It took me five years to find the perfect way to start a curry.

I still experiment, but I typically start my curry with oil, turmeric and mustard seeds. I call it the aromatic miracle.

I still experiment, but I typically start my curry with oil, turmeric and mustard seeds. I call it the aromatic miracle.

When I first started cooking curry, I was in a small, dark and depressing dorm room in a Bible college in eastern Kentucky that sits in the foothills of the appalachian mountains. I had an Indian friend named Jeff, and he had two 10 cup rice cookers. In one we cooked curry, in the other basmati rice. We would take a few cloves of garlic and a couple onions, cut them fine, and then add them to oil we had warmed in the rice cooker we were treating like a stove top. We made some of the worst curry and some of the best friends during this time. We and some others did this five to six nights a week during the school year for two and half years.

Years later, in the flatlands of the rustbelt in northwest Ohio, in an old, spacious, two story rental house on main street in Findlay, I was far removed from the rice cooker chef I once was. In my kitchen an Indian girl from Warangal showed me how she grew up seeing curry begin. Oil in the pan, stove on medium heat, black mustard seeds, turmeric and patience. Wait for the mustard seeds to pop. It smells like the beginnings of popcorn, before the microwave bags reached market saturation. The dish is still wide open at this point. It could go many places from here. But I found my preferred starting place. Vegetable oil works, but olive is better and ghee is best. More on that later…

The aromatic miracle I like to call it, born out of the strange friendship of a Kentucky hunter and Indian business major. Such is life and the special kinds of culinary grace that sometimes accompany it.

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