He had a small, unmarked plastic bottle filled with fresh olive oil from home, a bottle that had probably been a water bottle before, or maybe a Selecto. In some strange detail I remember how thin the plastic was, how delicate it seemed, how the bottle bent a bit on the side, even the crinkly sound it made when you picked it up. I felt like this precious bottle might melt apart. The oil was peppery and bold in a beautiful way. And I remember the plush dates a friend brought him once, and little powdered cakes shaped like crescents. The dates were the softest and sweetest like pastry from a tree, and they were still attached to the branch. He wrapped them up in a towel and stowed them away.
I was thinking of these things, and the couscous we ate. From canned, to restaurant, to homemade. How he taught me to cook the couscous in a bit of oil before steaming it. I was realizing how much my own cooking is inspired by worlds opened through sharing, how the people I love inspire me with their cherished flavors that end up on my own plate.
I’ve been thinking of these things because I’ve ignored them for some time. I mean, you really have to to get on with life. But I’ve been circling around again because I can’t quite put a name to what I’m trying to do. I know I’m trying to create beautiful chocolate - but why? Or how can I really do what I feel I need to do? And actually, why do I need to do it? And how can I do it so that it succeeds. And how can I do it honestly and graciously. And how can I do it justly in a world of strife and loss.
You know, those kinds of questions. Because I feel like I’m on the verge, and know I can’t help but be very complicated.
I say I’m circling back to these memories, but really I feel the stories circling around me. The histories, the connections. I’ve known for some time that I need to write about them - actually I’ve known since I was a child. And I know that what I’m trying to do comes down to cherishing that same feeling of biting into a fat, sweet-melty date flown in that day day from Algeria, the rest hidden away with a hush to preserve their real, heavy magic.