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  • Writer's picturekaydee777

Sunday Svādhyāya

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

My mail order saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) bulbs have arrived. Now the challenge is to decide where to plant them. Though that's a potential bonus, I'm not looking for ornamental blooms. I want to try to grow the most expensive spice on earth. If these 30 bulbs produce blooms, I plan to ruthlessly, though probably carefully, mutilate them to harvest the precious stigma to dry for saffron spice to supply my kitchen.

I doubt I will produce enough to share, though it seems that, in this post professional librarian incarnation, I have developed something of a reputation as a spice wallah. I offer spice mixes at the farmers market.

This summer, as my handprinted cloth wallah life became both more fulfilling and more demanding, the extreme heat of June, July and August saw me cut back seriously on spice inventory offerings at the farmers' market. Fresh ground spices do not like exposure to heat and bright light.

There's only so much room in a market booth, even a four sided one such as I have established. This week, to complicate matters, I added mukhwaas and two herbal tea blends to the inventory - ideas that have been on the to-do list for a year or more.

Every time I think about stopping selling herbs and spices, a customer experience reinvigorates me. Someone comes looking for a masala mix for a curry. Someone else tells me that I'm the only place one can get a freshly blended Berbere Spice mix. Someone holds a bottle of Furikake to their heart, eyes raised heavenward in an ecstasy of gratitude and discovery.

Truth is the spice ranges I offer grew out of my own culinary explorations into, and fascination with the plants behind, the special flavors of world cuisines, not because I wanted to create marketable product. Do I want to continue being a spice wallah?

Yes the shala smells beautiful when I'm roasting spices but prepping fresh mixes for market each week takes a whole day plus considerable planning and investment in raw materials and marketing resources like bottles and labels. I'm only able to grow some staples myself. Black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and so many more must be imported into the shala for the authenticity of flavour which I then offer at the market. If I can research and source organic fresh versions of these surely other people can?

Wouldn't I rather be spending the rest of my one wild and precious life (thankyou Mary Oliver) doing other things like, say, watching the light change on a monsoon morning at sunrise?

While I think about these things, I indulge in a sumptuous Sunday morning brunch of an interpretation of avocado toast . Homegrown Hopi blue corn (egg free)pancakes topped with homemade green tomato chutney, local New Mexican Tucumcari feta cheese and avocado.

Svādhyāya is one of the concepts discussed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a key yogic philosophy text. It usually translated to "self study" or "self knowledge". As an aside: yoga asana - the physical practice of movements and shapes with the body and what many in the western world assume is yoga - is only one very small aspect of what it means to be a yogi (yogini) or one who practices yoga.

I was recently asked why I don't eat eggs. I started to answer "The egg free vegetarian diet is required by the yogic path I follow..."

"Oh Ayurveda" the questioner cut me off mid sentence and then went on to talk about something else entirely. Now that person will never know the truth: that my Ayurvedic studies, which are firmly grounded in the body being concerned largely with the practicality of food as medicine/medicine as food, do not require my vegetarianism, but rather my meditation practice, which is all about bondage to and liberation from the material confines of this mortality, does.

It makes not one difference to me. I don't expect anyone else to walk my path and endeavor not to talk about it unless asked a direct question which is not often because I am embedded in a culture where it is considered not polite to talk about religion or politics: those topics which address the fundamentals of the what, why and how of being human. I discuss the experience of blocking my response to a direct question, by the questioner, as an example of how a lack of Svādhyāya or self awareness leads to ignorance.

Now back to the conundrums of the day: crocus and the future of the 6th Avenue Spice Wallah. How shall I direct my horses?

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