Cover of The Mistress of Spices (SIGNED)On Fridays we go to shop at the local market in a neighbourhood not far, in "Bet" (here in Ashdod, the neighbourhoods are named after the Hebrew alphabet, the town's architects or whoever gives names in a town didn't have imagination back then). Although it is one of the town's most sordid places, Bet has the best fruit and vegetables market and the best indian spices shop in Ashdod.
I can smell the store from a distance. I can reach it with my eyes closed. Mmmmmm... the smell...is so alluring. Outside, in the hot israeli summer it explodes in a miriad of particles of fragrance, heavy on my tongue, caressing the inside of my skin. The store is small, with spices stored in jars, bags, boxes, on shelves, on the floor, all over the place, an amalgan of colors and smells that intoxicates my senses. I don't know all of them, but I recognize some, and I like to play a game of guessing with the ones that I don't know.
For me, spices are magical. Powders, seeds, pods, fruit, bark, root, leaves, crystals, sweet, bitter, sour, pungent I love to bath in their fragrance, to inhale them, to lick them, to let them guide me through a world were senses are primordial. Sometimes I inhale too deeply, and I sneeze until I see stars in front of my eyes...And the shopkeeper laughs, a deep laugh from her round belly, with her white teeth and black, almond shaped eyes. She is a Mistress of Spices, of course. She knows them all, and she talks to them and the spices answer her back.
(If you didn't read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's book "The Mistress of Spices", too bad...there you'll find what a mistress of spices is and you'll read the story of one of them.)
I like to think that the tiny store in Bet hides one of the last mistress of spices on Israel and that some day she'll ask me to be her apprentice and she'll teach me all she knows...