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Threading Memories into Recipes

June 15, 2020



It's Friday morning, and I watch my aunt roll bowls of ورق عنب on the kitchen table. Her hands glisten with olive oil and I sneak her a sideways glance, snatching a little vine leaf, eating it raw. The slightly bitter taste of raw leaf and rice filling will forever linger with me.
         "Don't eat it raw!" 
I throw my head back and laugh. 
                    "But, I like it raw." 
She swats my hands away from the bowl and hands me a tray. She plops a wad of salty leaves in front of me, and scoops rice onto my tray.  
        "There, work for your food." 
I pout, but inside a little bird sings with warmth, as I inspect the leaves with a critical eye, trying to figure out which side is the shiny one. 
         "The other side, حبيبتي." 
The bird laughs from its perch in the hall and I grin wryly
                           "بس ليش؟" 
          "Too many why's. It's just how it is." 

Years go backwards and I see myself as a nine year old, young, with only half my teeth. My hair, which still had some curl in it, tumbles down my shoulders like a rat's nest. My grandmother stands by the counters, her sleeves rolled up, and glasses propped up in her greyish blond hair. I remember it still had brown and blonde in it. 
           "Right get the flour." 
I watch as my sister heaves the flour bag with her little hands from the cupboard.  
                            "Here, mormor." 
Her eyes twinkle in the candlelight, and the four year old screams, banging lego cars together, from where she is sat on the dining table.  
           "Hush, skat." 
My grandmother rolls the dough out and cuts them into smaller squares. Her nimble fingers leave traces of that night in the soft dough, forever engraved in the brown creases of the crisp buns.
          “There you go.” 
And we squabble over whose boller are better as we roll them into girlish shapes, the dough fluffy and sticky under our hands. We dip our hands in olive oil and the dough fairly slides off them, as we place them on two trays. When they have risen high enough to tower over our souls with nostalgia, we then squat down on the cool kitchen floor. to watch them rise in the oven, our hearts and initials smiling warmly at us from beside the normal round-shaped buns. 
                            “Look! Mine rose the most!” 
                            “Nej, mine did, right, mormor?” 
            “Jo, jo.” 

Two years later and my aunt has moved back home to Jordan, and my grandmother has moved back home to Denmark for her new job. I prop my head into my hands, watching the cat wave its tail lazily in the sweltering sun. 
                            “I’m hungry.” 
             “Me too.” 
We laugh under the chuff chuffing of the air conditioner, hands sticky with egg whites, and orange juice stains on the clean floor. My parents are out, and have no clue that my littlest sister is checking the stove as the eggs sizzle and that me and my other sister are hunting in the tangled jungle of the high cupboards for crackers. 
The cupboards are higher than us and we wobble on unsteady legs as a creaky chair hold us up. 
                          "Get the dishes."
We scoop scrambled eggs, slightly burnt, on to the plates. The bright smell of the cooked eggs mixed with the sharp onion, and the smell wove itself into a chain of crumbs and laughter, wrapping around our hearts. 
We pour orange juice into our cups, the glass sparkling in the sun, and the tangy citruc-y taste feels like sunshine and warmth as it tumbles down our throats.
Somehow, miraculously, we managed to clean it all up before my parents came home. That day still blooms in my chest with blossoms of our sisterly threads. 

Fast forward and the world is thrown into a science fiction novel. We throw a ball between our selves, half-heartedly cheering as we score a goal. Our hearts are not into it. My mother sighs and pulls us into a playful armlock. 
                                “Wake up wake up wake up.” 
We smile one sidedly. She claps her hands at us.  
                                “We are baking a cake.” 
We groan in typical teenager fashion, but my little sister jumps excitedly. I stare, slightly jealous of her childish enthusiasm. 
                                                    “What cake?” 
                                  “Any cake. How about banankage?” 
I shrug. 
My mother bangs me on my back and I laugh in surprise.  
                                   “Kom nu, barn” 
We spend the evening with flour on our hands and memories in our dough, kneading times past by into our banana cake, and she was right. Our spirits are lifted, and we set the sofa table with candles and handkerchiefs, pulling my father away from his ever demanding work. 
                                           “شكلو زاكي.” 
                                                  “لا, not just looks good, it is good.” 
And the cashmere blankets still laying in my grandmothers old room wrap around us with soft love and hyggelig evenings of jasmine trees and mint leaves. 

The past is the past, and we are now in the present. But the scents of wooden walls and the memories of twinkling fairy lights, are weaved in between the recipe of carrot buns in my grandmothers notebook. 
The memories of clementine trees, and Jordanian olives hanging outside on the mount sides are sewn in the crevices of the vine leaves and fresh oil my aunt sent us from the sun brushed farms. 
The closely held secrets of evenings spent climbing on the compound walls and cooking with sizzling oil; scraped knees and childish giggles are hidden behind the scrambled eggs, cheese, and onion crackers we never stopped making. 
And for when we grow old and our hands grow leathered we will hand down these stories written between the lines of ingredients and steps.  
As much as the past can never be retrieved, we have saved slivers of it in the food we make, and the recipes we write down.  

And the hourglass is still pouring crumbs of mischief over our life, for eternity.

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  • June 15, 2020 - 2:22pm (Now Viewing)

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8 Comments
  • Writing4Life

    Wonderful!


    5 months ago
  • Deleted User

    This is beautiful, I love this so much!
    Mmm, waraq 3nab are soooo yummy, I love wrapping them (until my neck is kinked, lol.)
    Nice piece, beautifully written! :)


    5 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    Replying: Oh cool. It's been several years since I've been there, but it was nice. I also suck at geography, so I may or may not know what you mean by the coast. Like the Mediterranean Sea? Yeah. The different seas blend together in my memory a little bit though. I do remember being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and I think we went swimming in the Red Sea. We passed by the Dead Sea but didn't spend much time there.


    6 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    Replying: Whoops, I don't know how to spell it lol. Waraq is probably correct (although Grammarly wants me to write it Warraq??). My mom (from Israel) calls it waraq d'wali, but she said that waraq 'inab is just another name for it. Do you make it with beef or lamb or something else? My family doesn't like lamb, so we use ground beef, but idk what the traditional meat is in Qatar.


    6 months ago
  • sunny.v

    replying: aw thank you my one percent olive bits and pieces ;( i’ll stay strong. and, wow, russian in school, so interesting! how much do you know? like, percentage-wise. i wonder. about 1%? :))))


    6 months ago
  • sunny.v

    aw, i agree, this was so pleasant and fuzzy!! i enjoyed how homey the food made it, too. i’m curious, since i see the Arabic: you speak Russian and Arabic? so sorry if i’ve worded that wrong, i’m just very curious haha.


    6 months ago
  • purplepanache

    there is so much warmth in this piece, i felt all fuzzy on the inside! you would be having a fun fun time with your sisters uwu.


    6 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    This is beautiful! Is the first meal warak d'wali (or something similar)?


    6 months ago