Peanut Butter Crackers

Mom would place a box of Salerno saltine crackers, a large jar of smooth Peter Pan Peanut Butter along with a couple of sticks of Blue Bonnet margarine on the kitchen table, putting my older brothers and sister in charge of breakfast. The center of the table had a stack of comics for our morning reading. Coffee was bubbling in the percolator on the table’s edge.

My oldest brother Rich would open the box of crackers to begin the process. He would cut a wedge off the margarine and spread it across the crackers, salty side in. My other brother Pat would slide a knife full of peanut butter on a separate cracker and press the buttered side together with the peanut butter one. My older sister Ruth would pour us each black coffee while I watched the assembled crackers rise on a plate like a Jenga tower before my two brothers decided we had enough.

We would each grab a stack and dip them in our coffee, watching the oil seep across the surface. I loved to squeeze my crackers to make margarine ‘worms’ curl out through the holes. Speaking was at a minimum while we dunked crackers in coffee, ate, traded comics and refilled coffee cups. It was the start of our day.

Two more kids and a half dozen apartments later, Mom would reminisce how she kept us healthy with the peanut butter meals we consumed. She had gotten the tip from a woman she worked with during World War Two when rationing was in place. “Protein keeps you going and peanut butter was one item we didn’t have a problem getting,” she said. “I did what I had to do and you all turned out fine.”

 

- Kathy Doherty has a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University Denver. She has published work in airplanereading.org, Metrosphere, Foliate Oak, Hot Metal Press and One Million Stories Anthology. She lives in Parker, Colorado with her amazing Siberian Forest cat, Vladimir. 

Fair Share

My mother wanted all for whom she baked to enjoy their fair share. She often adjusted her work to make sure. 

Take her chocolate chip cookies. Surveying twenty-four blobs of raw dough on the last two cookie sheets, she redistributed chocolate chips and walnut pieces until she achieved fairness. Only then did the dough go into the oven.

When she baked a pan of bread pudding or a casserole of rice custard, she inspected the stirred, poured mixture for an equal distribution of raisins before entrusting the dish to the oven. 

When Mom was visiting after the birth of my second child, she offered to make me a healthy bread pudding full of whole wheat bread, eggs, milk, grated apple, cinnamon, and, of course, raisins. While I nursed the baby in the kitchen, mom and I chatted quietly as she measured, mixed, and stirred. The longer my son nursed, the hungrier I became. At last, he fell asleep, and I was ravenous. But mom hadn’t even put the pan of bread pudding into the oven. Unconsciously, she had been placing one raisin at a time into the mixture as though planting equality in perfect rows.

- Andrea (Andi) M. Penner, President of the New Mexico State Poetry Society since 2015, arrived in New Mexico for doctoral work in 1994, and stayed to teach college English. She now works as a technical writer, editor, and program communications specialist, and writes creatively in the wee hours. Her first collection of poetry, When East Was North, was published in 2012 by Mercury Heartlink. 

the author with her mother, August 1987

the author with her mother, August 1987

Marlene's Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is forgiving, not exact. Be sure to use dry bread so you don't create a mushy mess. If your bread is fresh, you can dry it first in a 300°F oven, or toast it slightly in a toaster.

3 cups dry bread cubes (about 4 or 5 slices of good whole grain bread)

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar (brown is nice)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (you could also use ground ginger)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 c. raisins (or dried cranberries)

(optional: 1 grated tart apple, sprinkled with lemon juice so it doesn't turn brown)

Preheat oven to 325°F and lightly grease a small baking dish (8" x 8").

Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix in the grated apple.

Place the dry bread pieces in the baking dish and sprinkle it evenly with raisins. Pour the egg mixture over all. Bake for 35-40 min, or longer if needed, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

 

Making Manicotti (Mon-a-gaught)

“The crepes are very, very, easy; you just have to keep an eye on them,” my mother said as she stood in my kitchen, wearing her familiar blue apron — my sister’s long-discarded Kmart smock. These were her precise instructions:

Crack six eggs in that blender. Add 1 ½ cups of water and flour, but not all at once or you’ll clog the blender. Let it run for a few seconds. Don’t overmix it!  

