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Sarah Mathai

a poem by Sarah Mathai


food is a legacy

the women in my family have

long carried on.

sitting on my

tiled kitchen floor

watching Nani knead

dough after dough,

scented marzipan vanilla

of the Portuguese history

her ancestors left.

my orange headband is

too big for my head;

my hands too small

to help.

the kitchen is

my mother's

sacred space. she

doesn't make kaju scented

marzipan but

she pours vinegar

in sorpotel like

she was born for the moment.

she watches fat drip down

succulent bacon as she

adds thicker slices

of pumpkin to

the sambhar she's

making my father

to show how much she loves him.

but growing up

my hands burn everything

they touch and so

when we road trip around

a white man's country

I am kicked out the trailer

everytime the kitchen is used.

because I have fire in

my fingers, my mother reasons,

and red hot flames

in brown man's skin

is called terrorism

in a country like


once back home,

I sit silently in

the kitchen as

I watch my younger

sister work her


she adds Curry leaves

to leftovers,

some smoky dhaniya,

and voilà!

it's a whole new dish entirely.

the makhan she slathers

on parathas is

just right, and

the cheese she has stuffed within

oozes out when you take

a bite.

she fries chicken

is simmering oil,

and it's delicate, golden

crispiness almost makes

our guests weep.

she hangs onto me

when the kadhai is all

scraped up and

I long,

I yearn,

to be wanted for

the magic in my hands,

as she is for hers.

I gently pat her head

as she falls asleep.

that night,

the world is quiet as

I tip-toe into

the kitchen.

I light the stove

with the flames in my fingers

and try to

create my own magic.

I end up burning rice.

I am banned from the kitchen again.

This piece aims to focus on the importance of food in Indian culture, especially when it comes to women. It also tries to out the sense of loneliness one experiences when we're unable to take part in this form of cultural expression.


Sarah is a kind, hard-working individual. When she isn't busy obsessing over poetry, you can find her making funny videos with her sisters at @sarahmathaii

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