Disassociation Dessert

Wait until the older kids are at school and the youngest is taking a nap with the bedroom door closed. Then make your chocolate sauce in secret. In the blender, add one half cup of sugar, one half cup of powdered milk, four tablespoons of cocoa, and four tablespoons and one teaspoon of hot water. Blend on high for thirty seconds. Scrape down the sides. Give it ninety seconds more at high speed.

 The author’s industrious mother in her kitchen

The author’s industrious mother in her kitchen

Grab a spoon from the drawer and eat the whole batch of chocolate sauce sitting at the kitchen table. Don’t bother with a bowl, there are enough dishes to wash and laundry to fold. You should probably clean the bathroom too, but it can wait.

Each taste of the rich smooth chocolate melts it all away: your husband’s yelling, your kids’ demands, the complete lack of intellectual stimulation of being a housewife with four kids. You wanted this. You sigh and savor another bite.

Sometimes you mix this up on steamy summer nights to dollop over ice cream for the whole family, dessert for a dinner of popcorn when it is just too hot to cook.

Years later, when your younger daughter asks you for the recipe, stall her, make excuses, refuse to write it down. Finally relent and tell her what to write on the recipe card.

She will prepare it once for her children. Then she’ll file it away and never make it again.

- Margaret Shafer writes on two acres surrounded by cornfields in the Midwest. You can read her stories about life, her travels and general thoughts about the world at unfoldingfromthefog.wordpress.com.



Abuela's Special Vegetable Soup

Chunky vegetable soup at your house was a treat.  The fun began when you started to prepare the vegetables. I was the happy recipient of your discarded strips of potato and carrot peel, celery ribs, fennel stalks. Butter knife in hand, I set to work industriously in the covered patio outside your kitchen.

We both chopped, sliced, and stirred in unison, you at the kitchen counter; me, at a picnic table, listening to your crystalline voice. You always loved to sing.

 Abuela in her garden

Abuela in her garden

You brought your soup to the table with a radiant smile. My pretend soup ended up in the trash. 

You didn’t complain if your 11 grandchildren made a mess, but you never tolerated rude language. “¡Te voy a poner una papa caliente en la boca!” The threat of a hot potato in our mouths was an effective deterrent.

Years later, when it was time for me to make soup for real, I asked you what made your soup taste so special. Your green eyes twinkled and you settled down for a chat, matecup in hand. The secret ingredient included flavors from the land of your ancestors, Spain.  

“Mix a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a heaped tablespoon of smoked paprika and heat over a low fire until the paprika dissolves,” you said. The paprika imparts a smoky yet subtle flavor. “Make sure you don’t burn it, or it’ll taste bitter. Then trickle this infused oil on the soup.” 

These orangey-red pools of oil carry flavor, family traditions and childhood memories. 

 

 

- Ana Astri-O’Reilly is a fully bilingual Spanish-English travel blogger and writer originally from Argentina. She now lives in Dallas, USA, with her husband. Besides writing on her travel blogs, Ana Travels and Apuntes Ideas Imagenes, Ana has published travel and food articles in a variety of outlets as well. She likes to eat good food, read good books and play tennis (she’s a beast at the net!)    

Cabbage Rolls On Vicodin

Mom and I come up to help you and Pap after you get your knees replaced. Pap’s old-school, a Greatest Generation guy who’s only comfortable cooking BLTs, maybe an egg or two. Mom and I trade off tasks, but we want to leave you with sustenance: your trademark cabbage rolls.

From your bed, you sleepily tell us the ingredients. The filling is half ground pork, half ground beef, a kind of rice they don’t make anymore (I parboil regular rice), chopped onion, eggs. The cabbage, you say, should be dense. Feel how much it weighs. For the sauce, get Campbell’s tomato soup, the big cans. We’ll also want to get a can of chopped tomatoes to put on the bottom on the pot along with the pieces of the cabbage we cut off so the bottom rolls don’t burn. The sauerkraut should be the kind with caraway seeds. Remember to squeeze it.