The batter has to rest for half an hour, so let’s get the ricotta going. I hope you didn’t buy fat-free, it’s tasteless. Get rid of some of the liquid. Dump the ricotta into that big bowl. Now crack a couple of eggs and fold them into the ricotta. 

Marie La France in 1990 wearing her much loved Kmart blue smock. She is actually holding a Kmart flashing blue-light special lamp. The picture was taken during the author's sister's surprise 30th birthday party. She is laughing so hard she's doubled over.

Marie La France in 1990 wearing her much loved Kmart blue smock. She is actually holding a Kmart flashing blue-light special lamp. The picture was taken during the author's sister's surprise 30th birthday party. She is laughing so hard she's doubled over.

We have to chop the parsley. Is it washed?  It has to be dry or it won’t chop. I told you to wash it last night. You never listen. Did you get flat-leaf? Curly parsley is terrible.

Let’s do the crepes now.  Heat up the crepe pan—medium low.  No oil.  The first crepe comes out lousy. Don’t worry about it. Grab that gravy ladle and pour a ladleful into the pan.  Swirl the pan so the bottom is coated.  Wait for the edges to curl and come away from the pan.   Okay, now grab that spatula and pick the crepe up—GENTLY! Put it on the dish towel. Now listen, wait for the pan to heat up again. You’re always so impatient.


- Denise Sawyer is a new writer enrolled in the Creative Writing and English program at Southern New Hampshire University. She is also an active member of the Creative Women Writers of Greater Derry located in Derry, NH where she shares her creative works with other new writers and published authors. Her latest endeavor is a memoir taken from the pages of her diary penned at the age of 16. The year was 1971 and she has some doozies. She lives in Londonderry, NH with her musician husband, Jeff and their cat, Dizzy named after the great jazz musician, Dizzy Gillespie. Denise makes manicotti every Christmas Eve, and tries to remember to wash the parsley the night before.

The First to Go

The first time you cook for her after moving in, make sure it’s something fancy. A rubbed pork-loin perhaps. Spend a week researching it online, and all day cooking it. When she comes home, the delicious smells will permeate the hallway. Serve it with ginger mashed potatoes and Harissa-infused butter. “What’s Harissa?” she’ll ask. You will explain. It will be delicious.

After you get engaged, take things a step further. Prepare an Indian-spiced turkey with a green rub that sits in the fridge for days. It will look disgusting but result in the most juicy, flavorful, subtly-spiced turkey any of your friends have ever tasted. Serve it at the annual Thanksgiving potluck. It will be the first to go. 

image by Meredith Counts

image by Meredith Counts

Collect spices. Common and obscure ones. Things she’s never heard of. Things she has no idea how to use. Garam masala. Fenugreek. 6 varieties of pepper. So many spices that you quickly run out of room in the limited cabinet space provided in a small, New York City apartment. Build a custom spice cabinet from scratch to accommodate them all. A narrow base cabinet, 6 inches wide and 24 inches deep. Buy a new wooden butcher-block countertop to cover it, and while you’re at it, replace the old, peeling Formica countertop throughout the entire kitchen. 

Go to sleep and never wake up. A month before your wedding, she will be out of town and one of your closest friends will find you there, in bed, covers wrapped around your still body. The spice rack, and spices, and the hard drive full of untried recipes will remain. Maybe one day she’ll find the strength to use them.


