Of Flour Dough and Romance
I measure handfuls of flour, the silky white dust slipping under my fingernails and coating my inner fingers. Radhika taught me this, how to make home-made Indian roti bread. I count handfuls of flour, “five, six,” and then pause to wonder how much bread Mark and I will eat for lunch with our chicken schwarmas.
Is it odd to mix Greek chicken schwarma meat and hot Indian roti bread, I wonder and grin, unperturbed.
Seven, I decide, and plunge my hand back into the flour bin for a seventh handful. Next is the water.
“One handful of water per handful of flour,” Radhika had murmured to me years ago, her deft gold-braceleted hands so much better than mine at measuring palmfuls of water and rolling out the dough.
My kitchen faucet splashes water at medium strength against dirty dishes in the sink: silver metal colander and blue plastic measuring cup. I count seven handfuls of water and then dip my sticky hands into the simple flour and water mixture. Swirling my fingers in the small high-necked glass bowl, I stir to make dough. Moments later, coarse flaky pieces sit ragged and separate. Add water? I wonder. Drizzling splashes from the sink into the bowl, I swirl and press and knead with my right hand, clumping and patting, until the flaky dough gels into a soft doughy mound.
Setting the glass bowl aside, I slide my right hand into the silky flour box again, this time to scatter a little flour across my grey countertop. Prominently in center stage on my countertop is a giant floral centerpiece from Morgan’s wedding. Red carnations, white baby’s breath, and fragrant round green eucalyptus leaf branches, stand among pink and coral roses and purple cone-shaped mystery flowers. Crimson curl-spiked mums still look the best, while the other flowers droop, or brown, crisping up at the edges. Standing close to the floral centerpiece, I smell the pungent sweet aroma of flowers in faded glory, heading towards decay. I need to take those outside and rescue the ones that are still alive, but first lunch.
My daughter’s wedding almost two Sundays ago was beautiful, poignant, and special. We had cried happy tears, and danced, and beamed in joyful pride and love until our legs were sore from dancing. Morgan and Joey had written personal vows and recited them to each other in the shade of a wall-less barn, surrounded by hundreds of rows of verdant grape vines and watching eyes, misty with emotion. In the third song into the service, we stood and sang it, our voices tremulous in joy-filled gratitude and prayer:
The Lord bless you and keep you, cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.
… May his presence go before you and behind you, and beside you, all around you, and within you, he is with you, he is with you,
in the morning, in the evening, in your coming, and your going, in your weeping and rejoicing, he is for you, he is for you. …
This ancient Jewish blessing from the Bible had been turned into song by Jobe and Carnes and Elevation music, and we sang it loud, believing it, and praying it over Morgan and Joey and any future generations. Faces of other loved ones came to my mind and I sang it for them too, crinkling up eyes in tears and praying for them as well.
Then there had been the supper reception under a crisscrossed wood beamed ceiling in an upper room in a small Midwestern town below strings of twinkly lights. We ate, and talked, and savored friends and family, and danced. Jumping alongside my giddy daughter Bride and her new husband, I saw jiving and bouncing around me my twenty-eight year old son and his wife, and my taller-than-me fifteen year old son Daniel, who was rocking out alongside his teen cousins and close friends, and beside me– my best friend and husband of twenty-nine years.
Mark’s dark hair has more silver in it now than ten years ago, as does mine, but he is handsome and funny and wise and kind. The music changes and a slow dance starts. He moves in and wraps his arms around me, and I grin up at him, moving my face back slightly so I can see him better. I should put on my glasses, I told him, grinning. This is the first year that I have needed reading glasses and they are still unfamiliar to me, something I forget to use until I sense Mark’s face, all blurry this close to me without me tilting back my head and looking aslant at him from a slight distance. There, now I can see you, I grinned at him. He smirked and raised an eyebrow at me. I looked at his mouth and he smiled, knowing I wanted to kiss him. He leaned in.
Back in my kitchen now, I lift four raw rolled roti breads off the counter and move towards the stove. Placing a wide metal frying pan on the range, I swivel the gas burner, and fire sparks and crackles, before illuminating a ring of blue light beneath my pan. Two roti breads steam and puff. I normally cook them right in the flames, eschewing the pan, but I have rolled them thicker than normal so the pan seems an easier option today. I watch the creamy tan ragged-edged breads soak in heat and curl up at the edges, their middles swelling. Grabbing them with my fingers I flip the hot bread and watch it repeat on the second side.
While the flatbreads cook, I stir my second try at this chicken schwarma recipe. Drastically over-salting the dish my first time around by accident, I am utilizing three combined methods to try to salvage my chicken. First, I rinse half of it in hot water. Yellow turmeric, cumin, coriander, and fragrant grated cloves and cinnamon rise to the surface of the water and swirl ocher. Then, after tossing all the chicken together, I coat them in a few tablespoons of creamy Greek yogurt. Last, I slide sharp serrated black knife through a lemon, and squeeze the acidic citrus juice into my chicken dish. After the first half of lemon, I swipe and scrape the sides of the chicken bowl, mixing and tossing the chicken, and then taste it. Nope, needs more lemon. Squeezing and juicing the second half of the lemon, I dump in the liquid and stir and sample again. Better, I think and then wait for Mark to awaken from a short nap.
July’s summer heat shimmers ninety-two degrees today. Our two maples trees in the backyard encircle our deck like a tree fort and I find myself staring out there often, watching greedy squirrels hang upside down to reach my bird feeder. A scarlet cardinal sings from atop an emerald ash tree in a side corner of my yard and I wonder if this tree too will need to be cut down, like so many others in our neighborhood this week. Summer rushes by.
The soft sound of our bedroom door opening and Mark’s voice in the entrance to the kitchen grabs my attention away from the backyard.
“Ready to eat?” I ask him. He smiles and agrees.
“Want to play our game?”
And we look over at the table where my favorite bird game awaits.
Happy summer, my friends.
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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at conferences, churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.