Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Stuffed Vegetables by Rosalia (Level 9 with Jonny)

I’m about four or five years old. It’s summer and I’m at my holiday house, by the sea. My grandmother has cooked stuffed vegetables for me. I’m just back home from the beach, with my bucket and spade, and now I recognise that familiar smell. My grandmother picked peppers, aubergines and tomatoes from our kitchen garden this morning, and stuffed them with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, olive oil and aromatic herbs: mint, basil, oregano. She just took them out of the oven, and their delicious smell  has filled the whole house.

My grandmother made it for me, because she knows that it’s my favourite dish. I’m her only grandchild and she feared she would never have one, because she’s already in her seventies and  my mother was married for years without kids. She told me the story many times, making me feel a unique and much desired human being.  Stuffed vegetable preparation is complicated and time-consuming, especially because we are in the sixties and my grandmother hasn’t got an electrical device to grate cheese or bread. Therefore, having that dish for lunch is a precious gift, that I’m given only a few times every summer. And the taste is so special. It may be the freshness of vegetables, or the particular mix of aromatic herbs, or the fact that I feel secure, protected by my grandmother’s love.

I’ve eaten stuffed vegetables made by my mother several times since my grandmother got too ill to cook and after she died. They didn’t taste the same, nowhere near. And I’m sure they wouldn’t if I made them by myself, which I never learnt to. That taste has gone, lost forever, together with that sense of safety and confidence. The very idea of loss was inconceivable to that little girl, far in the past. Now my grandmother’s stuffed vegetables taste like loss to me. And my mind is a mine of lost things: wasted time, worn-out ambitions, betrayed expectations. I’d better stop mining, which is a dangerous activity, as everybody knows.

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