- Gyda Arber is a theatrical writer/director best known for the transmedia theatrical experiences Suspicious Package (The Brick, 59E59, Edinburgh Fringe, Future Tenant: Pittsburgh), Suspicious Package: Rx (published in Plays and Playwrights 2010), the award-winning post-apocalyptic dating show FutureMate (Lincoln Center, The Brick) and the ARG-inspired Red Cloud Rising (called “brilliant” by the NY Times). Named “Person of the Year” by nytheatre.com, Arber is the director/creator of the interactive play Q&A: The Perception of Dawn, the writer/director of the short film Watching (Bride of Sinister Six), and the director of The Brick/FringeNYC sold-out hit Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage. Also an actress, Arber has appeared at Lincoln Center, The Public, 59E59, and most frequently at The Brick, where she also serves as the executive producer of the Game Play festival, a celebration of video game performance art. A graduate of NYU and the Maggie Flanigan Studio, Arber is a 4th-generation San Franciscan, currently residing in Brooklyn. www.thefifthwall.info

Wine Trifle

Two weeks before Christmas, your nephew’s wife calls for a recipe. 

“Christmas isn’t Christmas without your trifle, Aunty Pauline!” she says. You agree.  

It’s your mother’s recipe. You make it faithfully each year, remembering her hands moving swiftly, the smell of her kitchen. You recall marvelling at how the cake, custard and gelatine kept obediently to their separate layers.

Your grown children remain stubbornly disinterested, and you’d worried who would carry this tradition. But this girl from another culture, another tradition, has called you. Heart filled, you recite;  

Use day old sponge cake, cut into squares. Spread jam over each one. Any flavour, but I like strawberry.

Dip each jammy square quickly into sherry. Don’t let it fall in, or rest too long. It’ll soak up too much sherry, and everyone’ll get drunk on dessert.

You can substitute 100% orange juice — for the kids and the wowsers.

Make up some custard with egg, milk, sugar. Thicken it with custard powder.

Line the base of your glass dish with the sponge squares, jam side up. Pour the custard over the top. Put this in the fridge to cool. That’s very important. You have to make sure it’s cool before you add the jelly or the gelatine’ll melt.

images by Asha Rajan

images by Asha Rajan

Use Port Wine jelly (or orange, for the kids’ version). Don’t buy the cheap stuff, you’ll taste the difference. Make it up, and let it set in a separate bowl.

When everything’s good and cold, when the jelly’s set, crumble it and fork it on top of the custard. Don’t mix it through. Separate layers are more festive.

“Give my love to my nephew,” you say, keeping your voice chipper, don’t let the loneliness interject.  “Tell him to call me once in a while.”

You put down the phone, and pick up your grandmother’s bible.  That too, you’ll pass on to your nephew’s wife.

- Asha Rajan

images by Asha Rajan

images by Asha Rajan


She Says It All Without Stopping

I am sitting in the kitchen of my grandparent’s house, after school. It is 1969. Corny old fashioned things—like home remedies and mountain music—are all the rage. My grandmother tells my hippy cousin in Pennsylvania on the phone how to make her own stomach ache medicine. She says it all without stopping washing the dishes as she talks. The phone is cradled on her neck, the long green cord hanging down from the wall to where she is standing. Take your cast iron frying pan, she says, you have a cast iron one, right? I know your mother had one. Good. Get it hot, then throw in a handful of pearl barley. Yeah, just a handful.  It’s got to be pearl I don’t know why. Add a little water. Just a little. Stir it. It smokes and it stinks. Keep on adding water as the barley cooks, until the barley fries black, then you add a little more water, you know, maybe a shot glass full, stir it and pour it back into the shot glass through a clean white handkerchief. Or whatever you got over there you can use. Let it cool. Drink it. It tastes like poison, but it works good. My grandmother stops talking, turns the tap to put more hot water in the sink, then: Do you see your brother a lot? Tell him hello for me. So when are you coming down? 


Juleigh Howard-Hobson lives on a permaculture farm in the Pacific Northwest, where the home remedies she picked up from her grandmother in Greenpoint Brooklyn are still the rage. (Although, that burnt barley recipe will never be a favorite.) Her work has appeared in The First Line, Prime Number, KeyHole, The Liar’s League, Going Down Swinging, Danse Macabre, Pemmican, Sugar Mule and plenty of other places in print and in pixel. Not bad for a person who spends entire mornings moving straw bales around.

