I washed the dal six times today, once for every year we’ve been together. The baby is seven months. I tell her her mamu is worried she hasn’t had Indian food. I tell her her dadu will be so excited to cook for her when we fly from our home in Honolulu to Los Angeles in a few short weeks. 

The baby has had poi, maiʻa, ‘uala. She’s had peas, carrots, broccoli. She’s had beet greens. She had bone marrow when her skin was flaring. She chews on kale and celery stalks, without their leaves, to soothe her gums and her new razor-sharp teeth.

My spouse, my love of six years, holds the baby next to the stove as I skim froth from the top of the bubbling lentils. I tell her cooking is a little witchy, that our people don’t measure, that you have to go off scent, taste, feeling. I tell her our ancestors come closest when we cook the food they like to eat. I tell her if my thakuma was here, she’d hold her full baby cheeks. She’d lean close and murmur to her in Bangla. I show baby what I mean. I cup her face with both hands. 

I add the five seeds of the panch phoron, then the cumin and coriander, paprika, red pepper, and turmeric. I add the onions I’ve browned and the onions I’ve mashed, the fresh ginger and garlic. I add salt last.

For the umpteenth time today, my mind flashes to Palestine, to all the children, the elders, the ones brimming adulthood, perished and parentless. For the umpteenth time today, I feel salt at the back of my throat.

I blow and blow on a spoon before I bring it to baby’s lips. She’s kicking her feet for it. She considers it, this new taste, texture, flavor, then coos for more. She cries when I put the lid on the pot and tell her it’s for after we go to the ocean, that we’ll let it sit and stew a bit longer. 

It’s a small pot, this dal. I wish it was big enough to feed us all. 

Copyright © 2024 by Anjoli Roy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.