Perhaps, later, under the weight of collective memory, I name mango and passion fruit and sugar cane as the flavors of home. Later. Only later. I remember, better, texture and blandness: salt, hydrogenated fat, fiber. The boiled food of my grandmother’s pot: cabbage, water, meat, carrots, potatoes, boiled to an acceptable state with lots of salt. Later, the slightly half-rotted, green-tinged pieces of institutional meat called school lunch, white-unripe pineapple made palatable by salt. The sharp bite of a hawk’s talons as it grabbed bread from my hand. I envy writers with flavor-rich, taste-dense, palate-enlivening memories.
At 8 or so, I began to bake. The cakes were pink or green, baked in a roasting pan, with too much sugar, and they always burned. I spent many years scraping off the black to find something edible. The oven was uneven, the recipes rendered in measurements that did not make sense, and I struggled to measure what’s rendered in weight into approximate spoon sizes. 500 grams became 5 tablespoons. 300 grams 3 teaspoons. Sugar to taste. And then some more. Cakes are colorful and sweet. If you add enough food coloring and enough sugar.
(these are the flavors of my failures)
I crave the flavor-rich memories of other tropical spaces, the flavor of time-ripened bananas, the tartness of sun-ripened oranges, the wet of pink-fleshed papaya, the pop of fruit cells
a vegetarian tries to recover the flavors of a non-vegetarian childhood
goat kidneys, boiled goat ears, blood-stuffed roasted goat intestines
oily marrow, chicken feet, pork chops, pork sausage
beef sausage, sirloin steak
Sun-ripened, tree-plucked fruit infused with cousin-yells, the cane-rich green of cattle feed, cutting leaves and sticky burrs and red-ant-biting of rural vacations, and the flavor of green, hairy and dense, delicate and striated
nectar filaments, extending now into another bite
I am not the first here, a visitor’s bruising, a stray hair
The flavors of one’s youth, the cloying-cling of too-sweet and too-sour, the right kind of bland mushiness, and gap-toothed smiles
Unremembered certainties of remember when