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After moving from palace to palace, from Delhi to Jaipur to Udaipur, I appreciate getting off the beaten path and feeling the color and texture of India.

In the village of Shapura Bagh during last year’s program, we found a bustling, vibrant marketplace. A walk down the main drag presented a feast of sounds, color, texture… aromas drifted from pots of boiling sweet milk for pastries, curry lingered in the air and samosas were laid out, freshly fried. I passed a huge metal pan of thin, golden colored, just-made potato chips sprinkled with cayenne and I thought, this is my kind of place.

As I meandered down the street, I was stunned, and drawn- like a bee to a brightly colored flower- to a yellow shop with turquoise walls lined with burlap sacks full of red chilies. It was clean, open and spacious. Inside sat an old man with an elegant shawl and simple hat. He was a holy man, indicated by two yellow lines down his face. His countenance was impressive, and his eyes direct.

Immediately, I bought a kilo of chilies. The peppers looked beautiful and of the highest quality, which I could now recognize after seeing so many in the markets of Delhi. I couldn’t wait to get home and break one in half, to temper in oil or ghee.

Back in Colorado, the chilies rest in my round metal spice box. When I use them, which is often, I think of this man and what I felt when walking down the road to greet him with a bow. As the chilies infuse the oil and the message is carried to the food, it sings of Sharpura on the plate and on the palate.

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