How to Mourn for Something That Was Never Yours
This recipe/poem explores my longing to establish a connection to my familial ancestry through my grandmother’s delicious cookie recipe. I reveal what I know, what I don’t, and the murky truth in between.
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes (plus a few years to simmer) Serves: 1 family (lost or found) Ingredients: - A spoon - Crushed anise - Flour - Pecans - A fuzzy memory 1. Fix mistakes A spoon is not the right tool for this. The anise seeds slip out under the curved metal, clanging like a beaded chain on the sides of the cup they’re trapped in. My shoulder blades ache as I bend over the cup, smashing the spoon down with increased vigor. The recipe calls for crushed anise. We only have seeds. Note: Prepare yourself accordingly. 2. Simmer I peer into the window of the oven. My nose slightly stinging from the sweet aroma of the anise, the crumbliness of the flour, the crisp brown edges, the nutty pecans, the addicting buttery aftertaste. The perfect blend of thick and soft. I watch, carefully, as the blend of ingredients rises to form something new. 3. Wade in the past My grandma’s cookies are the only thing of hers I have left. If she left behind Italian heirlooms, I am unaware of them. If she told me stories in a thick accent as a baby, I cannot remember them. Her laughter is captured on video, Her handwriting immortalized within the recipe card held inside crinkling plastic yellowing at the edges slick with baking grease and dusted lightly with flour. 4. Try to remember My dad tells stories of his family in snippets. Photographs. Laughs that fade into tense silence. Italian is a word that doesn’t belong to me. Never belonged to my father either, shut out from the language scratched out of the immigration papers change the name change the story
MariaMary (easier on the tongue). I sit here and watch these biscottiscookies and wonder if my grandma remembered Sicily Palermo Salvato (all the letters that made up her existence) and the churning waters of the Atlantic that carried her all the way to a little house in Detroit with seven children she didn’t know how to handle— or if her memory was as fuzzy as mine. The way my dad tells it, my grandma is framed in an ocean of contradictions: Saint, Villain, Lover, Monster 5. Regret I do not know how I am supposed to think how I am supposed to feel. I eat and think about The way I stood immobile at the funeral— Tears soaking pressed cotton suits, An ocean of memories tucked into a wooden box, A seed. Unsure if I am allowed to mourn for something I never had.
From the start, I knew I wanted to write about my Italian family, but I didn’t know what direction to take. One of the strongest connections I have to my family is my grandma’s pecan cookie recipe I make every Christmas. This sparked the idea of turning my messy thoughts into a recipe—to bridge the tangible and the speculative. I especially wanted to highlight my desire to have a connection with my family, but the inability for me to do so. I never had a relationship with my grandma as she died before I was born, but I hope this piece of writing demonstrates how we may be more similar than I ever believed.
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Claire Giannosa is a young writer from NYC, who spends all of her free time lost in stories. Last year she started writing her very first novel, and hopes to one day share many more with the world. Outside of writing, she is an active board member of Model United Nations and enjoys engaging in international policy. She also spends time exploring the city, dancing with elementary school kids, and scribbling poems in a notebook.