Your spice plates look delicious.
And those colours...beautiful!!
Summer greetings from sunny Finland:)
Hugs, piikko

Sans! said...

Rosannnnnnna! A souq near a harbour! I am JEALOUS! I cannot hear the word "souq" or "bazaar' without wanting to dash out of the door to run there :). But you know, my house is so filled with things already! :(

Rosanna, the masala dabba (love that term) is a metal box with 2 covers but vintage Indian spice boxes were usually made of wood with very elaborate carving. I think I will like the antique version :). Maybe I will make one for the merchant house :).

I may get sick of this spice platter soon :).

Sans! said...

Eva, when you are in Singapore, Alex can eat all the spices he wants! He will be in spice heaven when we visit Little India :). I will bring you to a place where you can have fish or chicken curry for breakfast every morning :). A stone's throw from my house :).

And then there's China town and Jumbo seafood dinner can go home and starve but while you are here, be prepared to eat eat eat :). Do you like intestines?

rosanna said...

WE did not have chicken curry !!! I still regret it !! but W will always remember Jumbo ;o)
Must come back...

Flora said...

I love Indian food and I love the spices: I have many, but they are all locked in glass bottles, because otherwise... the worms!Yours are much more inviting, the atmosphere is very reminiscent Indian cuisine.
Then, you know: the spices are also an aphrodisiac, so the Rollas will be even happier ;-)
Mini spices hugs, Flora

Kim said...

I love the first platter- but your third attempt- fabulous! I wish I knew how to cook with spices better- although I am much better than when I met my husband. He encourages me to try things out- I would have been too nervous to ruin the food before him! Sans- your quest for the perfect rustic mini has been very successful with this platter- at first I thought it was real size! Wonderful job :)

Jollie said...

Dear Sans,
As you know I am very busy in real life at the moment...
But I just overlooked all the photos of the beautiful things that you have been making! It all looks sooo lovely!! Beautiful work!! :)

Hugs Jollie

Amy said...

Sans, they are so wonderful, I could cry! It's not just your skills, and your artfulness. It's your imagination. I can smell the spices, and I'm actually learning things!
At our weekend green market in the winter, there's a vendor who sets out over a hundred different spices in bowls, and it just makes me dizzy-the colors, the scents, the different place they came from, close and far away, the history and stories behind each. You figured out how to capture all of this in a few inches!

Sans! said...

Rosam, muchas gracias:). Tengo una sonrisa tonta en la cara a causa de sus comentarios.


Sans! said...

Bets, once again, your compliments overwhelmed me. My fingers are hovering over the keys, a little lost :).

Sometimes, I think my creations live through your words. They are only as vivid as your descriptions and splendid merely in your account. This is a clumsy attempt at trying to say how I feel but I think you know what I mean. :)

Thank you Betsy, for always gracing my blog with your eloquence. And yes, quite importantly, the flattery as well :). I live for them !

Sans! said...

Muchas gracias Flor! :)

un abrazo de vuelta

Sans! said...

Christine (CW Poppet), would you believe me if I tell you I don't really like Indian food? I know because I don't crave it .. ..ok, maybe except tandoori chicken and garlic naan , and errr ginger no masala tea....but it's still not my favourite kind of food ..

I think we are spoilt for choice here. Singapore is truly a paradise for foodies.

Plushpussycat said...

Sans! Your spice tray is amazing!!! I just love how realistic it looks. The whole scene has captured the look and feel of India--wonderful! I also hopped over to your lotuses--LOVE THEM! I have some life-size lotuses in my meditation space--they always make me feel so happy and peaceful to see them. And the real ones?! They're heavenly--the color, the texture, the scent--oh my! Great job here!

Sans! said...

Ewa, I am feeling much better , thank you :). Just keep drinking plenty of water. :)

And oh, of course you have the patience, Ewa. I have seen your creations. I have yet to meet a minimaker who is truly impatient. And we all know its really patience that makes perfect :)

Sans! said...

Natalia...go go go..I can tell you where you can get really good tandoori chicken and garlic naan.

Sans! said...