 Gram, on the phone with the author

Gram, on the phone with the author

Pap helps you out of your room while Mom and I smoosh together the filling. We’re using your big pot to boil the cabbage—not the heavy one of my childhood that gave us your pot roasts, but a lighter one that one of your kids must have gotten you. You tell us to put the whole head in there; stick a fork in the core, and with a knife, cut off the leaves as they get tender and stack them off to the side. “Be careful. You’ll get …”—you search for words, even though you’re nothing if not precise—“… hot hands.” Mom and I look at each other and realize that you’re kind of high from your pain medication. But you’re also right. You remember all this, even behind the curtain of Vicodin, the lessons of your Polish mother.

You show us how to form the cabbage rolls, using a sharp knife to trim the edges. “Tuck in the ends. Not like that. Like this. You don’t want them to fall apart.” You do one before you need to rest. Mom and I are both amateurs at this—it’s a miracle of pharmacology and aging that we’re allowed to use your kitchen—but we do our best.

I’m assembling and layering the cabbage rolls in the pot, and I run out of tomato soup. I scrabble through the cupboards because I know I don’t have time to go to the store, not if you and Pap will eat at a decent hour. I come up with some Prego.

We wake you. We ask you if it’s okay that we use Prego in the cabbage rolls. “Some people do,” you say.

“Some people,” I realize too late, translates into “some poor fools who weren’t taught right.” (Later, you’ll tell Mom, “I don’t know why I said that!” and laugh.) We ruin the cabbage rolls and know it almost immediately—but you eat a little over the mashed potatoes that Mom made and say, “I love you, my angels.”

 

Jennifer Niesslein is the editor of Full Grown People and the author of Practically Perfect in Every Way. You can read more about her Gram, a bootlegger’s granddaughter, in Jennifer’s essay “Before We Were Good White.”

 

Preserving Time

Perfect sun-warmed peaches fill baskets slung on my arm in August. A recipe from my mother reads “Pfirsiche,” but I hardly need it. That day, my granddaughter fetches the folded paper. She is a struwwelpeter, a messy child, whose hair catches on the fly paper hanging in the barn. She needs taming, and I start with teaching her to preserve peaches.

I tie an apron behind my neck, as we begin putting time in a bottle.  We wash a dozen quart-size jars with Ivory liquid in the porcelain sink. Rainbow bubbles escape into the sunlight streaming through the wavy glass of the farmhouse windows. Her smooth young hands—a contrast to my wrinkled ones—reach out to catch them.

 The author's grandmother and great-grandmother, picking peaches in 1943

The author's grandmother and great-grandmother, picking peaches in 1943

Dropping the clean glass into pots of boiling water with tongs, I set the timer to twenty. I show her how to schnibble with a paring knife, and she fills a red enamel bowl to the brim, my clever Schnookzie.

Add the zucker and the salz, I say, teaching her German as we cook—two-cups per two- cups per bowlful. Easy. I want her to remember. She rolls lemons under her palm, halves them, squeezes out the juice. Mixing everything together with my hands, I tell her, these will be the best tools in your kitchen. I sprinkle in ein kleines of vanilla, which we both pronounce a klex into the filled jars.  Sealing the lids, I say, wait for the magic.  Peng! go the tops, and she laughs.

- Ryder Ziebarth is a writer, a gardener and a mother, who lives on a hay farm in Central New Jersey where her daughter is fifth generation. Ryder received her MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2016 and has been published in Brevity, The New York Times, N Magazine and is currently working on a memoir about her life on Cedar Ridge Farm.

Ginny's Magic Cookie Dust

Roll-out cookies are the wild child of Christmas goodies. The dough can be temperamental and sticky, but Ginny Snyder, who was practically a second mother to me, used her gentle ways---and a neat little baking trick--to tame the flour, butter and sugar.  Beneath her large, capable hands, cookie dough relaxed and became a docile, calm collaborator.

Ginny concocted a sweet, silky dust from an equal  mix of flour and confectioner’s sugar to keep the dough in line. She’d pinch a tablespoon or so between her long fingers and thumb and sprinkle it over the work surface to prevent unruly stickiness.  And with each creaky, back-and-forth of the rolling pin, she coaxed the dough into a thinner and thinner canvas.

I marveled at her firm, tender technique. With a grainy swipe, she slid a metal spatula underneath the freshly-cut shapes, lifted them off the board and onto the cookie sheet, not a tear, wrinkle or deformed Santa in sight. Even the leaping reindeer’s antlers stayed intact.

 Image via Chauncer/Flickr

Image via Chauncer/Flickr

With her long torso bent over the cookie sheets, Ginny’s fingertips moved with care and lightness, and each piece of raw dough got a smidgeon of affection.

When the timer pinged and they emerged from the oven, those cookies loved her back. They required only a slight nudge to break free of the pan. No breaks or crumbles either.

- Linda Miller is a freelance writer and memoirist who has worked in newspapers, higher education public relations and magazine publishing. She's a Baby Boomer from Slatington, a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, and grew up with the quickest, funniest Dad ever, a former RN Mom who created a loving and beautiful home, and a younger brother who never missed an episode of Combat! on Tuesday nights. 

Grandma's Bread


Grandma raised seven children during the Great Depression, baking bread every morning but the Sabbath. Even a generation later, with the house filled only on weekends, there was never a loaf of store-bought bread.

Grandma couldn’t read, so I had to watch her prepare what we all called “grandma’s bread,” writing down the recipe and guessing at amounts. “Feel the water on your wrist,” she showed me, as she mushed a cake of Red Star yeast into a glass of warm water, “and add a bissel sugar.” We waited for it to bubble and foam. Five times she scooped from the 50-pound sack of flour that lived in the corner cupboard, dumping each scoop into a large ceramic bowl. “Make a well,” she said. Into it she tossed two small piles of salt, measured in the palm of her hand, the yeasty water, a blob of Crisco, and another glass of water. “Here’s the secret,” she whispered, cracking two eggs, saving out a little yolk for the crust, and pouring in the rest.
 

 the author's grandmother sitting in her yard

the author's grandmother sitting in her yard

Grandma’s large, rough hands – hands that also embroidered, and cleaned, and hovered over the Shabbos candles, but rarely had hugged her own children – kneaded the smooth white dough. I knew I gave her naches: joy from children. “Just for you,” she’d say, forming a baby loaf, back when I was a little girl who tiptoed downstairs at sunrise. It smelled and tasted of love when I ate it, hot from the oven, slathered with good Wisconsin butter.

- Enid Kassner is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University writing program. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Elephant Journal3QR: The Three Quarter ReviewRat’s Ass ReviewInscape, Switchgrass ReviewWatershed Review, and other publications. She was awarded first place in creative nonfiction by the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation. Enid writes and teaches yoga in Arlington, Virginia.

How to Make Daal

Spread lentils on a rattan tray, surveying every single grain. Scan for tiny pebbles masquerading as lentils. Close your eyes. Feel with fingertips for hard pebbles amidst the suede of lentils.
 
Rinse once. Drain. 
 
Rinse again, watching bits of dirt surrender—the flotsam you wish you could cull in your life. Drain.
 
Rinse again. Wonder if it’s ever completely cleansed? Be reminded of scars. Drain.
 
Repeat till it feels redundant or clear, whichever comes first.
 
Cook low and slow in a silver-clad handi —stir in all the spices you can muster. Simmer till the tiny beans forgot they were tiny and turn into fiery silk. Lace with garlic slices fried in ghee. Entice everyone within one kilometer of the house.
 
Ladle two big spoonfuls of steaming daal onto an island of gleaming white rice. Your plate: cheery and hopeful. A ruse.
 
Suck in your breath. Brace yourself for the unabashed heat. 
 
The first spoonful is confrontational, the second, loud. The following are demanding—your mouth feels numb and your skin lets go of beads in apology for all you can’t go back and heal.
 
Remember—it’s punishing and delicious. Remember your childhood zeal for it annoyed your mother who made perfectly delicious daal herself, though hers didn’t try to pick a fight with the world; being so brash, like your grandmother’s.
 
