Growing up I believed in many things because nobody told me otherwise. Eventually, however, I learned that not all I believed was true. For example, I learned there was no such thing as the tooth fairy that fluttered in my room with her wings and magic wand and left me money for my tooth. Over the last few years, the same has come to be true of my knowledge of herbs and spices. So please try not to fall out laughing, however, I once believed that chili powder was made from ground chilies, herbes de provence was a special herb grown in Provence, garam masala and curry were spices grown in India and exported to the rest of the world.
My spice awakening began when I went to prepare a dish several years ago and was out of chili powder. Wondering what I might be able to substitute, I did a web search and found that chili powder was not ground chili, but a combination of spices which came together to create a blend called chili powder. To my joy, I happened to have all those spices on my shelf and was able to create my own chili powder in a matter of seconds. It took me longer to get everything out of my pantry then to mix it together.
As I became increasingly aware that not all spices I was using came from a single herb or spice, I began realizing I could create these spice blends on my own. One of my favorites is Sazon. I used to buy boxes of this and used it quite a bit in my cooking. Now I can make my own sazon seasoning. I generally have all the basic ingredients in my pantry, so I never run out. One of the great things about making my own spice blends is that they are always fresh and generally much less expensive.
I have also had to learn to challenge my assumptions and not make decisions out of fear. For example, I was sure I could not make herbs de provence. Most of the ingredients in this dried spice blend are readily available. However, short of mail ordering, I have not been able to find dried lavender. However, the more I learned about this herb blend, the more I came to realize that lavender was not traditionally a part of the herb blend, rather it had been added more for commercial purposes to lure tourists. So what seemed like a blend beyond my skills has actually become quite easy to make.
The more challenging blend for me has been garam masala. In some respects, it is no more difficult then any of the other blends, however, there are some ingredients (cardamom pods) which are not carried at my local grocer and there is not an Indian grocer near me. So for now, it is just easier for me to buy a small bottle of it to use when we are craving Indian or Pakistani cuisine.
My journey with spices has been humbling and an inspiration for spiritual awakening. It has reminded me that things are not always what they seem. Learning that chili powder was a multitude of ingredients reminded me of when I came to realize that there are two creation stories in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible and two stories about the loading of animals on to the ark that Noah built. What I had always been taught was one story; however, I have since then come to realize that there were multiple sources, which contributed to the blending of traditions. Nothing is ever as simplistic as it seems.
I have come to remember the importance of keeping my spirituality fresh and growing. Like any herb blend which will eventually lose its potency after too long on the shelf, so will my spirituality if I am not intentional about continuing to evolve and transform in my own life. Herbs de provence has taught me the importance of not making decisions out of fear. When I challenge what I think I know, I come to new understandings and truths that transform my view of life. I have also learned that there are times when what I have access to may affect my journey, but it cannot stop it. There is always an opportunity for spiritual growth and evolution, I just have to do the best I can with what I have and who I am now.