Familial connection can’t be avoided.

(Source: sir-mycroft)

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woodendreams:

The Hobbit Soundtrack - Misty Mountains (Howard Shore)

This perfectly embodies what haunted my dreams after reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. This is just excellent. 

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A Mexican in Cairo

So today, the crowds demanded to be fed Mexican food. Since I was the only able Mexican within an hour or two that could oblige, I was the obvious choice. Not to mention, my dad’s a world-class Mexican chef. After much internal debate, I decided to make burritos con arroz. It seemed to be the most fool-proof choice I could think of.

I ran through the list of ingredients I could remember and wrote up a list of necessaries: Tomatillos, chiles, tomates, pinto beans… the list goes on. Mrs. Decker made sure to buy whatever ingredients were available which meant no tomatillos, avocados, or jalapenos. I’d make due with whatever I had.

After church and my surprise appearance as ukulele player/praise team leader, I got back to the Decker’s house as fast as possible, reviewing the recipes in my head. The beans were just about finished by the time I reached the house. Before I seasoned the beans, I began prep for the salsa. I couldn’t quite decide whether I wanted to make three different salsas for three different spice levels or just have one salsa and have everyone partake at their own risk. I began cutting the chiles, their spicy smell filling my nose. Maybe I’ll just use one in the salsa instead of three. I moved on to the onions and cloves of garlic; their smell always reminds me of my dad. He’s a minimalist when he comes to seasoning his food.
“Why do you need to pile on seasonings when you have ajo y cebolla?” he says, expertly sauteing them in oil, me intently watching at his side, breathing the delicious smell in. He reaches for the chiles campana, tosses them in along side the other two ingredients in the fry pan. The oil crackles and pops, little drops speckle and burn my skin. I blink, slowly returning to Egypt.

“Is this enough cilantro?” Bethany asks. I look at the wilted pale leaves and nod.

“It won’t taste the same, but it’ll have to do.”

I’ve forgotten the rice, bubbling on the stove, is in need of seasoning. I pour the freshly made salsa roja out of the food processor, rinse it out, and hurriedly put in the coloring ingredients for the arroz into the processor.

“Bethany, could you mince those cloves for me?”

“Like this?”

“A little finer.”

The food processor stops, red liquid swishing around inside. I rush to pour it into the rice. Mentally, I cross my fingers.I just want it to turn out like Dad’s arroz. Maybe it needs salt?

“Maria, the beans are ready!” calls Mrs. Decker.

I begin heating up the frying pan again. While it’s heating, I seed the chile, carefully making sure every tiny speck of spiciness is out. I have to make sure not to rub my face afterward.
“If you ever get chile in your eyes or on your face,” Papi says ” always grab Mami’s hair and rub your face in it. It will soak up the oils of the chile.” He hands me a knife to open the pasilla pepper I’ve been struggling with.
“Asi se hace, mi chiquita. Do it like this.” His quick hands seed it in a matter of seconds. I attempt to do the same with mine and watch it fall apart, seeds spilling everywhere.
I feel a pain in my finger and realized I’ve pricked myself with the knife I’ve been using. I suck on my finger for a few seconds and slowly, the chile‘s spiciness spreads over my bottom lip and cheek. I look for my mom’s hair, skin burning, and find only Mrs. Decker and Bethany working with me in the kitchen. No Mami.

“I think these frijoles are as machacado as they can get.” says Mrs. Decker, showing me the creamy mashed beans. I finish with my portion of the beans and pour them in with Mrs. Decker’s portion. I stir in the seasonings; I need to make sure they are evenly spread. Just like Papi’s. I check the rice for moisture. It’s pretty much done, so I turn the knob on the stove. I watch the fire under the pot of rice die slowly, turning from blue to orange.

“The rice is done.” I say. Mrs. Decker lifts the lid on the pot and takes a deep breath.

“Smells delicious!” she exclaims. I smile and take a whiff. My heart sinks. It’s different. Not like what I remember smelling at home in my Papi’s cocina. It doesn’t have the same fullness as the arroz my Papi makes. It’s not how I remember it. This arroz is not my Papi’s. Mr.s Decker must have seen my disappointment.

“Maria, don’t worry. Egypt doesn’t have the same ingredients America does. We’ve been improvising and experimenting! But anyways, all things aside, it smells yummy!” she exclaims. This is true…I perk up a bit. There is still the burrito assemblage that needs to happen and, quick, the beans are getting cold. Taylor comes in, breathing deeply.

“It smells so good!” She says happily.

“Here, taste the beans. What do you think? Are they okay?” I ask. Taylor takes a bit of beans off of the wooden spoon I’ve offered her.

“Oh my word! It’s so good!” She exclaims. I breath a sigh of relief. Bethany comes over and I offer her the wooden spoon as well. She takes a spoon from the drying rack near the sink and scraps a bit off the stirring spoon. She smiles appreciatively.
“Oh yeah, that’s good.”

Feeling thoroughly reassured, I arrange my pot of beans, a bowl of Egyptian cheddar cheese, and my freshly made banderita around my burrito-making station. Bethany starts warming up tortilla on our make-shift comal, also known as a griddle. I start my first burrito.
“Recuerda, spread the frijoles asi. Make them look gorditos but not too much.” I remember my dad saying as I made my very first burrito.
Beans spread across the tortilla, I move on to the cheese, then the banderita.
Fold over the tortilla. Drag the filling towards you. Tuck in the sides. Roll. Tuck the sides again. Roll to finish.
I do this over and over until the banderita is all gone. Now the burritos are just bean and cheese.
Fold over the tortilla. Drag the filling towards you. Tuck in the sides. Roll. Tuck the sides again. Roll to finish.
I’ve made over thirty burritos. Only two split their sides. Papi would be proud.

Mrs. Decker sets the table buffet-style. We say grace. I fold tortillas into burritos.
The beans are gone. I’ve scraped the pan clean. I guess I’m done.
I look at my hands. My fingers are beginning to redden from being spotted by hot oil, boiling water, and steam from flipping tortillas on the comal, and folding them, still hot, into burritos. It doesn’t hurt much. My hands remember this from before. They’re use to the heat by now.

I grab a plate and begin to fill it up. Two burritos. Two scoops of rice, some cucumbers Mrs. Decker cut up to accompany the meal. I walk to the living room and find Pastor Tom. The head of the house must always be served first. Papi taught me.

Old Walls, Old memories…

I came back to my old house today. Some family members live in it now but I can’t help but feel the threads of my old life still clinging to the rafters, reaching down and tugging at my hair.

I hate the feeling of being home but knowing it’s not my home. I see ghosts of my memories lurking around each corner, ready to leap at me, catching me unaware and vulnerable to the reopening of wounds. But then, everything is wrong. Everything is rearranged and out of place. It makes my skin crawl.

I regret coming here. I wish I had never left but life goes on…

"Time is an odd un-graspable thing" (The Distant Hours, Kate Morton).

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Ama’s Palm

Ama’s Palm

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