My mother couldn’t cook.
Her cream of wheat was always lumpy.
When I finally realized it was supposed to be smooth
I had already grown to love the lumps.
Butter, not sugar, allowed to melt into a savory
pool of yellow before stirring it in.
Oven door opened to heat up the kitchen on winter mornings.
In India, I eat upma — semolina lumpy because it is supposed to be.
Spices that make my eyes hurt and
my nose run, eaten in
cafes that smell of coffee and cardamom and sweat. Eaten in
a place oven hot.
Americans ask me, “Don’t you think upma is weird?”
Not at all, I say. Semolina should be sharp and not smooth, I tell them.
I wipe the sweat from my face.
My mom made it like this, I say.
It’s a cream of wheat lie that is white and lumpy.