It has gone on like this for the longest while. I jitter crazily from moment to moment and place to place only to finally stumble through the front door and bumble to the kitchen. My anxiety is rising like a kettle shriek. A haphazard glance through the cupboards, and then, like an out of control tobbaganer careening down a mountain, I begin. A dissonant medley of ingredients tumble onto the counter — dried pineapple? farro? cumin? pickled jalapeños? along with unnerving sleight of hand involving knives, and somehow a steaming mound of something is piled on a plate. It’s edible, really it is, or at least it should be. I stare. Oh please. Just eat it and be done with it and let’s get moving now, shall we? I don’t have time, I never have time. Things to do, things to do, such important things to do!
But for once I don’t do. Instead I stop. I can’t swallow the words.
What am I doing?
Where am I going?
What am I thinking?
And truly, what on earth am I eating?
I realize that I don’t just want “something.” What I want is something else.
And so, this evening I decide to get it.
I look in the cupboards once again. How could I have not noticed? It’s all there. Lentils and rice, cumin and coriander, turmeric and all spice and cinnamon. The ingredients were there, right in front of me, if only I had taken the time to put them together. I slowly swirl them, meld them into a whole.
The onions are slivered and sliced into circles of sweetness, the rounds jump roped, piled up together in little hills and savannahs. Why is it that slicing onions never makes me cry?
A shiver of flour then a sizzling safflower bath. A short paper toweled repose. A final jumble and the whole is complete.
A mound of Mujadara.
A spoonful, or maybe two…time to go. That was the plan all along.
Still warm and swathed in kitchen towels, I carry my prize carefully to the car, the bowl nestled on my lap.
It doesn’t spill.
They were not expecting dinner. They were not expecting me. But there it was and I was there. Their favorite. Mujadara.
They ate and ate. I simply watched. And somehow I felt full.
The meal I didn’t eat was the meal I dreamed of, the one I gave away, of course left the sweetest taste on my tongue.
Just before Dawn
Oh, perhaps a bit more! Greedy thing that I am.
I wake up dreaming of something sweet. I yearn for it. I need it. I want it. I make my way downstairs in the darkness and throw my cupboards open wide once again. I’ve been good, I can have anything I want!
And so I do. I am craving the edible jewels of fall. Apples. Honey Crisp. Macoun. Braeburn. Winesap. Snapdragon. This early morning, while the sun still slumbers, I choose the best of the best.
That should be enough, shouldn’t it? But somehow not. I hesitate and then reach back into the tumble of my cupboard. Ah. Of course. A jar of honey.
I cut my apple gently into the thinnest possible slices. I need to make it last. Slowly I drizzle the honey on top. And then at last, at long last, I take a bite. The clean snap of possibility zings and the taste lingers tantalizingly on my tongue. I won’t forget.
A new year begins when I need it to begin.