Disappearing Act

My father made the early morning tea, a vigorous, wake-up decoction. Everyday.

Fill a saucepan with water from the UV-purification apparatus.

Don’t leave it on the stove too long; it makes the oxygen boil away and the tea taste flat. Is that a scientific explanation? All I know is freshly boiled, not over-boiled.

Assemble the cups, sugar, milk. The ceramic teapot.

Image by the author

Image by the author

A splash of hot water to rinse and warm the pot. Don’t try scrubbing the stains off. It give the tea a detergent flavor.

Lipton Red Label. Yellow Label will do too. No pale, high grown varieties. A teaspoon-full per person.  

Pour in the boiling water. Put the lid on. Wrap the teapot. A tea cosy? Too dainty, too tight, pulls the lid off. Use a kitchen towel.

Wait for seven minutes. Yes, seven. Gives you time to warm the milk, step out on the verandah, think. Longer is fine, if you like it strong.

Now I make the tea. It is weak and dissatisfactory, not steeped long enough. I don’t want time to think.

We drink it by my father’s bed. The bed is low, fitted with wheels and stand-up sides, and has a mattress covered in layers of plastic protection. Mostly he is still, but every now and then, he flings himself about and the bed slides. The teak case that houses mementos of my parents’ life shakes with the impact. Behind the glass doors of the case, the jointed mobile segments of the papier-mâché dancer with arm outstretched jiggle back and forth, the chipped, yellow finger pointing.  

Were he with me, we would have laughed.

 

- Indira Chandrasekhar, a scientist turned fiction writer founded the magazine Out of Print, an online platform for short fiction connected to the Indian subcontinent. Her short stories have appeared, among other places, in Far Enough East, rkvry, Eclectica and The Little Magazine, and have won awards and been shortlisted, most notably in the Mslexia shortstory competitions. She is the co-editor of the anthology, Pangea, Thames River Press, 2012. Links to her published work may be found on her blog, indi-cs.

Growing Avocados Like Asa

Cut carefully around your avocado, longways. Twist to separate and spoon out half the insides. Spread onto toast and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Over the next twelve hours, the other half will brown. You can't bring yourself to eat it so you peel away the gummy, dried exterior, pry loose the pit and toss the rest with regret. Clean the pit gently with warm water. 

Reach into the spice cabinet for the twenty year old box of toothpicks you stole from your grandparents' house and will never empty. (Your sister will, though, and store it, flattened, between photos of you at her first birthday party.) Pierce the pit with three toothpicks spread equidistantly, careful not to snap these tiny supports in half. During rainy months they'll bend on insertion and you will say to no one, "oh, crumb."

The author at her first birthday, with brother Asa, age 13.

The author at her first birthday, with brother Asa, age 13.

Suspended in a half-full cup of water, the pit sprouts roots and stem if you shuttle it from sunbeam to sunbeam. 

Eat half an avocado on toast once a week. 

Leggy, an undeniable eyesore, their roots will circle the bottoms of jam jars and promotional glasses from The Spaghetti Factory. Change the water weekly but never plant a single one.

-Stefanie Le Jeunesse

When you don’t have enough, it’s okay to substitute.

Any chef will tell you substitutions are crucial to innovation. However, in grandma’s house, innovation often tasted bitter. Grandpa would point us to the refrigerator and nearly beg us to eat whatever was in there. “Get it out of the house,” he’d say.

One of grandma’s favorites was Rice Krispy treats, a delight in nearly any other kitchen. Here, they were always rock-hard. Yet the recipe is so simple I can easily recite it from memory.[1]

In grandma’s kitchen, lining up ingredients was not part of the recipe; she’d only check the pantry as the list demanded. And she wouldn’t have enough of something. Maybe Karo syrup. So she improvised. Just add more granulated sugar. Or peanut butter. When grandma asked me to taste a spoonful, I’d think of ways to not hurt her feelings. “You can really taste the peanut butter,” I’d say, or, “Wow, what are these? Raisins?”