Thank you Josje! I am glad you got your comp working again! I am so paranoid I now have my dollhouse material replicated on 2 lap tops and 1 external hard disk and my inbox email can be accessed from 4 gadgets. You can imagine how much time I spent deleting repeated mail from the various machines/gadgets.

Sans! said...

Drora, thank you:) . Looking like the real thing has to be one of the best compliments one can get :).

I like Middle Eastern food too :). Arghhh, hunger pangs thinking of your hummus and falafel..

Sans! said...

Maria Luisa, usted debe estar tan ocupado ahora y sin embargo, se toma el tiempo para venir a visitarme:). Me conmueve. Y a decir cosas tan amables también. Estoy muy agradecido! Besos, besos y más besos para la novia:)

Ascension said...

Sans has hecho un buen trabajo, me gusta como ha quedado tu plato con especias sobre esa esterilla, las cucharas parecen de verdad me encantan.
Una gran idea hacer uso de los conos de incienso.
Has visto alguna vez de donde se saca el azafran?
Son unas flores preciosas alas cuales a mano se le quitan los pistilos y eso es el azafran (carisimo por cierto).
Yo estube una vez viendo como lo hacian y olia de maravilla.
besitos ascension

Sans! said...

Darling Susanne, it's been a while and I am so happy to see you here :). Thank you for your generous compliments.

Sans! said...

Merci, CM :). You make me want to do a little curtsey with my merci :)

Sans! said...

O yes, I have seen Mistress of Spice, Glenda. I even own the book but have yet to read it. I am not impressed with whathisnameMcdermott though? How can anyone have zilch chemistry with the world's most beautiful woman? :)

You are so right about the power of Spice. You hear that word and your eyes glaze over and then you start mumbling words that rhyme, your body sways and before you know it, you are belting songs about spice:) .

The quoted paragraphs were actually reviews written of the book : Spice: the History of Temptation. Imagine one huge book just about spice.

Sans! said...

I am curious what my curry fish head will look like too :):), Birgit.

Thank you for your explanation about Flutterby! I see he and me are diametrically who writes in long sentences beating around the bush.

I will go check out "Nicholas"

Sans! said...

Rosanna, this morning I brought Eva and family to the little roti prata shop down my house and they all love the onion prata, the puri (crispy golden flat dough) but I think the curry may be a little too spicy for dear Eva ..teehee :). The little one finished one and half of the prata with sugar :). I am very pleased :)

Tomorrow we are going to the Bird park :).

Sans! said...

Caterina, so you know now that if you come to my house, we will just go to the fabulous roti prata shop and have a feast. But please, eat more chillis while you are in Italy?

Over here when we say spicy, we mean, chilli spicy :). Not quite the nutmeg or cinnamon kind of spice, I am afraid :):)

Sans! said...

If I may say so myself, Victoria, the Rolla house does smell nice :). The garden is sandalwood and the bedroom smells of lavender. The kitchen is a mix of cinnamon and coconut :)

Sans! said...

Sunny Singapore paging Sunny Finland...

Good evening Piiko !

We have a lovely rainy morning and a cool afternoon. It's nice and balmy now at home , in the sitting room with Eva & the little one :).

Snowfern said...

aiyah. you already got the ingredients for the curry??? i thought i could practice on you by making you a wonky fish head as my first attempt at a 'proper' fish XD HWA HWA HWA. nehmind. another time when i'm braver....

SATURDAY OMG OMG we meeting at your place early in the morning issit?? will mail you :)

Amelia S said...

These are amazing! I honestly cannot believe that they aren't full sized and ready to cook with. Great work. :)

rosanna said...

AAARGHH , I feel left out :o(((
Very sad me :o(((
Have fun at the Bird Park...another place where we haven't been :o(
Give my regards to Eva and her family, minihugs to you all.

Flor said...

Sans ¡Mil gracias !!! Por poner el aviso de mi sorteo en tu blog♥
Te mando un gran abrazo

Marie Antionette said...