Your mother’s daal: a well-constructed, post-colonial argument, checking off all the vagaries of politeness and repression. Her daal took the path of perfectly balanced civility in spices, tried to smile its way out of anger, tried to look to the ground to mask moments of rage. 

 the author's Nani and mother on her mother's wedding day in 1975

the author's Nani and mother on her mother's wedding day in 1975


You are definitely full. Ladle another big spoonful.
 
Because this reverie will end the moment you lick your fingers. You’d be back yearning for a home that never was.
 

- Saadia Muzaffar is a marvellous, brown, work-in- progress - trying to feel her way through life, friendship and love while fighting to stay angry.

How to Organize a Mother's Day Party

Wear a lungi wrapped artfully around your waist, and an undershirt with frayed sleeves to make phone calls to all the men in the community. If this doesn’t take at least one whole day, you’ve left someone off the list.

Round up fathers, single men, and children over the age of 15. Even if they’re not husbands or fathers, they can still contribute; they have all had mothers. 

They will come to your house the Saturday evening prior to Mother’s Day to prepare and cook the food. Time your preparations so they coincide with the FA Cup final. Cooking is always improved by soccer.

Plan the menu in advance. It doesn’t much matter which curries you cook, but chilli must be used liberally. This is how you maintain your golden rule of cooking; the hotter the curries, the sweeter the dessert. You will organise the dishes efficiently but without much passion; it’s hard to get excited about vegetarian food. 

Your passion is reserved for dessert. You will make sharkara payasam. This sickly sweet umber ambrosia is your speciality, and you’re famed throughout the community for the way you combine the ghee, rice, jaggery, and coconut in perfect proportions. 

 The author's father serving  sharkara payasam  at one of the many parties he loved

The author's father serving sharkara payasam at one of the many parties he loved

Your helpers will be an unruly bunch, heckling soccer teams into wins or losses, but you know they will follow your instructions. Revel in their rambunctiousness.

There will be time to remind them, once more, that all the mothers and mother-substitutes are not to lift a finger on their special day.

- Asha Rajan

How to Make Three-Minute Eggs


A tall porcelain egg cup is the only appropriate receptacle from which to eat a three-minute egg.
Not soft boiled, “three-minute.” Three minutes is the exact amount of time you need to achieve custardy white and soupy yolk perfection.

Use the old Farberware pot. It holds the perfect amount of water to cover the egg, but not so much that you crack the egg when you drop it in.

Watch the pot until the electric stove coil turns red.

 The author's great-grandmother; a good egg

The author's great-grandmother; a good egg

When the water starts to boil, take two eggs from the carton and lower them into the pot. Some people use a spoon for this. Not you. Kitchen work is best done with one’s own hands.

Replace the lid. Set the yellow timer. Only the timer, never a clock, because a few seconds over or under done won’t do.

When the timer rings, drain the water and put the eggs right into the cups.

One for her. One you.

 Image by Besty Weber/Flickr

Image by Besty Weber/Flickr

Crack the shell. Peel a small piece of the white off the tops. Eat it. Use the yellow and white daisy salt-shaker to salt the yolk.

Eat the warm egg with a spoon straight from the shell. A piece of toasted challah, well buttered, for mopping up the drips.

It’s a small thing you do together, once a week. But she will remember it even after thirty years have passed.
 

- Samantha Brinn Merel spent one day every week at her great-grandmother's apartment when she was little. Along with how to make a perfect three-minute egg, during those visits she learned the appropriate way to apply blue eyeshadow, the joy of rhinestone clip-on earrings, how to make a thumbprint cookie, and how to knead challah dough by hand - even though owning a Kitchen Aid mixer means she will never actually employ that particular skill. She was a contributing author to the anthology The Herstories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, and blogs at This Heart of Mine.

How to Make a Gumbo

The roux is everything. It cannot be rushed, there are no shortcuts. It is finicky, precise, requiring your constant attention, otherwise it will burn in an instant and the whole thing is shot to hell. The only way is to stand over it – flour and butter– and smoke three Vantage cigarettes end to end, stirring until the desired shade of brown. Between inhales, tell your children about patience and the importance of slowing down.

