Rén is a traditional Chinese character that can be roughly translated as "humanity" or "humaneness". The rén rén is a "benevolent" or "humane person".

Bǐ mò is a term for "pen and ink", "words" or bits of writing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A family recipe

Today's post is another prompt a la The Red Dress Club RemembeRED series: 


"I once told a friend that i love her posts because I read with my nose, and she has the unique ability to describe the olfactory sense perfectly.

Sounds can do the same thing. Have you ever heard a song and suddenly you were swept back to a time in your life you had pushed to the back of your memory?

For many of us a scent or a sound can bring back a rush of remembraces.

This week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell that reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory. Don't forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing!"

So here's my response - just a quick short one today!


A Family Recipe

I stood at the unfamiliar stove, sifting through the available spices and ingredients.

All dried and they're not all here... why can't I find normal spices in Hong Kong?

Chopped onions already making my eyes water with their acrid odor, I cracked the tinned tomatoes and a sharp tinny smell assaulted my nose. Not like at home...

Cool granite with a warm wooden cutting board hold the trophies of my horn of plenty. Mason jars full of bright, sweet-smelling Romas with their bite of once-fresh basil, intensified by the canning salt that touches the palette when tasted. 

My husband stands with a fragrant glass of Merlot in hand, breathing in the barrel from which it was delivered, philosophizing with my father and sneaking a tomato from the jar. I rap his hand with the back of a wooden spoon before turning back to the stove.

The sharpness of the onions fade from the air as they fold together with the spicy tang of the garlic in the searing pan. Olive oil takes on a new bouquet as the sauteing root vegetables are brightened with a dash of Riesling - the cloying sweetness steaming into my face with the alcohol that leaves me heady.

My mother and grandmother move about the kitchen, making some sweet-concoction of their own for dessert - delicate breezes of sugar and vanilla waft by as they pass.

Adding tomatoes from jars, a crackling of fresh ground pepper gives the sweet-smelling sauce a sudden savory scent that is augmented by the pungently grassy aroma of fresh cut parsley. 

Adding fresh, doughy pasta to the boiling water to my left lets off yeasty, floury bubbles as it begins to simmer. 

The longer the sauce cooks and the less we can all find something to occupy our hands, the closer we all drift to the stove, eventually becoming the people who watch the water boil and sneaking a spoon into the sauce when possible. 


I woke up from the daydream to the smell of tinny tomatoes and onions, sharp as knives in my eyes now.

And this is why it’s so hard to produce a family recipe.

9 comments:

Colin said...

Amen to that.

andygirl said...

oh wow. your descriptions were so vivid. I'm extremely hungry now! well done!

Galit Breen said...

I'm definitely hungry now and, for sure, craving pasta!

I loved your beginning because it *really* made me wonder why you're in Hong Kong and I could so relate to not being able to cook like at home, while abroad.

And I liked your ending because it made me laugh as I could so imagine you all gathered around the stove and waiting!

And I liked your middle because it was food porn, and I love that!

My favorite line: "Cool granite with a warm wooden cutting board hold the trophies of my horn of plenty. Mason jars full of bright, sweet-smelling Romas with their bite of once-fresh basil, intensified by the canning salt that touches the palette when tasted." for the images, the word choices, and the care that you took creating both.

Joy said...

I'm not sure what tinny tomatoes smell like, but after reading this, I don't want to. There is something warm and well-rounded about summer produce that I miss so much in the winter. Great descriptions.

Erica M. said...

Great descriptions. I was lost in your daydream and, like you, I was sad to snap out of it.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Whew, I'm hungry now! I know what you mean about tinny tomatoes. Beautifully written!

Jenna said...

great description with the smells, and love the sense of home and togetherness too :)

Kimberly said...

Nom nom nom...I'm all sorts of hungry now ;)

Renee said...

You made anxious for my garden. I love my home canned tomatoes. So much better than store bought.

Your descriptions are awesome. I could smell the garlic and onions.

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