how to make dolmeh with your mother

by Nazanin Soghrati

1. drizzle oil onto the pan until the specks of heat feel like the blisters on your mother’s feet after a long day at the cash register greeting customers in a profuse thank you thank you thank you
while handing out plastic bags with yellow smiles.

2. saute the rice & ground beef & five-spice powder until they curdle and turn deliciously brown, until they begin to taste like a reminder from home, a reminder of your past self, the body you had once occupied when you were stitched and sewn to another sea.

3. soak the grape leaves in brine & spread them out on the tabletop. stretch them like your mother’s tongue when she first began to learn English, when the only words she knew how to say were sorry and thank you. she is a shadow under the kitchen bulbs, her soft maiden curves blending into the walls.

4. fold dollops of meat & rice into the leaves. mother’s hands work in silence. she sows salt over the rows of dolmehs: the grains sticking to the edges of the pan. she crimps each edge with a fork.

5. let each dolmeh marinate in pomegranate syrup for an hour. wait for mother’s patience to soak into the rice and meat. she is salted into the vein patterns of the leaves, etched onto the stomata, woven through the stems.

6. eat in the silence passing softly over the dinner table, dense enough to hold a conversation for two, but light enough to leave a smile hanging from your lips. your mother’s foot presses against yours. you are searching for warmth in each other’s skin.