Next add the Holy Trinity: onion, celery, green peppers. Cook until softened. Add three cups broth and change into a terrycloth jumper before deboning the chicken and cutting up the sausage. You only go to this kind of trouble for people you love, so call the kids back to the kitchen. Laugh loudly and ask questions while your son tells you about his latest video game. When your daughter moodily rests her chin on the bar, draw out the story of the sneering girl in the Guess jeans.

 The author and her mother, in her signature terrycloth jumper

The author and her mother, in her signature terrycloth jumper

The okra will be slimy if added directly. Boil it for 3-5 minutes first, drain, then add. For a secret kick, throw in a can of Rotel tomatoes. Tony Chachere’s and pepper to taste (only a Yankee would add sea salt). Simmer with 2 bay leaves. 

Eat standing up while fetching the kids sparkling grape juice and more rice. When you’re gone, your daughter will create a mythology about your selfless love and won’t realize until she's 40 that virtue is not necessarily born of self-sacrifice. 

Freezes well.

- Elizabeth Beauvais is a writer and independent sustainability consultant.  For twenty years, her writing and editing largely focused on food justice and security, environmental policy and corporate social responsibility, but now she's hard at work to develop her creative side in narrative nonfiction through her blog at https://ebeauvaisblog.wordpress.com and through other channels.

Sandwiches for a Crowd

She said I needed to hold back a bit; not everyone liked that much. I watched her garish pink lips and wondered at the pigment in the creases around her mouth. You can’t taste the jam with all that peanut butter, she explained. 

I spread the peanut butter the way I wanted anyway. A thick application that overwhelmed the bread’s integrity. My job was the peanut butter; she did the jam.

I liked a lot of peanut butter. Besides, she wore weird summer shirts with rhinestones and liked making minestrone. Blocks of frozen minestrone lined the freezer for months after each visit. You can’t trust a minestrone-lover to know anything about peanut butter, really.

 The author's great-grandmother living life to its fullest

The author's great-grandmother living life to its fullest

She said I had to think about what other people might want as her knife swept the excess off one slice and onto a fresh one. I focused on her liver spots I was sure had once been freckles like mine, confused as to why anyone would object to more peanut butter. 

It was just too much, she said gently.

But really I was too much, and that’s why I was hardly ever asked to help. More trouble than I was worth in most areas. The peanut butter had been my job and I had mucked it up like always. I climbed down from the chair I’d been standing on to help.

She stopped me and handed me an uncorrected, heavy sandwich.

It’s okay to not like the same things, she said.

- Jennifer Kovelan moves numbers around during the day and studies development economics in the evening. Occasionally she puts words on the internet and in print. Her clothes always clash and she has too many cats. She laughs much louder than you are probably comfortable with.

How to Make Spaghetti

You don’t like spaghetti Neo what style anymore? Neopolitan? You been eating it Neopolitan style. You ate it Neopolitan style before you went off to Yale. I don’t care if they served 3 kinds of pasta with 3 different kinds of sauces to choose from.

 Image by jeffreyw/Flickr

Image by jeffreyw/Flickr

Boil the spaghetti. Add some salt. Also add oil so it doesn’t stick together. Brown some ground beef seasoned with Lawry’s. Use some paper towels to drain the oil from the beef. Heat some jars of Ragu in a pot. Season it; you know Ragu doesn’t have any flavor. Chop up some bell pepper and onions. Drain the cooked spaghetti. Pour it back into the pot you boiled it in. Add the warm sauce, meat, bell peppers, and onions. Stir it up.

Sauce to pasta ratio? Girl, you can eat this spaghetti or starve.

- Deesha Philyaw is the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Deesha's writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteFullGrownPeople.com, and elsewhere. At The Rumpus, Deesha inaugurated an interview column called VISIBLE: Women Writers of Color. 

