Back in college, I had a winsome poet-boyfriend who once wrote me a multicolored, stream-of-consciousness letter that included the pronouncement, "Spice is the spice of life." In his faux-naif, hippie way, he was right, of course. Our existence would, without a doubt, be quite gray without the ground nuts, bark, flowers and seeds that add nuance to our cuisine.
Personally, I have a deep love of anything hot and be-chilied; I also find saffron sublime and think basil is blissful. However, my love tends to be theoretical -- I'm not a master chef, and spices present a challenge to those as cooking-averse as me. I'll buy one for a particular recipe and then chuck it in the back of a drawer, to become dusty and indistinguishable. This spice rack project, inspired by a fancy-pants catalogue item, is fun and cheap to make, and is meant to put your condiments at your fingertips. Not only does it look nifty, but its magnetic, wall-mounted nature saves valuable storage space and provides a keen recipe holder.
Assemble your supplies: You'll need an 18-by-24-inch rectangle of 22-gauge steel (this can be found, pre-cut, in most hardware stores or can be ordered from a metal-supply shop), 15 watchmaker cases 53mm in diameter (available from www.leevalley.com), 15 heavy-duty 3/4-inch circular magnets, four flat-head sheet-metal screws, a drill and bits, a hot-glue gun and glue sticks, 15 of your favorite spices, a large nail, a hammer, and a permanent marker.
Begin by using your nail and hammer to lightly tap four guide dents into your steel, about a quarter-inch in from each corner point (this will keep your drill bit from skidding across the metal's surface). Then place your metal flat onto a workbench or thick piece of scrap wood, load a 5/32-inch bit into your drill and bore holes through each of the four corner notches. Orienting your rectangle of steel levelly straight -- horizontally or vertically -- drill it onto your kitchen wall using the four screws.
Hot-glue a magnet onto the center of the back of each watchmaker case. Allow to dry at least 30 minutes.
Open the watchmaker cases and, using a funnel where necessary, fill each case with a spice. Replace the glass tops. Then, using your marker, write the name of the spice contained within onto the back of the case, above the magnet, so that you won't be sprinkling cumin on your cappuccinos and cinnamon into your curries.
Finally, revel in the satisfying clicks as you attach the magnetic spice containers onto your sheet of steel in an orderly fashion. The spices' brilliant colors will add a flash of visual splendor to your kitchen and will be a constant reminder to get cookin'!
Laura J. Vogel
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