It Came From My Cupboard: Spazzy Spices

by Robrt L. Pela

I love kitchen crap. Spatulas, mixing bowls, those fake wooden spoons from the dollar store that are actually made of plastic. I have more junk in my kitchen drawers and cupboards than you’ll find in the stockrooms of all the Linens ’n’ Things combined. And because I can’t invite you all over to ogle my vintage chrome juicer or that clever plastic thingie that makes ugly radishes into beautiful roses, I’m going to introduce you to them, one at a glorious time, right here.

I’m big on favorites, so I’ll start with my own personal favorite kitchen thing—my spastic spice rack. It’s spastic because it’s more difficult to use than an ordinary spice rack, and it’s my favorite because it’s gorgeous, and it’s gorgeous for the exact same reason it’s difficult to use. It’s not a spice rack at all, really; it’s actually one of those old rubber stamp caddies from the Fifties, designed to hold a bunch of rubber stamps and keep them tidy on your desk. No one uses rubber stamps any more, at least not in an office setting, so this baby got dumped off a few years ago at the Junior League Rummage Sale, where I snapped it up because I’m drawn to shiny things, no matter how useless they may be. I eventually loaded it down with salt-and-pepper shakers from the 99 Cent Store, and filled them with turmeric and red pepper flakes and marjoram, and set the whole mess on a shelf in my pantry.

But because I didn’t want to mess up this oddball objet with labels that would distract from its sleek beauty, I stuck the labels identifying the spices on the bottom of each jar. Which means that, because cinnamon looks the same as Allspice, which looks exactly like paprika, I have to remove each spice jar from its clever caddy and flip it over to see what I’m getting. It makes searching for dry mustard a real drag, but boy, do my spices look great in the meantime.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela