My grandmother was a great cook.
Because of that,
a crumple of tinfoil in the freezer
holds the last thing I have
from her hands.
Her cheese borag recipe:
- 1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
- 1 pound jack cheese, shredded
- 2 cubes butter (salted), melted
- 1 large egg, beaten
She stopped putting parsley in them
when my dad stopped
liking green—one of those sacred
traditions that only changes
for youngest sons;
one of those simple traditions
that the hands of eldest daughters
keep when the mind draws
She clears the counter (except
for bowls of water and butter, a greased pan)
and unfolds sheets of pastry,
cutting it into thick strips,
“Don’t drag the knife, it’ll tear.”
She dips her fingers in water and pulls
apart the stack by ply,
brushing each with butter,
“Don’t press, it’ll tear.”
She spoons the filling on the end, edges meet
and fold into a triangular parcel,
“Don’t overstuff, it’ll tear.”
Top with extra butter and bake—
350°, hotter? 10 minutes, longer?
“Don’t think, it’ll tear.”
—until the phyllo flakes and
butter pools and browns.
She knew she was dying two days
before the virus put her
lungs in the hospital,
before I saw sparse notes and blanks
on her recipe cards.
Aluminum gleans in the frostbite.
Cold air swaddles my face
as I close the freezer door.