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"Recipe for Almond Burfi" by Sumitra Singam

Add sugar to the pan, and just cover with water. Don’t add too much water, like you did in your first year of marriage. You had to stir the mixture for over an hour, your muscles aching with the effort. Your mother-in-law didn’t let you start again, so that you would learn your lesson. Not too little water, either, like in your third year of marriage, when you tried to make the pan resemble your own barren body, cracked and desiccated.

Stir the sugar, never stop, or it will spoil. Just like the marital bed your husband turned from when your womb never quickened; even after so many years, even after all the visits to the doctors (you, not him), all the needles, scans, blood tests (you, never him).

Don’t take your eyes off the sugar. Remember how you took your eyes off your husband for one minute, just one minute, to focus on your grief, on yet another scarlet arrival on the twenty-eighth day. Keep stirring, remember how your mother-in-law blamed you when your husband wandered, saying, “What do you expect?”

Keep the flame on high, so the mixture boils, just like the anger in you. Grip the ladle tight, remembering how you gripped it that day, how you used it to hit the walls, your husband, yourself. How your husband curled his lip at you, saying, “How can I stay with you now?”

Watch the syrup – it is treacherous. One minute too long and you will go past one string consistency. Test it now, allow the syrup to ooze off the ladle. Is it viscous enough? Does it narrow into a pointed triangle, dripping off, just as the blood does out of the essential fault in your body?

When it does, add in the almond meal. Watch the mixture turn into a sticky mess - the sort you imagined yourself cleaning up, after chubby hands.

Add a dollop of ghee, warmed, to lubricate. Check that the colour is golden, just like the glass you pour yourself at the end of the day, from your husband’s liquor cabinet. Keep stirring, and watch as the mixture congeals, just like your hope. Add the ghee gradually until the point of no return, until there is no separating it out again.

Watch for the point that the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, no longer able to connect with anything or anyone around it.

Then pour it out onto the tray. Make sure the surface is even, to present to the world. No irregularities, no cracks, no imperfections.

Score it, making the pieces just big enough to pop into people’s mouths. Do not be too much.

Allow it to harden.

Turn it out, and break it up into little pieces, never to be put together again.

Sumitra writes in Naarm/Melbourne. She travelled through many spaces to get there and writes to make sense of her experiences, all of which seem to involve food. She’ll be the one in the kitchen making chai (where’s your cardamom?). She works in mental health. You can find her and her other publication credits on Twitter: @pleomorphic2

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