Pictured: The author's brother and grandma, with a safe, store-bought cake. The fact that we have no pictures of her in the kitchen helps prove the point that she was not immortalized there.

Pictured: The author's brother and grandma, with a safe, store-bought cake. The fact that we have no pictures of her in the kitchen helps prove the point that she was not immortalized there.

Now that I’ve learned to cook, I want to take her into my kitchen, to resurrect her from memory and make her real again. We’ll spend an afternoon skipping work, playing in the kitchen. She’ll ask where the rolling pin has gone, and I’ll tell her it’s in a box back in Spokane, along with her china and matching silverware. She’ll pet the cat and ask if I’ll ever move back home. And while we make our batches of gooey, peanutty treats, I’ll tell her that I would if she would be there, too.


I would, even for her home-cooked meals.


[1] See author bio.



- Jenne Knight’s Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats are made with 1c granulated sugar, 1c Karo syrup, 1c creamy peanut butter, and 6c Rice Krispies cereal. On the stove, slowly melt the sugars and peanut butter in a large soup pan. Remove from heat. Stir in the cereal. Once coated, immediately pack the mixture into an 8 by 8 pan. Let cool. Eat. Find more at www.jenneknight.com.




Dancing on Egg Cartons

Once upon a visit to my childhood home, my grandmother winced to watch me toss into our kitchen garbage bin an emptied Styrofoam egg carton (remember these? the shapely squeaky cups seemed to ask, no matter how matter-of-fact you fondled them).

I winced as I watched her reach under our kitchen sink, into the stinking trash to retrieve the carton—to bring it back into the light of use, but differently.  For she then set it on the floor, and stepped to it—stepping on it—each squelching shell popping beneath her small feet dancing, until the carton was a cartoon of itself, flattened. 

Now it could be trashed better, and she laughed to see me stunned by the world more neatly wasted.

(Of course she died—and as I write this I do believe she liked dancing this way: to think how much more good could come to fill the space [she] left behind.)

photo by the author

photo by the author

Years pass and compression complicates the matter.  Landfills rise to the surface of someone’s memory, sometimes beautifully.  My wife, born and raised in Tokyo, never met my grandmother of the farmlands of Cambridge, Ohio.

But in the first weeks after living together in an apartment, I laughed to see my wife better sort what I threw away: out into the same sun of my childhood came the egg carton (no longer Styrofoam, but cardboard compressed).  And down on the kitchen floor she danced over it, the same unlikely steps matter-of-fact, exacting the past and the future, the East and West of the curve, shaping the heaping land filled to bursting with the collective stuff of memories—

She danced this way over-and-all-through the thing, laughing.


"Universal waste like batteries and lighting equipment should not be mixed in with regular trash,” Terence Huber learned lately, and removed lighting equipment from his usual curbside pick-up in Lakewood, Ohio.  Out of the darkness, other works of his will appear or have been published in American Letters & CommentaryDenver Quarterly and Great Lakes Review.

Let Her Think it's Terrible

When a grandchild pesters you for a sip of your coffee, because you have a known sweet tooth and she figures whatever you're having must be good, make a strong pot and give her a steaming mug of her own.

Telling her coffee will stunt her growth won’t work. She is contrary and will say she prefers to be small. She still isn’t brushing her teeth because someone tried to turn Merritt Morrison’s dentures into a cautionary tale. That backfired and now she wants false teeth just like he has.

Give it to her straight, so full she can hardly lift it.

After her first burning taste she will leave you alone. Don’t say you haven't had your coffee black since the war. Add milk and sugar when she wanders off to pet the poodle. Stir idly, enjoy.

In the afternoon the child will grab her customary can of Coke from the fruit cellar. She’ll find you first, sweeping sweet-smelling sawdust in your little basement woodshop or enjoying the sun on a patio lawn chair, planning tomorrow’s puttering. Maybe you will trim the apple tree, or hose off the cement Virgin who presides by the shed.

painting by Kathy Codere (daughter of the subject, mother of the author)

painting by Kathy Codere (daughter of the subject, mother of the author)

Do you want a pop, too? She’ll drink hers in front of the TV with M&Ms from the cut glass candy jar by your seat on the couch.