Hello Sweet One,
Thank you for stopping by.I'm fine just not going to blog for the Summer.
I see you have been very busy.
The spices look devine.The colors are perfect. But again all your work is outstanding.
You take care too Hon,
XXOO Marie Antionette

Sans! said...

Rosanna, you didn't eat our chicken rice, coconut rice (nasi lemak) , prawn noodles, fried carrot cake and a hundred of our ever so delicious kueh kueh ( see I think you also didn't visit our night safari?

Needless to say, you will have to come back :).

Sans! said...

Flora, the Indians are very proud of their sexual prowess ;) . My Indian friends always joke about how they do not need aphrodisiacs unlike the Chinese who have invented 101 aphrodisiacs from ginseng to bull's gonads!!!! eeeewwww! :)

Like you, I love my spice rack which I never used :). I don't cook, you see :).

But last night, Eva cooked us a wonderful Spanish meal and when she asked me if I have salt, I actually hesitated a while before calling Fafa to check if we have salt ..hahaha :) . I am very unfamiliar with my own kitchen :). I definitely know the Rolla kitchen better than my own !

Sans! said...

Thank you so much Kim for your endorsement! :).

I don't cook but I think spices are very tricky. They can however elevate low quality ingredients to food fit for royalty. Fishes for example. Over here they always use less fresh fishes for curries. But OMG! Good fish head curries are just plain heavenly.

Sans! said...

Amy, you don't know how many times I have read your comment :). I actually teared a little when I read it the 1st time.

Never did I imagine when I started this blog 2.5 years ago that one day, you would be saying these things to me.

I finally met a blog friend I made in 2009 4 days ago. Eva started her blog in Oct 2008 while I started mine in Dec 2009. We were sharing about how when I first tried to tell her that I really liked her hilarious roombox of a sinister doctor operating on a terrified bird, I didn't even dare use the comment box but had to email her! And today we are meeting :).

And I will never forget your little red house. See I can still remember its name. Despite having seen so many, that house remains my favourite. :)

Sans! said...

Ascensión Ascensión Ascensión!

Que me han traído hermosos regalos a tantos, no sé cómo empezar a darle las gracias! Verás mi favorito muy pronto en el blog. Por favor, vuelva y lea, ok?
Muchas gracias, mi querido amigo. Definitivamente voy a tratar de dedicar algún tiempo a decir que mi agradecimiento en miniatura.

Cuando Eva y yo estábamos de compras en Mustapha, vimos a unos 1.000 cajitas de azafrán. Supongo que el azafrán era? ESPAÑA! hahaha:)

Espero que algún día, que me visita. Eva me dijo que era realmente una de las mejores personas:).

un millón de besos

Sans! said...


Thank you, J!

I hope you will come back from your holiday in the Netherlands refreshed and happy :). Show us lots of pics ok?

I will be leaving for Bali from 14-18 July 2011 :) so maybe we can think of each other while we are vacationing in different corners of the world :)

Sans! said...

Jennifer :), I actually felt very peaceful and calm when I was making my lotus pond :). Maybe you should try it ? :)And I know it's nothing like the real thing but sometimes it felt like I am meditating when I spend some time at my mini pond, looking at everything :). There are some additions to the pond thanks to some really wonderful gifts from Spain. I hope you will visit again.

Sans! said...

Cindy, as you know, with your chillis and brinjals, plus those incredible persimmons, my kitchen is now officially completed. The brinjals and chillis are the last ingredients.

As usual, last night's meeting was outstanding. I am so happy that despite's everyone's busy life, we make it a point to do this. Always makes me happy :).

Sans! said...

Hi Amelia S, thank you!!! :)

I went and check out your blog and wanted to follow it but I have no more free slot to add your blog. Is it possible for yo to add a gadget for me to follow you by email?

Let me know?

Sans! said...

Es un placer, Flor:)

un abrazo y beso

Sans! said...

Hey Marie A, thank you for visiting :). I hope you have a great Spring :). Say hi to the lovely peacocks in your garden :). I vote your garden the most incredible one because of them :)

Sans! said...

