49: Order

49: Order

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Order

Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?

~Barbra Streisand

I have a deep need for Order in my life, and so, to my packrat chef husband’s ultimate dismay, I alphabetized our spice shelf. The idea of having a shelf dedicated entirely to spices and herbs struck me as strange, but then again, I’m not a chef. In my obviously sheltered existence, my mother’s spices were simple: salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon.

In short order, I sorted, disposed of, combined, consolidated and coordinated the shelf: caraway seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin. Two half-filled jars of paprika almost the same color seemed wasteful, so I combined the two, pleased with my progress.

Hmmm, bay leaves, several varieties — Indian, Greek, California. Should I or shouldn’t I?

The Family Chef arrived home as I was finishing and stared — open-mouthed.

“What are you doing with my spices?”

“Last I looked, they were our spices.”

“Where’s the fenugreek?” he wailed.

“Probably in Athens by now. Nah, next to the fennel seeds where it belongs.”

“It took me a year to get that shelf organized the way I want it!”

“Oh please. It looks better already.”

“Yep, Miss Organization, that’s you,” he declared, as if this skill was beyond redemption.

“I’m a Virgo. What do you expect?”

“Is that an excuse or your horoscope?”

I grimace. “Some of these look positively ancient. Fingerprints from…”

“They’re not ancient, they’re… seasoned.”

Now it’s my turn to laugh. “You wouldn’t eat ten-year-old food. Why’d you want to use ten-year-old spices? The jars are old and cruddy, labels smudged, it’s disgusting.”

“You don’t understand….”

“What, that boll weevils live in our spice jars?”

“They do not. Boll weevils feed on pods of cotton plants.”

“By the way, why do you need so many different kinds of salt?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean, what do I mean? Sea salt crystals, sea salt granulated, sea salt coarse, fleur de sel salt, sea salt light, Fumee de Sel salt, sea salt flaky.”

“Stop it!” he says.

“What’d you do before you met me? Go on a tour of the Dead Sea?” I doubled over, laughing my head off.

“Nothing worse than a person laughing at her own bad joke.” He rummages through the neat rows of jars. “What’d you do with the mace?”

“In the glove compartment with the flashlight.”

At least he was laughing. “The spice, mace!”

“Oh, that mace. Say, what is mace?”

He rolled his eyes.

“Mace is a spice made from the waxy red covering of nutmeg seeds. It’s a flavor similar to nutmeg with a hint of pepper but with a subtler note. It’s overwhelming though if used by, shall we say, heavy-handed cooks.”

“Oh,” I said. “Two questions: why do you talk like that and why don’t you just throw a little pepper in the nutmeg and forget about the mace?”

He has to sit down at this. “You seem to be dedicated to the proposition that all spices are created equal.”

“See, there you go again. You sound like Thomas Jefferson.”

“Don’t get me started on Thomas Jefferson,” he said, hand over his heart like he was about to say the Pledge of Allegiance. “I’m going to the garage. I can’t face this.”

“Hey, where do you want the saffron?” I called to his retreating back. “Next to the sesame seeds?”

“What? We have saffron?”

 

~Gretchen Houser

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