This same method works for your evening 7&7s. Let her have a harsh taste of Seagram’s before you sweeten it. She won’t bother you for another sip and her mother will come take her home as you turn the dial to Wheel of Fortune.

 

- Meredith Counts is a Founding Editor of Dead Housekeeping. This piece appears on the three month anniversary of starting this site. 

Macaroni and Tomato

“It’s so simple. Just cook some macaroni and pour in some tomatoes.”

Mama’s verbal instructions were simple. But there were so many variations.

Method 1: Combine cooked macaroni noodles with a jar of home-canned tomatoes. Talk to your little girl about when we all drove up to Aunt Char’s farm, and picked and canned them. Sit down at the table to eat with her. Tell her a story, or sing her a song when you’re done.

Method 2: Combine noodles and home-canned tomatoes as above. Call for your daughter to come to the kitchen and eat. She stays so busy now. Be gracious and understanding when she rushes off after eating to go spend time with her friends.

Method 3: Heat up a bowl of the macaroni and tomato you made the previous night in anticipation of your daughter coming home for the weekend. Listen while she tells you everything about college. Smile and keep it to yourself that you know she isn’t telling you everything.

Method 4: Use a store bought can of tomatoes because it has been many years since you could pick and can your own. Hold your new granddaughter in your arms while her mother eats a bowl of the best food in the world.

Method 5: Hold your daughter’s hand while she reminisces with you about how she always loved your macaroni and tomato. Laugh about what a simple thing that was. Smile and squeeze her hand a little tighter when she sheds a tear and tells you it is her favorite food in the world.

photo by the author

photo by the author


- Nena Gravil is a writer and an artist who works a daytime gig as an Information Systems Security Engineer to pay the bills. She shares a home in Nashville with two snakes, two cats, and one dog. Nena has one daughter, one girlfriend, and one best friend, and she understands exactly how fortunate she is. Sometimes she sings way too loudly in the shower and it's ridiculous. 

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. 

Sunday Biscuits

Winter mornings when frost etched my bedroom window and icicles dangled outside, I snuggled under my thick warm blankets waiting for the call to get ready for school.  But on Sunday mornings, the whispered songs of women longing for love, playing on mamma's stereo, nudged me from my child’s dream. 


Awake, I’d slip from my bed and wander into the living room. It was warm from the kitchen where the biscuits mamma made every Sunday were baking. Sometimes I’d get up in time to catch her sifting the dry ingredients made of flour, baking powder, and salt then shaping them into a volcano-like funnel in which she blended with her hands the Crisco, and next stirred the right amount of buttermilk to the dough. Then she’d roll the dough out on a floured board and cut out the biscuits using a tea-cup. Her biscuits puffy light and delicately flavored.

photograph by Asha Rajan

photograph by Asha Rajan


I’m sitting here in my home sipping coffee waiting for my biscuits to bake. I’ve modernized her recipe: Sunflower seed oil—a healthy substitute for Crisco, and yogurt—because it’s easy to find in stores—for the buttermilk.  These moist ingredients lead to a drop biscuit. It’s not as magical and less work. But the biscuits are puffy and it approximates the flavor I remember. On the radio, Sunday’s Jazz DJ celebrates Billie Holiday’s birthday and plays three versions of “Fine and Mellow.” I am mother and child.

 

- Leslie Brown grew-up in a close knit working class family in Detroit and now lives in Virginia.  Where many playmates went south during the summer, she spent many fondly remembered weeks at her grandparent’s apartment near Hastings Street before the area was urban renewed. She retired from work as a librarian, working in public as well as university libraries. She enjoyed work helping students discover literature and information. She was an editor for American University Graduate magazine where she received and MFA in creative Writing. Since retiring, she has explored various writing forms, multi-media formats. She created a video imagining the black migrant’s experience, "Detroit Great Migration Impressions.” 

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