Aromas of Africa

by Dale Fisher

Who doesn't enjoy the smell of fresh-ground spices? That's what I was thinking as I prepared for a missions presentation to the 3rd-through-5th-grade classes at my church. Since Marti and I have previously presented what it's like to be a missionary to Kenya, I wanted to try something new this time. "Let's try smells" was my thought.

While living in Kenya, we really enjoyed the aroma of numerous spices, which is what I wanted the children to experience. I thought that we could grind fresh spices, using a mortar and pestle, to bring out various scents at my missions presentation. I scribbled a list of possible spices, without realizing that most American grocery stores don't sell what I needed. Thankfully, the Internet helped me discover two new stores in our area: a Mediterranean market and an Indian grocer. I found a recipe for making homemade curry powder and jotted down the six needed spices (cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, yellow mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and chili powder). I dashed out and started buying spices at these three local stores.

In addition to buying spices, I had to search for a number of reasonably priced mortar-and-pestle sets, which was a huge challenge for me. After a couple of disappointing attempts, I ventured to a Marshalls and discovered about fifteen for sale at a discounted price!! Yeah!!! God certainly provides.

The trial phase was next. Cinnamon was the first spice that I tested. After grinding it, I nosed up to the mortar as close as I could and inhaled a big sniff: Nothing. I took a pinch with my thumb and forefinger and held it to my nostrils: Still nothing! Well, cinnamon was out. But ginger worked well!

Last Sunday, we carefully packed up and took everything to church. I was getting excited as I unpacked each mortar-and-pestle set and spice bottles. I asked for a volunteer to oversee this "station," because I needed to help dress up boys as Masaii warriors in the next station.

Dale walks up the road to meet his friends.

The "Aromas of Africa" table had five mortar and pestle sets,
which the kids easily learned how to use and enjoy.

In the end, everyone enjoyed it. The children were excited, guessing which spice aroma they were savoring. They guessed correctly at black pepper, coffee and ginger, but were more challenged by cloves and curry. Even some of the adults entered the fray and began sniffing.

Dale walks up the road to meet his friends.

Left: When it comes to grinding ginger root, sometimes a little pounding can come in handy! Right: How fun it was to grind coffee beans and then smell fresh coffee.   ( :- )

Our volunteer was so excited, she photocopied the curry recipe that I used so she could create her own at home. What a privilege it was to give these impressionable youth a glimpse of what it's like to live in Africa, as well as to share with them earlier in the class our ministry of training multiplying pastors.

Dale walks up the road to meet his friends.

The most puzzling and intriguing aromas came from the curry mortar.

It was exciting to see how, after God gave me the ideas for the spices and their aromas, he orchestrated the whole process. He provided the needed items, especially where to buy the mortar and pestle sets. Then, in the end, the kids loved the final product.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

— Matthew 19:14