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03.30.2021

Meet The Merchants: Celebrating Formative Flavors

Meet The Merchants: Celebrating Formative Flavors

It is no surprise our spice merchants are passionate about cuisine, but there's more we'd like you to know about them. That's why we created our series called, “Meet the Merchants.” This month, we are celebrating the formative flavors that shaped our cooking styles and taste preferences.

What’s your hometown?

I don't really have a hometown. My father was in the Army, so we moved every 3-4 years while I was growing up.

What food or dish is your hometown, state, or country famous for?

The Army is famous for MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), a high-calorie meal kit meant to be carried into the field. I'm sure they would benefit from a few of our Spice House blends! I tried one during a Girl Scout camping trip and while I enjoyed all the candy and sweet treats, the entree was not very memorable.

Who or what got you interested in cooking?

My mom, Grandma Alice, watching PBS cooking shows and early Food Network, and reading the plethora of cookbooks on my parents' shelves.

What was the first dish you ever cooked and how did it turn out?

I remember asking my mom if I could plan the menu and cook dinner one night when I was in first grade. I chose chicken breasts, cauliflower, and potatoes. It was forever known as the "beige dinner." Everything was cooked, but I don't think I used any seasonings, much to my dismay now.

What's the first dish you cook for someone to introduce them to your culture or heritage?

There is a rich history of baking in my family, which I like to carry on. Pies, cookies, bread, anything and everything with butter, sugar, and flour. We recently compiled a family cookbook, and I still use my grandmother's molasses and chocolate chip cookie recipes to great success.

What's Your Hometown?

Oak Brook, Illinois

Growing up, whose cooking did you most look forward to, and why?

I loved eating my mom's chole puri. Chole puri is chana masala (a garbanzo bean curry / stew) with puri (fried whole wheat flat bread). Whenever I go home, I always ask my mom to make it! The gravy is salty, spicy, full of flavor and complements the garbanzo beans perfectly!

Who or what got you into cooking?

Probably a combination of my mom, husband and son. In Indian culture, a huge part of being a daughter, wife and a mom is cooking and learning how to cook. My husband and mom are great cooks and always inspire me. For my son, I hope to create the same types of nutritious home cooked meals I grew up on.

Which restaurant serves the most authentic dish from your culture or heritage?

Shree Restaurant in Westmont, IL. The best selection of North Indian and South Indian vegetarian cuisine!

What are some unique and lesser known foods from your hometown, state, or country?

Phav Bhaji (Masala Butter Bread + Spicy Mashed Potatoes), Pani Puri (Mint water + Black garbanzo beans + deep fried wheat crackers + yogurt chutney... hard to explain!)

What's the first dish you cook for someone to introduce them to your culture or heritage?

Paneer Makhani, can't go wrong with cheese in a spicy, sweet tomato cream sauce!

Which Spice House blend or spice best represents your culture or heritage?

So many! But, the one I love the most is the ground cardamom seeds. It is so versatile in Indian cuisine and used in the daily chai tea routine and even added to savory dishes like chana masala and reappears for dessert shrikhand (A sweet strained yogurt dish). The Spice House's cardamom is especially fragrant and fresh! You can really taste the difference.

What is your hometown?

Houston, Texas.

What food or dish is your hometown, state, or country famous for?

Kolaches (klobasnek).

Growing up, whose cooking did you most look forward to, and why?

My friend's mom, Mrs. Rene. She made the best gumbo.

Who or what got you into cooking?

Not having access to the food I wanted to eat unless I made it.

Which restaurant serves the most authentic dish from your culture or heritage?

I'm partial to Luella's in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Great Southern food.

If you've moved from where you grew up and go back home to visit, what's the first place you go to eat?

Mr. K's #2 Donuts & Kolaches.

What was the first dish you ever cooked and how did it turn out?

Tuna noodle casserole. Under-seasoned…

Which Spice House blend or spice best represents your culture or heritage?

Vulcan's Fire Salt!

What is your hometown?

Peoria, Illinois. But, my family heritage is Italian.

Growing up, whose cooking did you most look forward to, and why?

My dad's, he is an amazing cook, using fresh ingredients from the garden.

Which restaurant serves the most authentic dish from your culture or heritage?

The Stinking Rose in San Francisco, California.

What was the first dish you ever cooked and how did it turn out?

Garlic pasta, it turned out good.

What's the first dish you cook for someone to introduce them to your culture or heritage?

Bagna Cauda, a sauce made from garlic, olive oil, and anchovies, served as an appetizer.

Which Spice House blend or spice best represents your culture or heritage?

Little Italy Herb Blend

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