For some reason, I’ve always felt a strange affinity for things Indian.

Maybe it’s because of George Harrison’s sitar in the sixties.

Or the fact that Hinduism, with its tens of thousands of gods, always seemed more inclusive than other religions.

More than likely, it’s because I love Indian food, and yet I hardly ever eat it.

Oak Park has several good Indian restaurants – we especially like Khyber Pass – but we hardly ever cook Indian food at home. The reason for this is that a good Indian meal contains a huge range of spices, and it’s our experience that if we buy all the spices, and then don’t cook Indian for a year or two, many of the spices – most of them lost in the dark recesses of the spice cabinet — lose their punch.

So I was pleased when one day last week I received not only my friend Collen Sen’s book about Indian food, Feasts and Fasts (which combines my two favorite topics: food and history) but also from Kitchen Curry Master, an Indian-style spice box. This circular metal container was filled with smaller circular metal containers of green cardamom, fenugreek seeds, garam masala and about half-dozen other spices. This kind of spice box is common in many Indian kitchens.  However, unlike the metal boxes in India, KCM’s spice box has a clear top so you can see what’s inside; as in India, the closed cover helps keep the spices fresh. Because you can see through the lid, though, you can monitor the levels of spice…and because these beautifully colored spices are always on display, one is motivated to cook more Indian food, which is a good thing.

Years ago, I had an Indian friend, Prasad Vallabhapurapu, who took Carolyn and me to an Indian restaurant in Chicago. Over dinner, Prasad explained to us how the spices were good for the health; I remember in particular his saying that black pepper was especially beneficial during flu season. I always kind of thought spices were probably healthy, and recent research has indicated that many Indian spices are, indeed, good for you. For instance, the National Insitute of health has determined that turmeric aids on the treatment of arthritis, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, and loss of appetite.

Research at the Mayo Clinic suggests that cinnamon might help in treatment for people with type 2 diabetes. Most spices are said to convey some health benefit…and many have been demonstrated to do so in the lab.

But of course it all comes down to this: these spices taste terrific; reason enough to eat them.

For all these delicious Indian spices, we can thank Lord Hanuman.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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