The Secret Ingredient

Children tell me that they can smell the cinnamon right off me
when they greet me each morning,
that they can tell the days my face powder
is more flour less castor sugar,
the days my hands are swollen from all that kneading.

I have been baking for long enough to know the taste that lingers in every household,
to know just when to swap the chocolate icing for lemon cupcakes,
the trifle pudding for chocolate decadence,
which is to say, happiness has too many shapes,
and I know just which mould is the right one.
9 out of 10 people who live here will tell you
that there is a difference between sugar and sweet.
The secret ingredient, I always tell them, is love.
Little do they know, it’s never my love I talk about,
but theirs, the kind that makes me feel like Santa Claus
on every birthday.

For decades, I have matched the warmth in every sunrise
with that of my kitchen,
both welcoming enough on a bright sunny day.
But these days, I watch cookie dough crumble in my hands,
my grip is too strong on a legacy waiting to be let go.
My fingers ache with the effort it takes to hold on to a spatula,
which does not mean that they have forgotten what it feels like
to mould happiness in cakes and cookies like play dough,
but rather, that the shapes are now more jagged than clean cut,
it takes more flour than it used to to hide the cracks.

So I break down the walls in my fist size kitchen,
let the warmth of every joy I have felt spread,
and for once, share not just the product, but the process as well,
welcome visitors, volunteers, keen amateur family bakers,
and unmask the secret ingredient for generations to come,
as if to tell them,
there is so much wrong in this world,
and we will run out of happiness,
the moment we forget how to wrap our fingers around each other’s
so that we can learn just how much sugar it takes
for something to taste sweet on blistered tongues.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Ruchi Singhal says:

    Very beautiful indeed. Touches the core.

    Like

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