Indian Spice in Moscow: Love and Time

Marco North

Marco North

Marco North is a photographer, filmmaker and based in Moscow, Russia. Born in New York, and educated at SUNY Purchase, He studied with the likes of Jan Groover and began to develop a highly refined, personal approach to storytelling. His award-winning weekly blog, 'Impressions of an Expat', is followed by readers from over 130 countries. He is currently at work on his second book, 'Papa on the Moon'.
Marco North

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Jeeva opened his first spice market in Moscow over fourteen years ago, when he was a student importing bags of and in his luggage. The spices he imported and sold were known to foreign diplomats, some of his first and most loyal customers, desperate for a taste of home in a country where many foods are pickled or boiled, then slathered with . Marco wanders the store, photographing the fresh hot peppers, lemongrass stalks, exotic bottles with yellow camels on them. The spices are not organised in any formal manner. , Vietnam, India, Arabia and China, Thailand and Mexico all co-exist here, an unofficial UN of seeds and bright powders. Beginning this Saturday, we introduce a new column, Letters from an American Expat in Moscow. Marco North, a renowned American writer, an Expatriate in Moscow, begins his series on multiculturalism, with a store in Moscow that sells Indian spices – something that attracted voyagers and colonists to India through the ages. An exclusive column in Different Truths.

Jeeva greets us easily. He has kind eyes. I know his stores for years now, a sort of blessing, an oasis of spices and pastes, exotic noodles and oils, even a few fresh items like lime leaves and galangal. There is no other store like this in Moscow. Random upscale markets stock a handful of these items at double the price. I begin thanking him, over and over, for single-handedly making my expat life a better one. He smiles, showing his teeth. My daughter is with me, tugging at my sleeve and asking for me to buy her a box of cherry juice. The overwhelming fragrance of the store does not bother her. She likes it, this mix of cardamom and , chili and the rest.

In a small office, we discuss the past. Jeeva opened his first spice market in Moscow over fourteen years ago, when he was a student importing bags of curry and turmeric in his luggage.
“Every student misses home.” He tells me. “To make some mutton curry, some from my mother’s recipe, it is a good thing when you are far away.”

The spices he imported and sold were known to foreign diplomats, some of his first and most loyal customers, desperate for a taste of home in a country where many foods are pickled or boiled, then slathered with mayonnaise.

I ask him if he ever eats Indian food in a Moscow restaurant. He shakes his head sadly.
“They are empty, and expensive.” He says. “This means the food is not fresh.”
I nod in agreement.
“Like fast food, but in a restaurant.” He adds.

A quiet moment passes, as he searches for the words to express himself.
“You know, I never wanted to sell beer, or or vodka.” Jeeva explains. “That’s
not the place I want to have. Better health products, something good for the skin. My idea
was to have all the spices in one place, that’s it.”
“I cook every day.” I tell him, and he smiles.
“This is the philosophy – shop, cook, eat.” He replies. “But sometimes, there is not a lot
of time. Some meals take hours to prepare correctly.”

He talks about his Siberian wife for a while. I talk about my Georgian one. Neither of
them can cook our favorite dishes, the ones we grew up on – but they try, which is all that
counts.
“There is only one necessary ingredient in food.” He says.
“Love!” My daughter interrupts, looking up from a drawing she is making.
Jeeva’s face lights up. He touches his hand to his chest, then reaches out and touches my
daughter’s tiny fingers.
He just smiles for some time.
“Exactly.” He says.
“And also, some vanilla.” She adds.
The little room fills with laughter. One of the salesgirls sticks her head in, curious about
what we are doing.
“Love, and time.” He says, almost more to himself.

He must get back to work now. I wander the store, photographing the fresh hot peppers, lemongrass stalks, exotic bottles with yellow camels on them. The spices are not organised in any formal manner. Africa, Vietnam, India, Arabia and China, Thailand and Mexico all co-exist here, an unofficial UN of seeds and bright powders. I do not want to leave.

This is a perfect place.

indianspices.ru

©Marco North

Feature Photo by the author, Marco North. Shoot Producer: Maria Eliseyeva.

Other Photos from the .

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