Spice Box

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
My mother's spice box
My mother's spice box

This is my mother's spice box, gifted to her by her mother. My mom came to the United States in 1994 to pursue her graduate degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology. During her first year, she had to live in a dorm so she could not cook for herself. There were also not a lot of Indian restaurants or stores in South Side Chicago, so she had no way to even buy Indian food. She told me that this is one of the main reasons she felt so homesick- she missed having home-cooked food. Before her second year, my grandmother sent her this spice box, filled with all the spices she would need to make South Indian comfort food. She also moved into a shared apartment, so she had access to a kitchen, where she taught herself how to cook using those spices. In addition to being able to make herself food that reminded her of home, my mom was now able to make new connections by cooking for other people as well.
To this day, my mom uses this spice box. I have seen her use this item so many times, but I never realized that she had such an emotional connection to it. She credits this one thing with making her feel more at home in a foreign place and helping her building new relationships with the people around her. I really related to this notion of finding comfort in food. For me, baking is an important way to connect with those around me, and just like my mother, I always go back to my Indian roots when I'm craving comfort food. 

Place(s): Chicago, Illinois
Year: 1994

– Rhea Subramanian

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant