“While Andrew Gerber claims no expertise or authority when it comes to Indian food, he has wandered through Raghaven Iyer’s cookbook for the last decade. With this as his road map, he has explored, with delight, toasting, smashing, and grinding spices to unleash flavor.”
That teaser was how Gerber drew in guests to Lost River Market & Deli last month when he taught the class, "There's No Such Thing as 'Curry': An Introduction to Indian Spice Blends".
Gerber encourages individuals to take a playful look at what is considered to be ‘curry’ and “explore the wild terrain of making spice blends that will add "oceans of depth to the flavor of your food.” Having traveled the world, before settling into the Paoli Community, Andy has a long and tangled history with spices. He was raised in Northern Minnesota for the first decade of his life before his family moved to East Africa for three years. During this time his family embraced the culture, Gerber remembers his family eating meals with their hands instead of custom, American silverware, and trying many of the indigenous, flavorful dishes. Intertwined with his immersion into what is referred to as the “Spice Coast,” Gerber was also raised with three Korean siblings. He recalls being a young boy when his six year old brother was adopted into his family, bringing with him an entire culture of recipes and spices. Along with adopting these children, his family also adopted a broader understanding cultural cuisine. Armed with these experiences Gerber grew into adulthood and attended Goshen College, in northern Indiana. Majoring first in process theology and then gained a second degree in nursing. It was during this time that he met his current partner, Kara Schmidt. The two connected and later moved to Chicago, where Gerber worked twelve-hour night shifts at the hospital. He recalls that even during this busy time in his life he still loved to come home and cook. He admits it took Kara some time to adjust to the spicy food, but she learned that pairing it with yogurt, or another dairy product takes the edge off and now she loves it! Three years ago the pair made the decision to move to Paoli (Kara’s hometown) to be closer to family. When asked how he became involved with the Lost River Market and Deli Gerber’s answer was simple, “If you love food you’re naturally going to be drawn to this place.” Gerber shows his support for Lost River Market and Deli by using it to source all his ingredients in his upcoming class. When discussing the purpose of his class, Gerber reiterates, “Spice is simple. You can’t really mess it up.” He explains that to each spice there are at least eight different, distinct flavors that can be extracted, and that even though it is possible to make something “awkward” it is nearly impossible to make something bad. He goes on to say that once you get to know a spice that conventional cooking methods can be thrown out the window, admitting that he hardly ever measures anything. Aside from spices offering a range of flavors and a little whimsy to your life, Gerber believes that connecting to spices can go much deeper. “People care about where things come from. Then they start making connections.” Gerber explains that his love for spices is embedded in the stories behind them. To him, the curiosity of the story is like exploring, saying, “You can be a world traveler.” The history behind each story unlocks an understanding of the spice and the culture. One such story he shared about asaoetida, a ground root similar to garlic, which came about when a vegetarian group settled into southwest India and paired it with other plants to create a savory, non-meat option. “Once you care about the connections you can clash culture appropriation.” Gerber elaborates on the excitement of understanding that this versatile seasoning “comes from somewhere.” Although Gerber readily admits he has not tried every recipe from 660 Curries he gives the book complete credit for shifting his idea of what it means to be curry. Participants can look forward to his insights on the ideologies, history, and bountiful flavors curry has to teach. Aside from his work with spices, Gerber is also working to create a space at the Tomato Products Co. factory where people can come together to enjoy food, music, art, and so much more.