Rosanna, did your ears burn last night? We spoke of you (and W) often, even about how fast you speak. :)And then there's your food of course :). We have all missed you :).

It has become a tradition for our guests to treat us to their native cuisine so Eva cooked us a great dinner from her grandmother's recipe. And be sure to come and see the post I will write about our tour of Indian monuments in Chinatown ok? I have a surprise for you :):).

Margriet said...

Totally forgot to comment on this wonderful post!! I love your spice platter...just had to go and open mij spice cabinet, so I could really smell the curry and other wonderful scents :-)
It is beautiful Sans and so original!!! I love your work!

Sans! said...

Margriet, I have been so busy lately that I haven't had time to be blog visiting much :). I saw briefly that you had posted some wonderful creations. Will pop by tonight!

Thank you for your compliments. So you cook with curry too ? And you have a spice cabinet?WOW! I will love to see what your spice cabinet is like. Maybe you can replicate it in mini?

Margriet said...

Sans, it isn't a special spice cabinet, but we do have quite a collection of herbes and spices, so a small cabinet in our kitchen is filled with them :-)
And when I open the door the most wonderful smell comes out!

Katie said...

Hi Sans!!! I've been going back through your blog trying to catch up:) I remember a time when you were so nervous about making minis.. We all knew you could- And now Look! Everything you do has such a special touch! These spices are a perfect example! And I love the sink you built! Perfect!!

We have wasp nest here... I have one inside of one of my birdhouses outside.... Never would of thought to keep one... I like how you see life:) Funny story- I got stung IN my nose once.. I was running around, screaming "Get it out" and waving my arms everywhere. THe people who I was with thought I had lost my mind!! LOL... they didn't know what was going on till after it flew out and sat on my nose.... It was awful! My mother in law had me shoving all kinds of things up there to make it stop stinging! I say it's funny now that I look back:)

Can't wait to see what you some up with next.... Oh how I'd love to come visit, too, and see 'your world':)

Sans! said...

Margriet, your description is so vivid, I can imagine how that special spice cabinet look like. That smell is familiar :). Alas , not in my kitchen but every time I passed the Indian corner shop near my house, I breathe deeply so that I can enjoy the smell of a spice garden :).

Sans! said...



You and I knew each other from way back when :). I believe its the same time I knew Rosanna, Eva, Helene , Mercedes :). You guys are my 1st generation blog friends who will always hold a special place in my heart because you knew me before I made my 1st mini :) or attempting my 1st :).

Your description of the incident with the bee did make me giggle :) but I am sure it must have hurt helluvaalot! *giggles giggles

Katie said...

Oh Sans! Your so sweet! I totally understand what your saying though... It's amazing how far we've all come, huh!!

And don't feel bad... I laugh like hell too everytime I think of that darn bee:)

dale's dreams said...

Those first lines are so deep!

I never knew...

I remember studying World History and going to Asia for all of the things that were there was of such great importance, but, I did not get it at all then.

Now, as I am older, the history has so much more power than what resided in me before.

I so appreciate the exploration into the East. And, can you just imagine how long the travels used to be?

This is why I love coming to your blog and enjoy so much what you put forth.

You are such an intelligent and educated woman. I love that you share all of the research that you do with all of us. I love learning new things on your blog.

I know that you don't think that you are creative, but, my dear, you are so much more creative than you ever let yourself believe.

I love your spice trays! :)

Sans! said...

Yes it is, Katie :).

We all have our "pet peeves". Yours is bee and mine is monkey. I remembered walking past a tree n a quiet lane toward my grandmother's house and a small monkey lunged at me, grabbing my neck with its hands. I was not even a teen yet but I was quite brave.I pried the hands away and ran all the way to my grandma's before I started bawling :).

Sans! said...

Muahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Dale. I am so happy to be back in touch with you :). Lunchtime is almost over and I am working in. You must be sleeping by now :).

Thank you, my dearest :) for the sweetest and kindest words.

I love the paragraphs I quoted. As I have said , these were reviews written of the book, Spice-The History of Temptation. This is the writing style I enjoy :). Simple, short and yet poetic sentences :).

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