Saturday, 26 June 2021

'Scrape the Seeds Away' by Myna Chang

Lizzie grew up in the American Southwest, with searing sun above and red dirt below. Her grandmother complained that the shifting weather affected the essence of her garden vegetables. Water-starved radishes developed a sharper bite, beefheart tomatoes shrunk to cherry size, crooknecks withered on the vine. The drought’s worst offense, according to Lizzie’s grandma, was the ever-increasing heat in her favorite chile peppers. Hatch, poblano, even the gentle red bell peppers she loved—all grown too spicy-hot. Lizzie didn’t understand what her grandma was talking about. Bell peppers had always made her mouth sting like sticky fire. Still, she watched as her grandmother adjusted recipes and noted the changes in her plastic-covered cookbook.

As a teenager, Lizzie learned to press Grandma’s red chiles into oil, mastered the technique of roasting the fat green ones so the skin bubbled black, learned how to stuff finger-sized orange peppers with nibs of longhorn cheese or roasted pork. Lizzie followed the recipes, paying heed to the handwritten notations—scrape the seeds from the habaneros, heat the oil to a mirage-shimmer, don’t kiss on the first date! Her grandmother was old-fashioned, but she made the best rellenos in the county. Lizzie figured Grandma might be right about the other things, too.

Years later, Lizzie had to smuggle the cookbook onto the refugee ship. The launch module had never been intended to carry so many away from their home soil, and the book was heavy, filled with the weight of past suppers and her grandmother’s pith. Lizzie had calculated the lift-off numbers herself, knew the margin was tight, but she couldn’t leave the heirloom behind. Now though, in their new habitat, Lizzie regrets keeping the book. When her own granddaughter asks, What’s a chile pepper, Grandma? Lizzie’s words catch in her mouth like sticky fire.


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful and haunting! Wonderful descriptions that truly make the scenes come alive!!

    ReplyDelete

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