How to Make Potato Salad

Thanks to Black Twitter, the world now knows the significance of potato salad to Black Americans. I don't know why this is, or why potato salad, of all foods, but I do know that "Who made the potato salad?" is the first question you ask before making a plate at a cookout. Because you don't eat just anyone's potato salad. But decades before Twitter existed, my mother instilled in me this culinary suspicion and potato salad monotheism: hers was the one true way to make it. She would bring her potato salad to cookouts, baby showers, and other events, even when she wasn’t asked to bring it. People raved about my mother's potato salad and this only reinforced her belief that hers was the only acceptable potato salad and no one else’s would ever measure up.

Dice the potatoes. Cook until firm. Unless you plan to make mashed potato salad. Also put on a pot of eggs to boil. Drain the potatoes and let cool on the counter, and then chill the potatoes and eggs inside the refrigerator. Finely chop some bell pepper and white onions. Don’t be lazy and chop them into hunks. No one wants hunks of bell pepper and onions in their potato salad. If you can’t do it right, then move and I’ll do it. Once the potatoes are cold, chop the boiled eggs. Combine the potatoes and egg in a large bowl with the peppers and onions. Then do all of the following BEFORE stirring—you don’t want to overstir and end up with mashed potato salad: season with Lawry’s, black pepper, and paprika; add mayo, not Miracle Whip; add yellow mustard (this is not white people potato salad); add pickle relish. Stir just enough to blend and coat the potatoes. You should have added enough mustard and paprika so that it is almost day-glo orange and not white like white people potato salad. Sprinkle a little more paprika on top. And serve. You know, I don’t eat anybody’s potato salad except Van’s. She’s the one who taught me how to make it. 

 

 Image by Whitney/Flickr

Image by Whitney/Flickr

I never made potato salad for my mother. Hers was delicious, but I prefer to make mine with less mustard. Or as my mother would say, more like white people’s

- Deesha Philyaw is the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Deesha's writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteFullGrownPeople.com, and elsewhere. At The Rumpus, Deesha inaugurated an interview column called VISIBLE: Women Writers of Color. 

J.R. Joslin's Thrifty Kitchen

My grandfather grew up during the Depression. Eventually, he became a successful shipbuilder, paid for his children to go to college, and retired comfortably, but he always believed a shower should last only three minutes, socks should be darned not replaced, and a meal could be made using whatever was on hand. 

On our fishing trips, he concocted sandwiches to demonstrate this last point. 

“Which would you like?” he’d ask. “Peanut butter and mustard, or refried beans and mayonnaise?”

  The author and his granddad, 1981

The author and his granddad, 1981

I gobbled these sandwiches like ambrosia. In the last few years, I’ve treated my own children—who never knew my grandfather—to these inventive comestibles. As a kid, I wanted to love these sandwiches because I loved my grandfather, but the truth is, they’re barf-inducing.

While not all of his depression-inspired dishes were delicious—or even edible—my grandfather’s spirt of thrifty resourcefulness has followed me into adulthood, and more specifically, into my own kitchen. As my children can attest, sometimes the results are less than delectable, but at least one is five-star:

In a bowl, combine:

1 package boiled Ramen noodles;

3 tablespoons leftover Ramen water;

1 Ramen flavor pouch;

1 tablespoon peanut butter;

1 pan fried hot dog (sliced up);

 Hot sauce to taste (Sriracha works best)

I frequently recommend this recipe to friends, to rave reviews. Even my children like it. One day, maybe their children will, too.  

 

- Matthew Hobson's work has appeared in literary journals including Hayden's Ferry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, River City, South Dakota Review, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Hobart, and Driftless Review where, in 2014, he won the annual flash fiction contest. Currently, he is completing a literary mystery novel. He teaches at Loyola University and lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children. You can read more of Matthew’s flash nonfiction by clicking here.

Bitter Gourd Over a Low Flame

She will teach you to cook bitter gourd even if you yourself hate the vegetable. “We do such things for love,” she says, “learning a dish is nothing.”

