Spice Town

(spices in burlap sacks piled higher and higher, waiting to be shipped and brought to market.)

Where does that 6-dollar jar of star anise from Whole Foods come from? Cardamom pods? Cinnamon Bark? It is very likely it hails from an 17th Century Dutch-built, rag-tag warehouse on Old Kochi (aka Fort Cochin.) Salim, our three-wheeler driver brought us here and sunk his hands into every spice imaginable and had us taste, touch and smell almost everything in the 3 story-stacked bags of spices. It was glorious to see all the spices I so covet and shell out big money for lazing about in giant bags in the dust, with guys like Salim and ourselves feeling the spices us with our bare hands. When I thought it couldn’t get better seeing all the tasty spices, we stopped at the local sweet shop…

Where I saw guys cooking fresh cookies, pastries, candies and samosas in the hottest oil in the blackest pots and the grimiest workspaces. I was enthusiastically shown by the sweet makers each and every treat they were making – tasting all the while. My favorite is Ladoo, the yellow-tinted fried and puffed fried rice. It was great to eat this famous snack, as I’d read about it in every book taking place in India.

We are taking to waking up very early – 5:45 am or so – and taking a walk and a chai with the rest of the neighborhood. It is the best time of day to be out, not so hot and very refreshing! I feel silly not having taken advantage of this golden hour until now. I had no idea how early tea and fish stalls open here. After our walk, we eat breakfast, shower and adventure until about 1 pm, then we siesta, read, watch a bit of Indian television, and work on photos/journal till 5 pm and go out till late – checking out shops, eating a light dinner (lunch is a big meal here) and strolling along the water meeting folks. It is a great schedule, as it is so hot and humid. It’s like walking into a wet sock at all times. My hair is nice and curly though-- and we are getting more and more used to the weather as the days go on.

(This is the flower that Mace comes from... These guys were sorting and having a cell-phone text battle when we walked by.)

(another view of the spices, in all their different sacks.)

(Dave sniffing the cinnamon -- we took a nibble of this delicious and very potent spice -- used a lot here for flavoring food and ayurvedic treatments.)

(ginger drying in the sun -- it goes through three drying processes here -- once by itself, then covered in limestone powder, to prevent bugs, then its rinsed and dried again.)

(spices and colored powder for the Indian festival, Holi, where everyone throws this bright powder on each other.)

(the "Samosa Master," as he was referred to by his fellow snack/sweet makers.)

(Ladoo is first made like this, loose, sweet puffed rice, then they smash it into small balls and sell them as a street snack. This is my favorite Indian sweet so far, very much like a rice crispy treat.)

(this is the local dobawalla -- laundry facility-- where you take your clothes for a good pounding against a big rock, then a nice drying session in the sun.)

(fields of clothes at the dabawalla -- They have a complex system to keep all the clothing orders organized. They don't write anything down and there are many many pieces of clothing. I'm not sure how they do it. Quite amazing though!)


  1. i can smell the spices from here. love to see the pictures of the local people, and love the narrative. i'm having a blast following you. love love!

  2. Incredible! So neat Lee, can't wait to see more of your beautiful photos!

    xo, t