For as long as I can remember, my mother has had large containers of a special Malaysian curry powder she brought to Canada with her. She would get friends and relatives to ship her parcels whenever she was in danger of running out, and when she went home to Malaysia to visit her suitcase was stuffed with curry and the house was smelly for a month.
Some time in the early 90s, it stopped being available. The company that made it – I have no idea of the name; I only ever saw the powder in what I assume was its natural form: a large white Tupperware container in the back of the fridge – closed down, and there were no more parcels coming to replenish the supply. It didn’t seem to matter, as we had so very much of it – in addition to the curry bucket in the fridge, there were several large, carefully wrapped bundles in the cupboard. We had lots.
I learned to cook using this stuff, and adapted it into recipes that were my very own. While my mother was an expert at making delicious curries with it, I somehow failed to absorb that knowledge: the last time I tried making a curry from scratch, it turned out somewhat catastrophic. I scorched the milk – burnt milk is a horrifying thing – and had to throw out the pot and open all the windows to clear out the stench, in the middle of a Calgary winter. I never again attempted mom-style curry.
When I moved out of the house, I took a container of the curry powder with me. I used it in sauces and chili and treated it as my secret ingredient. It made things spicy and delicious, and the warm yellow smell usually brought about a host of good memories – my mom’s excitement when more came in the mail, my dad bringing me more when I started to run low, the satisfaction found in preparing a unique and fabulous pasta sauce.
Even a seemingly infinite supply can’t last forever. My mom ran out of the powder 5 or so years ago, and has been pestering me to find her a replacement ever since. I still had my supply, horded and doled out with increasing restraint, but it wasn’t enough to share. Between the two of us we’ve probably tried 2 dozen different curry powders, but none of them came close to the deliciousness offered up by the now-extinct powder from Malaysia.
Monday night was cold and sad, so I made a big pot chili to warm us up. There was so very little curry powder left in my jar, but it didn’t make sense to hang onto it for any longer – what good is it if it can’t be enjoyed? I used up the very last of my supply, silently thanking it for all it did to enhance my dishes over the years. So long, little spice. I’ll miss you and all your deliciousness.