Our ancestors are here. Their light shines through us and we illuminate like the fish bones my Lola would pluck from the crown of my head. They would appear there if I accidentally swallowed one. Then, Lola would feed me perfect bites of fish and rice from her soft hands, assuring I would not swallow another bone. I only remembered this when I found myself doing the same for my own children, fingers to their lips.
I understand why I crave food that reminds me of home; I miss my mom and the family that came with her. I swallowed her stories so long ago that they are mostly lost to me now. But when I make food my ancestors like, they return and I remember. They cling to my clothes and trail behind me wherever I go: garlic, vinegar, soy. They linger in the thresholds, sometimes drifting out into the street, enticing neighbors to ask: What’s cooking? And, I can’t answer, because it’s too awkward to explain to someone you hardly know:
You smell the ghosts of food cooked two days ago. I am happy share the leftovers with you. But, please be prepared to listen as each bite rises from the crown of my head, like steam from hot rice. I’m not chewing. I am talking, and all the tiny bones that hurt to swallow are now illuminated by light.
I bet you won’t ask what’s cooking next time you are passing by and wonder. Or, will you?