We have arrived to the city of Jodhpur, nicknamed the Blue City. Many of the houses here are painted a beautiful sky blue color. In the past these houses belonged to the Brahmins, the highest caste in India.
After looking on “trip advisor” for some things to do and we came across some reviews for a cooking class at a place called Spice Paradise and decided to go for it. When we arrived we were welcomed into the personal home of a couple by the name of Anil and Rika. It was so interesting to see the inside and how they lived. There was a small modest kitchen with walls showcasing spices for sale and off the main room was another room with a computer and a little old woman sleeping on the floor. We found out later it was the mother-in-law of the wife Rika who lived with them. In addition, there were 2 children one of them named Nevidita who never left her mother’s side and helped us cook the entire meal. She is 9 years old and probably a better cook than all of us. We first began with chai tea; a necessity that Amy and I have been having every morning, we can’t get enough. After this class we now know why it tastes so good. It’s basically black tea in warmed milk (boiled 5 times to kill the bacteria) seasoned with cardamon, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, star anise and about a pound of sugar! No wonder we like it. We then learned how to cook a vegetable bryani, a form of rice with vegetables of the season. Next up was reita, a fruit salad in yogurt seasoned with a fruit spice…..to die for. To wash it all down we made saffron lassis with a spoon full of butter on top! I honestly don’t know how these Indians stay so thin! After stuffing ourselves with the above, we learned that we were only half way through this 4 hour class. Next up was Aloo (potatoe) curry. Before coming to India I assumed that curry was one set dish but in fact curry means “seasonings” and there are all types of different seasonings one can use for specific dishes. Lastly we learned how to make homemade chapati and naan, the national bread of India. Our teacher made everything look so easy, we’ll see if I can duplicate these dishes when I get back to the states.
At the end of the evening Rika told us how their business started and it was a story so touching that it brought tears to my eyes. About 10 years ago, the couple had just had their second child and were going through some really hard times. They owned their own spice shop attached to their home, but business was bad and they couldn’t make ends meet. So in order to connect with the tourists Rika suggested that they sell bottled water…..foreigners are always looking for bottled water especially in India! Soon after that, a coca cola vendor saw that they were selling water and asked if they were interesting in selling Coke. Rika and Anil agreed and they were provided with a branded refrigerator to store them in. Well, once the Pepsi vendor in Jodhpur found out that this little spice shop was selling Coke he approached them to see if they were also interested in selling Pepsi and again Rika and Anil agreed. The Pepsi vendor also supplied them with a branded refridgerator but this one was much bigger and more flashy than the Coca Cola one and was placed directly in front of the shop. It turns out that this very Pepsi refrigerator ended up changing their lives forever. All of the sudden tourists were stopping at their shop to buy Pepsi after noticing the fridge. One day a foreigner bought a Pepsi and as he was taking a swig he noticed the spices that were also sold there. He asked them what it took to make the perfect cup of chai tea and Anil, the husband invited him into his home just behind the curtain to show him how it was done. Once it was all said and done the tourist walked away with bags and bags of spices from their shop. Anil and Rika wondered if maybe there was some type of business to be made if they actually showed people how to use their spices. So they decided to hold cooking lessons. Some people came but not many as they’d hoped for because there was no way to advertise despite tiny flyers scattered throughout the city. They prayed and prayed that one day they would be featured in a guide book so that tourists would come but it never happened. As time went on the classes dwindled with limited attendees but it wasn’t enough for them to live off of so they decided to call it quits and figure out another way to provide for their 2 daughters. Then one day out of the blue 4 girls showed up at their doorstep asking if the cooking class was fully booked that evening. Even though Rika was no longer pursuing this business she invited them in and gave them a class. Eventually she asked how they had heard about her class and they told her that online there was a website called Trip Advisor that mentioned the school with fabulous reviews! This whole time Rika had been praying to be put in a guidebook and all along she was being written about in the biggest online guide book, Trip Advisor, for the whole world to see! Rika went on to say that although her kitchen is small it is has managed to welcome visitors from all over the world and she is so grateful and thanks God everyday that he answered her prayers. Spice Paradise is now the 2nd biggest attraction in Jodhpur on Trip Advisor and classes are booked full every night. Although I couldn’t buy as many spices as I would’ve liked since I am traveling for the next 6 months, Amy did offer to take what I did buy home with her and store them until I get back. Needless to say, I bought the spices to make that mouth-watering chai tea!