I used to have so many questions about the act of cooking, those daily moments here or there when my parents and my grandmother would show me and say add a little bit of this and maybe some of that but careful with this meal, never those. Their hands and fingers would magically measure without tasting, and the smell would fill out the rooms of the house, as though a feast was taking place for all the ghosts we carry back from our visits. Sitting on the floor, in the middle of the kitchen, watching their bodies move with the heat, the ingredients, and the process, I would close my eyes and imagine the spices twirling and dancing around me. Sometimes, my father’s eyes would lower and then twinkle as he told me about the ground grains, tastes, whiffs and lemons his sister and him used to race to get back for their mother’s boiling broth:
mountains of cinnamon, pilau, turmeric, thyme,
all coursing around valleys of oils. We've gathered them all on a shelf, and when a tin breaks we rush out to buy a new one, each time telling the other the stories we’ve heard from the generations above us. In the late hours of the night we attempt to recreate a sprinkle of twirling grains: the casual act of cooking far away.
I think the measuring cups are broken in our house but it always smells like home.