A Dish for the Ages
Having couscous for lunch
is a quest for comfort, down memory lane.
A few imposed traps stand in between
partly due to a distant past,
and self censorship.
My earliest memory of this dish
may have been when I was seven.
Couscous, chickpeas, and raisins.
Its steam greets the mouth.
Warmth at first. Then heat.
Aura-rich, mix of flavors.
The cabbage on the plate stands high
as a mountain protecting its citizens.
The round ball is cut into four pieces.
Served with a hint of triumph.
Zucchini, a green stretched tongue
of many love affairs, is hot.
The heat is held inside it with passion.
Like a prison guard in charge of a ruthless criminal.
Even with caution, the heat threatens your lips, makes your throat cringe.
Carrot begs to differ. An orange opposition.
It accentuates— adds color.
Turmeric. Salt. Pepper, and double that in ginger.
The mystic ingredient is not my father’s magic hands.
Nor is it his lucky strikes at delivering savor.
It is simply olive oil.
It makes an ordinary dish into a giant of a character.
35 years later, I stand at the kitchen
recalling an act I watched almost weekly every winter.
I now play a father tormented with a heavy legacy.
Eager to please his son. The guests.
When I cook couscous I disturb the neighborhood
with a frightening smell that makes even the most civil stomach roar.
My son will still feast on couscous for awhile.
Dismiss it for many years. Then come back to it
with pressing urgency.
Maybe an intellect to support his quest.
On a good day of health, fresh mood,
a lot of rain, or to celebrate
I will satisfy his request for a fine couscous.
I wish he would remember
that his mom liked hers with
tomatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkin,
and she swore that her favorite was
served with fish instead.
He knows the act by heart.
He would happily play my part.