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  • Writer's pictureAngelique Imani Rodriguez

I Have Eaten Under Her Skies by Yamini Pathak

Editor's Note: "I Have Eaten Under Her Skies" was previously published in About Place Journal, Volume VII, Issue I – May 2022: Navigations: A Place for Peace


I Have Eaten Under Her Skies is a poem detailing a mother remembering painful memories while preparing a meal she feeds to her child. Described by Yamini Pathak in delicious detail and lush emotion, the poem touches on how food can be a remembrance of some our most haunting and poignant chapters and speaks to how feeding someone we love can honor that remembrance.


Yamini Pathak is the author of the chapbooks Atlas of Lost Places (Milk and Cake Press) and Breath Fire Water Song (Ghost City Press). Her words are forthcoming or have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Vida Review, Waxwing, Poetry Northwest, The Kenyon Review blog, Kweli Journal, and elsewhere. She is a Dodge Foundation Poet in Schools, serves as poetry editor for Inch micro-chapbooks (Bull City Press), and is an MFA candidate at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Yamini is an alumnus of VONA/Voices and Community of Writers. Born in India, she lives with her family in New Jersey.


RECIPE POSTED AFTER PIECE!


Fried Eggs & Rice Writing Prompt: Yamini's poem details a moment where a mother remembers something painful while making a meal for her child, the food being the salve and an offering to her memories. Think of a moment where pain became comfort and what that transition took. In your preferred genre, write about the transition. This does not have to be food related.


I Have Eaten Under Her Skies

By Yamini Pathak


A good cup of daal began for me with a skip-hop-bounce

to market, hanging on at the tail-end of

my mother’s saree


Sacks of jute at the grocers stood

high as my chest —

some packed firm with kidney beans

some with beads of forest-green mung

or yellow mung, delicate and pale like winter sunshine


I trickled them through my fingers pebbled river-smooth a susurration

like the rustle of wind through palms


In the kitchen, Ma sat low on a stool with a platter of seeds

in her wide-spread lap

I leaned my weight

against her side, settled in to watch

her fingers flick like needles

pick out scabs, bits of stone and straw


She told me a story about the discards how they traveled all the way

from a field beside a hut in a village where the children run barefoot and laugh in the dirt


She washed, and soaked the beans, and washed again

until the dust and the footprints of the children drained away

Scoops of turmeric and coriander from the spice box

made their way into the pot the passion of red chilies the stoic balance of salt


Then the boiling, puffing, the scream

of the pot-bellied cooker, its contents pressed

into soft-bubbled lava seasoned with a sputter of

hot oil and cumin a lime squirt, clenched in sour-bitten lips a fistful of cilantro


I pouted pretended escape eager for capture by her gentle arm

Ma mixed boiling daal with buttered rice scooped with her fingers taste

of her skin lilt of her tale in my mouth as she sang, bite after bite:


one for the village children one for you


*****


Tadka Daal

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

For Daal:

1 cup split pigeon lentils (Toor daal) or petite yellow lentils (Mung daal)

3 cups water

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 ½ tsp salt

Red chili or cayenne powder to taste


For Seasoning:

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ lemon or lime

Small bunch of fresh cilantro

2 tsp cooking oil (canola, sunflower, peanut oil or any other)


To Cook Daal:

1. Wash and soak the lentils for about 15 minutes.

2. Throw away the water in which the beans are soaked and add 3 cups of fresh water.

3. Add turmeric, coriander, salt, and chili powder.

4. Boil the lentils until soft and liquid in a covered pot or in a pressure cooker/Instant Pot.

5. Note that the lentils will be done in about 15 minutes in a pressure cooker whereas they

may take up to an hour in the pot.


To Prepare Seasoning:

1. Warm 2 tsp of cooking oil in a small pan.

2. Add cumin seeds to hot oil.

3. When seeds begin to sputter, add ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper and pour the oil into the

cooked daal.

4. Add the cilantro, squeeze lemon to taste and mix with a spoon.


Serve hot with rotis or white rice, topped with a small amount of ghee (clarified butter).

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