How can you preserve a rich and unusual family heritage while growing up in the wider community.
‘Many powders, seeds and pods – cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric and paprika, chili powder, cloves and cardamom pods – were stored in old peanut butter and jam jars. As a child, I couldn’t reach the spice cupboard without standing on a chair. I remember trying to work out a way of distinguishing chili powder from paprika, which looked almost identical to my six-year-old eyes.
In 1917, fifteen year old Jacob Benjamin fled Baghdad for Bombay, disc=guised as an Arab. My Mother’s Spice Cupboard is the story of Jacob, his indomitable wife Hannah, and their nine children, set against the backdrop of the once thriving Baghdadi Jewish community of Bombay.
Elana Benjamin, one of Jacob and Hannah’s many grandchildren, has vividly brought to life a community which no longer exists. Tracing the changes through two families and four generations, Benjamin lovingly describes what it was like to leave the culture, language and cuisine of India and start a new life in Australia.
Underlying the story is the importance of food and cooking to the Baghdadi Jews, which goes beyond the mere provision of sustenance to express boundless warmth, love and hospitality.
Hybrid Publishers 2012, paperback 229 pages