My dad (pictured first in the second row) grew up with thirteen siblings: Daisy Maria, Esther, Jolly, Stephen, Rachel, Clara, Elias, Joey, James, John, David, Samson, and Starling. Nine of them followed him to the states beginning in the sixties. When I was a child, our extended family got together at least once a year for a christening. Everyone ate and slept in the same house. My uncles, who are a boisterous bunch, kept the booze flowing. They pulled pranks on anyone they could catch off guard and told outlandish tales that grew taller and taller with each drink. My aunts made sure we were all well-fed. Squeezed in the kitchen, they boiled rice, ground spices, and shared stories of family back home.
In Chicago and other major urban centers, fresh curry leaves are often sold in the produce section of Indian grocery stores. Select leaves that smell strong and have smooth edges. Avoid brittle leaves - a sure sign that they are sapped of flavor. Curry leaves thrive in warm climates. My Uncle Joey and my Uncle Jimmy who live in Florida faithfully bring huge bunches of curry leaves to our family reunions. On the last day of every get together, they are divided in a come-one-come-all sort of fashion. I’ve nearly been trampled trying to claim my share. If you fall for them too and bask in a warm climate, why not plant a small tree in the yard.
Curry leaves are best used fresh. To preserve your loot, dry the leaves and fold them in a paper towel. Place them in an air tight bag (or container) and store them in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.