You’ve knocked on a beaten-up, wooden door.
“Come on in, it’s unlocked!” a voice from inside calls to you, almost shouting over a cacophony of kitchen-noise.
Inside, the room is warm and worn too. It’s loud and dimly lit, but not uncomfortably so. In fact, the smell of whatever is on the stove lends the clamor a sort of comforting quality, like the feeling of falling asleep at a big happy gathering of family and friends. Through the haze, you can see someone waving you closer. They only stand a little over five feet tall, but they spread their arms open with a welcoming gesture wide enough to embrace the world.
That’s what I want your experience entering this place, this blog, to be. For all I know, it might feel more like stepping into the crowded concert of a touring absurdist band. By which I mean, interesting, but not particularly welcoming. Too much noise, too many plot points, too many characters, too many narrators, too many formats….. and never enough explanation to get you caught up.
…And maybe it’s that it’s too theoretical. It’s all too abstract.
Something concrete, that’s what we can ground ourselves in. Something to look at, to smell, to reach out and feel the texture of it as it slips between fingers. Then the taste of it, the sounds it makes as it cooks on the stove. It needs to be something real and comforting. Something like fried rice.
Fried rice is one of my favorite things to cook. One big skillet, no side dishes or multi-tasking. No calculations or precise recipe to follow. Just fried rice.
First, I find rice. Sometimes I have some leftover that I can revive, my own culinary version of the classic experiment in necromancy. More often, I cook it from scratch. Three parts dried rice to four parts water in a smallish pot. I bring it to a boil, then shift it to the back left burner of our stove, the one that can hardly burn orange at all. I set a timer, and once it goes off I tip the pot on its side to see if there’s any water left. Like a blizzard from dairy queen, but it’s just rice I’ve made in my kitchen.
Then, I prep the vegetables. Carrots, yellow onions, sometimes broccoli, and whatever else we might have in the fridge to use. Peel, chop. Peel, chop. Just the slow rhythm of hand on knife on cutting board and the soft seep of juices into my fingertips. They’ll smell like onions for days. My father’s hands smell of onions all the time; they smell of onions and sawdust. It smells like home, but not home as in a thing, or a place, or a feeling. My father’s hands smell like the verb form of home, home as an action, as something constant and methodical. I’ll lower my head to breathe in the smell of the onions for the days that it lingers on my own hands.
Vegetables drop into the big pan with the tall sides, sunflower oil spattering out onto my forearms. I add soy sauce and rice vinegar as they soften. I stir the rice and eggs in after the veggies are almost done, along with more of the sauces. Then the burner gets turned off, and one drizzle of sesame oil later it’s out on the table, ready to be shared.
What I’m trying to say, is Welcome. Sit at my counter, chat with me, grab a tasting spoon and a plate. Stay, eat; or don’t. The door will always be open.