This piece is part of our 2021 Community Flash series, showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.
Turmeric and saffron
Nana is cooking. The mustard seeds pop like tiny drum-beats, her cracked wooden spoon clatters, she hums to herself, something rhythmic and alien with an insistent downbeat. She’s directing me with jerks of her spoon- find the turmeric, no that’s saffron, where’s the fresh garlic?
Turmeric smells of earth, and tastes like mud-pies eaten in the sun. Saffron smells of dying flowers, and tastes of oily-eggy-expensiveness. The daal is bleaching itself, we add turmeric to bring the golden yellow back, a sunrise caught in aluminium. The steam from lifting the lid floods my face with heat and my hair with tiny creases. My ear lobes sweat. The spice mix to finish everything off is dry-frying in my mother’s heavy pan, the one that was a present from her doctor friend and that I’ve never used before. There’s a moment, a single moment, when the cumin, the curry leaves, the fennel seeds release their sweetness, when they turn from woody to aromatic and they need to be tipped into the daal straight away. Nana can sense this moment with her eyes shut, from across the room. I miss it from right next to the cooker, awkwardly twisted around the handle.
The pan soaks in the sink, emitting burnt wisps from cremated seasonings, there are more curry leaves in a smaller, lighter pan. Nana hands me her spoon and teaches me the words to her song, and I stumble over Hindi while we laugh from our bellies.
Previously published in Bangor Lit.