Something strange happened while I was on the floor of my office, fingering through a bottom row of cookbooks on that short red shelf, as I pulled Beyond the Great Wall, a Chinese cookbook you gave me years ago, that wide and hefty thing, another book fell into my lap simultaneously called From the Kitchens of Belfast 1975, worn and construction-paper bound that had come nearly out of its plastic spiral spine, I thought what is this, I hadn’t remembered it, but I was right away enthralled since I lived in Ireland and finished culinary school there, but you already know that, and when I opened to the first page there was a stamp marked The Hamakers, Box 5494, Kingsport, TN 37663, your parents and I’ve no idea how to put it together since they never lived in Ireland and I’ve no food memories whatsoever related to them, all but Grandma’s busy tin of Christmas cookies, but what was strange was this: my reason for pulling Beyond the Great Wall off the shelf in the first place was to research a recipe I was developing for vegetable fried rice, and while flipping through From the Kitchens of Belfast 1975 noticing the book weighing heavily on desserts and casseroles and only a single page devoted to vegetables, I turned there to that one page and there it was, fried rice, a recipe recorded under the vegetable category, fried rice, and this was the entire recipe:
Fried Rice (by Patty Dilks)
1 stick margarine
1 cup rice
1 chopped onion
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook in frying pan until brown. Dissolve 3 chicken bouillon cubes in 3 cups of hot water. Mix with rice, etc. Add 1 can mushrooms, drained. Bake for 30 minutes.
I don’t know how to pull it all together, I don’t even know where you are, I haven’t known that in a long time, but I have these two books, both red, both beside one another on the red shelf, and sometimes the simplest things happen in the middle of the day on the floor of your office in the simplest of moments and suddenly you’re aligned, or rather rooted, or rather a puzzle piece in a puzzle you haven’t touched yet, and must I mention, probably not, that peculiar recipe for fried rice, so utterly not fried rice, so poignantly outside of place and time.