The afternoon breeze flits open the thin lace curtain, for a peek of the world. A world that vibrates with the hum of city life. The curtain sits back again, filtering only light and finding its place in your reminiscence. Then, of today being a part of tomorrow.
This time the breeze, brings with its sounds and cooking smells from the neighborhood. The early afternoon symphony of pressure cooker whistles. The clang of ladles tossing ginger-garlic pastes into hot oil, the birthing ritual for any Indian vegetable dish. You imagine the rolling pins across so many homes, in tandem trying to get a perfect circle. The flapping of the wheat disc on a hot pan, the puffy leavened chapati, getting smeared in ghee and flipped again.
The poetry of food, you have seen the repetition, a meter of actions. Sometimes a snack like a haiku, measured yet bountiful. The pastoral feast that is breakfast, the sonnet of a lunch, the limerick of tea time and the opera of a family dinner. It is easy to remember what you ate last, yet also difficult to remember your last best meal. There are so many and so few.
The phone beeps fill you, a shot of warm attention. The witness to our lives, even when we eat. A well laid out plate needs to be shared. The phone gets to work again, zooming in and out of what will only be digested and absorbed in the dark. The curtain is fleeting. We wait for something bigger, with our palates, our spaces, our hopes. There was always food to satiate.
When you are young, the house is a castle, your bed is a building, the mosaic tiles look like rooftops and you jump. You are a superhero flying over a city. You jump without fear.
Chocolate Milk by Ron Padgett Oh God! It’s great! to have someone fix you chocolate milk and to appreciate their doing it! Even as they stir it in the kitchen your mouth is going crazy for the chocolate milk!
The wonderful chocolate milk!
When you are a teenager, the bed is your playground for dreams and phone conversations. Whispers and innuendos. You grow into an adult in a span of a year, you are already a couple in your twenties. You plan your dates, cook for your lovers and it is a feast, always.
Crazy About Her Shrimp by Charles Simic We don’t even take time To come up for air. We keep our mouths full and busy Eating bread and cheese
And smooching in between.
No sooner have we made love Than we are back in the kitchen. While I chop the hot peppers, She grins at me
And stirs the shrimp on the stove.
How good the wine tastes That has run red Out of a laughing mouth! Down her chin
And on to her naked tits.
“I’m getting fat,” she says, Turning this way and that way Before the mirror. “I’m crazy about her shrimp!’
I shout to the gods above.
When you grow up, the room shrinks again, squeezing you in a tight grip of age. Every move weighed by others’ hopes. A man or a woman with memoirs of your own, a gravy bowl of regrets and aspirations. You eat differently - careful and healthy. You try to savor again, a dish garnished with recollections.
Da Capo by Jane Hirshfield Take the used-up heart like a pebble and throw it far out. Soon there is nothing left. Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.
Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery. Glaze them in oil before adding the lentils, water, and herbs. Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.
You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.