During the pandemic I overcame my reluctance, my dread of unearthing memories of departed family, and mustered the courage to explore the catacombs of our basement, an effort I equated to an archeological expedition. In a chamber of mysteries, guarded under a veil of dust and cobwebs, were stored boxes of both cherished keepsakes and castaways, home to layers of time and memories. Within this time capsule my mother’s things were stowed away, boxed and labeled, their resurrection softened by the passing of two decades.
In the faint glow of a solitary bulb illuminating my expedition the past lurks in the ghostly shadows, materializing in bits and pieces of the faded pages of old books, vintage photographs, handwritten letters. It was here that I uncovered my mother’s recipe book. Its worn-out leather shell had absorbed the patina of time, its pages yellowed at the edges. As I opened it, I found myself in the midst of a torrent of memories of celebrations, places and times, inked in my mother’s familiar hand, every word resonating with her voice.
Among the collection was the recipe for a Date & Nut Cake. Simple. Unpretentious. It included the ingredients, but precious little procedural detail. These were left unsaid, as they were unneeded. I was struck with an air of poignant familiarity. It was a relic from another era, passed down from my great-grandmother, through my grandmother to my mother, tracing the delicate path of our matriarchal lineage. While not bound by any specific culture, the cake was steeped in our family tradition. It was a humble testament to the legacy of my ancestors, their tastes, their likes, a silent voice that still echos in the form of handwritten recipes, smudges and splashes of ingredients on the pages, hinting lingering scents of long-forgotten kitchens.