August 29, 2018 10:23:13 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
It was the common onion that set Lillian Murray on a quest several years ago. After struggling to eliminate from her diet whatever was triggering allergy symptoms, the avid cook and artist finally discovered the offending culprit was onion. It was hard news to hear.
"I cooked onion with my onions!"she smiled, sitting at a dining table in her Columbus home Monday. Soft jazz played in the background.
The diagnosis sent Murray on a mission to find alternative flavorings, some savory spice blend she could use safely.
"But there wasn't one -- so I created my own," she said.
When others tasted dishes made with her blends, "people would say, 'What is this you have in this food? This is sooo good.'"
Murray, with her generous personality, made up large batches and gave her custom blends away. Then one day, someone suggested she should make them to sell to a larger audience.
"I decided I wanted to take a chance," said Murray, who was born in Crawford, but lived in Detroit, Michigan, and later near Los Angeles, California, where she was a registered nurse in research and a case manager. Her close relationships with family who still live in the Golden Triangle brought her back to Mississippi for good about four years ago.
One of the first steps Murray took in her venture was to have her spice blends analyzed by Mississippi State University's Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion experts so she could maintain consistent proportions. After researching Cottage Food Laws, she began making up blends to offer at Columbus' Hitching Lot Farmers Market. She gets the organic ingredients she works with from an international market in Atlanta.
"You should see the production," she said of the actual grinding, blending and packaging process. "The table is covered in white cloth, and I'm in a mask, headpiece and gloves; it's like a sterile environment."
To date, Murray has created seven different blends she packages in resealable pouches. She calls her endeavor BraMurs Spices. It's a "blend" of her grandchildren's last names -- Bray and Murray.
"When I leave here, I want to leave a legacy. Maybe I can help with their college educations," she said with a smile.
Murray's spices include an original all-purpose blend with a small amount of salt; the all-purpose without salt; a jerk blend; Mediterranean; Thai; Southwestern; and a holiday blend, created especially to help people make dressing.
"I like to put together spices that marry and complement each other," Murray said. "All of (the blends) are good for grilling and frying, and they can be used for baking and boiling. They wake up the flavor of the food. They illuminate the flavors."
Katherine Lucas is coordinator of the farmers market at Second Street and Second Avenue North, open Mondays 4-6 p.m., and Thursdays and Saturdays 7-10 a.m. Murray's booth, open on Saturdays, adds to the market's eclectic appeal.
"With vendors having such a wide variety, like spices, unique baked goods and produce, there's something for everyone," Lucas said. "If you come to get fruits and vegetables, you're likely to come across a good surprise -- like Lillian Murray's spices -- and you're gonna leave with other things, too."
Murray views her spice blends "like a soul connection. They kind of generate that feeling of home and love," she said. "There always has to be love put into something. When you have a passion for something, it comes through."
The retired nurse enjoys being part of the farmers market community energy on Saturday mornings.
"I've been really satisfied, I get to meet people," she said. "I just love doing the spices. It makes me feel good and I like for people to experience it."
Editor's note: In need of more information? Contact Murray at 818-335-3246.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.