Monday, July 21, 2008

Spice Cones

In my recent post, "Butchering, Old School," I included a photo taken in a Moroccan spice shop. The spices in this photo are piled up into tall, perfectly cone-shaped mounds. Fooditude fan Riley posted a comment asking,
"Are those colorful cones really spices piled up, feet high? If so, how do they do anything with them without causing a spice avalanche?"
Good question, Riley. It's one I was asking myself. In fact, I even asked one of my guides in the market how this effect is created, but his answer was vague and evasive. Here is a photo, taken in a different Moroccan shop, of a somewhat less picturesque but more sensible spice scenario. As you can see, the spices are neat, but at feasible heights, with scoopers inserted and ready to scoop. Here is another example from another shop. Again, it's less flashy and eye-catching, but it's certainly more practical.I do remember one day spotting a vendor "repairing" one of his mile-high cones. From the looks of it, there was actually a cone-shaped plaster mold underneath, with the spices kind of caked on around it in a thin crust. When the vendor noticed me staring, he turned his back to block my view. Clearly, this is a big trade secret.Funny thing: when I turned the corner, I noticed some strange looking people - obviously shop assistants - shooting me a cagey glance. I never went back to that shop.


Steve said...

So very middle-eastern to hoard food secrets. My mother-in-law, who was Egyptian, would never tell you all the ingredients or exactly how a dish was made. Except once she showed me how to make eggeh in her way.

You can see the spicebins, minus the spectacle, at the International Grocery on 9th at 41st.

Jeffrey Stock said...

Thanks for the anecdote, Steve. Although Morocco is not in the Middle East, perhaps food secrecy is a trait of Arab culture. I never thought about it that way.

As for the International Grocery, that's my neighborhood spice shop, and I really appreciate being able to buy small quantities from the barrel of anything I need!

Howard Lee Robinson, Jr. said...

I'm years late, haha, but I can't leave without thanking you for pointing out that not everything that feels "exotic and mysterious" about this entire stretch of the world, even back in 2008, should be considered "the Middle East." (Egypt is not in the "Middle East" any more than Texas is part of "Central America." It is an African nation.)