We have spice envy.
Welcome to A Nook of One's Own, our ode to small and cozy spaces. Join us as we curate and celebrate all the comfy, familiar corners that bring us joy every day. This week, we join chef Behzad Jamshidi in his spice-filled kitchen nook.
I call the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn home, and my favorite nook can be found on the long corner of the kitchen. Four shelves support all of the ingredients I use to cook and get inspired from. My roommate and I jokingly refer to it as the "atelier," a term in French that refers to an artist's studio or creative work space.
A large marble slab propped up over a mini fridge and washer supports all of my dry goods, and is the foundation for where I knead and make breads, chop and prep my ingredients—basically all things food-related in my home happen here.
The first shelf from the bottom holds a collection of my favorite spices from the incredible patrons at SOS Chefs; owner Atef Boulaabi makes sure that I have every spice and herb I need to feel empowered to explore more of my Iranian identity. It’s a little extension of her home in mine. The first spice I usually reach for is a mixture called advieh. It translates literally from Farsi as "spice," but it is a Persian mix of toasted cardamon, rose petals, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other aromatic spices that my mother makes at home in Vancouver and sends to me here. Adding it to any dish instantly makes me feel at home.
The second from the bottom and top shelves are a collection of trinkets which remind me that food is most importantly about nostalgia, and sharing who we are. The second from top shelf holds a collection of my favorite books from around the world, some that help me correct mistakes when things go wrong in recipes, like Heston Blumenthal’s iconic cookbook, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.
Other books that deeply move and inspire me include Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn, and my all-time favorite book, Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij, who reminds me about the density in Iranian and Persian culture, and how sacred the recipes I grew up with are. Both of these books are pure poetry.
I spend close to half of my time in a week in this nook—almost 60 hours—exploring, creating, learning, and manifesting my experiences and feelings through food. There is a comfort in coming to this table. Either traditional Iranian music or jazz of the likes of Sinatra and Billie Holiday fill the background, and I feel disconnected from all of the demanding stresses of my day-to-day life. It’s a safe place where I get to be purely there with food, and uninterrupted in the process of creating something.
If my nook could talk, it would say, "Cook with me.” It is my greatest peace to spend time out of my day here. I’m that chef that gets really stressed, and has to go cook something to empty their cup, if you will. And who would we be without the things that bring us comfort, without the things that make us feel at home? For me, that place is right here, in my nook.