I don’t really cook, yet
I crave to paint the palate
with a palette of spices, master
my native cuisine.

I hunger for Ammachi’s taste
and talent in the kitchen,
to know just how to stir the pot—
until the aroma awakens the sleeper

a girl in tune with her
Tamil roots, who won’t mask
her ethnicity with quiet,
unassuming blandness.

I’m desperate to feed my lack,
satisfy my memory,
nourish my soul.

If home cooking is a kind
of magic, and recipes
are spells, then

let saffron stain my disposition
sunny; turmeric trigger
tenacity; clove, cinnamon,
and cardamom massage
enough sweetness to temper
tamarind; and bay leaf be
a balm, bringing it all home. 

Lest I lose my way,
I’ll leave myself
a trail of mustard
seeds and black