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

How to Clean Crabs: Or the Finer Points of First Aid with Seafood

I watch crawfish skitter around my kitchen sink, clamorous and clawing.  The spectre of my father hovers, whispering the steps to crustacean preparation.

Step 1:  Purchase the freshest live crabs from your seafood market or fishmonger.  Freshness is directly proportional to nippiness.

Step 2:  Empty crabs into the deep trough of your kitchen sink.  Maintain a wary distance as crabs scramble atop each other, clawing at eye stalks, snapping at pincers.

Step 3:  Grip a large cleaver in your right hand, steel your courage, and grab a crab firmly to summarily do away with it.

Step 4:  Call your youngest daughter to attend the resultant wounds on every finger of your left hand from an irritated crab, not yet ready to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Step 5:  Do not be deterred!  Grasp the cleaver now firmly in your bandaged left hand, and boldly grab another crab.  The first crab was an aberration, the second will be easier.

                                                                                the author's parents

                                                                                the author's parents

Step 6:  Call your youngest daughter again to attend the wounds, now on your right hand, from the second irritated crab, unwilling to volunteer as tribute.

Step 7:  Stare forlornly at victorious crabs dancing their glee in the kitchen sink.

Step 8:  Ring oldest daughter, with bandaged phalanges and a rotary dial phone.  Plead plaintively for daughter to clean crabs.

Step 9:  Cook cleaned crabs, savouring the rising bouquets of aromatics and tomato.  When the crabs metamorphose from uncooked blueness to the ripe vibrant red that mirrors the sauce, remove them from the heat.  Note with satisfaction that your foe has been deliciously defeated. 

Step 10:  Serve with plain rice, and sprinkle with abashed humility.  Bandaged fingers are optional, but do reflect the determination required for success.

- Asha Rajan