            Before she slices the korolla, the bitter gourd, as thinly as possible, admire the bright green, ridged outer skin. Like a palm-size crocodile it sleeps in her hand. Remember to scoop out the seeds earlier if they’ve begun to harden. The younger, the softer, the better.

 flickr photo by  Aruna Radhakrishnan

flickr photo by Aruna Radhakrishnan

            Salt the korolla rounds, and let them sit. If you let the slices sit quietly, the bitterness will drain. While you wait, keep busy. Talk about love. You do not yet know, and she never will, that you will learn not only to swallow bitterness but to hold it in your mouth and smile. Chop up onions and lots of garlic.

            Once the korolla releases liquid, wash thoroughly. Rub with turmeric powder. Heat cooking oil (mustard oil is best), and fry whole cumin until it sputters. Add the onions and garlic. When they’re translucent, add dried red chili. Throw in the korolla. Add salt if you need. Do not cover. Let it cook on medium heat. The longer you leave it the crispier.

            Place a slice on your tongue. If you still don’t like it, spit it out. Some tongues are not meant for bitter. Remember: no matter how many times you wash and no matter how long you salt it, some bitterness will remain. Who can change, through mere cleansing, the essence of a thing? 

- Shabnam Nadiya

CAFE CON LECHE

Fill a saucepan with cold water.  

Place on a medium flame, and spoon in Bustelo.

I can’t say how much. They never measured. They just knew. I just know. I ought to: I watched my mother and grandmother do this every day of my childhood, and beyond. 

When you have spooned out enough, begin to gently stir. You want all of the coffee grounds to become drenched.  

Do not look away. It takes only a moment for this to boil over and leave you with no coffee to drink. Que pena.

You will see the crema form a moment before the liquid starts to rise. The very second you see the rising water - rich and brown like beautiful mud - turn off the flame and pull the saucepan off the stove.

 image by the author

image by the author

With one hand, hold the saucepan full of hot water and coffee grounds. With the other, hold the coffee sock high, over a second, empty saucepan.

Pour the liquid into the sock. Slowly, so that the coffee has time to drip through the muslin. Too fast, and it will overflow. Otra pena. 

When most of the coffee has dripped through, let the coffee sock, full of wet grounds, rest in a mason jar. A bit more coffee will drip out over time, and this will capture it.

Take the saucepan with the coffee and top off a mug that is ⅔ full of boiled milk.  

Two sugars. It tastes like every single thing I remember. Brujeria sagrada.

 

- Lana Nieves is a Puerto Rican writer from Brooklyn, NY. She started drinking cafe con leche,  while sitting on her mother's lap, at her grandmother's kitchen table, when she was three years old. 

Aglio e Olio (Con Cipolla)

He often cooked shirtless and I would pay attention to the muscles in his back tensing and rippling as he worked. 

He poured olive oil into a saucepan—not a frying pan as I would have done—and let it heat up while he chopped garlic cloves and then diced an onion into tiny perfect cubes. He filled another pot with water and salted it generously. 

The kitchen filled with the smell of garlic and onion sautéing in olive oil, which is in all the world the most enticing aroma when it is late and you are hungry. Sometimes I’d come and stand behind him for a moment, my arms reaching around him to touch fingertips at his belly, my cheek against his shoulder, absorbing the reverberations of his movements.

He drained the spaghetti and poured it into the saucepan with the translucent garlic and onions. Salt, pepper, grated Parmiggiano. There: a meal.

I make that simple dish of his from time to time, but I can't ever do it with my shirt off. On my arm, as I type, I can see the dark pink and brown mark, where, yesterday when I dropped a sole into the frying pan for my children’s dinner, the butter splashed out and scalded me. He was much more methodical, though, practically undistractable, even with my cheek against his back. He cooked and I observed and he never got burned.

      "I knew when I drew this twenty-something years ago—inexpertly, but it doesn’t matter—that there would be only   a handful of moments like this in the future, and I wanted to remember this perspective."

 

 "I knew when I drew this twenty-something years ago—inexpertly, but it doesn’t matter—that there would be only a handful of moments like this in the future, and I wanted to remember this perspective."

- Laurence Dumortier writes fiction and essays, and is at work on a PhD in English. You can find her at https://twitter.com/ElleDeeTweets