540: far away from home I am hungry

540: far away from home I am hungry

540: far away from home I am hungry


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I love food. I love everything about it. I love growing it, shopping for it, cooking it, eating it, and sharing it. I think over the last 20 months, it’s become even more important to me if that’s possible. Cooking has been a way of grounding myself in the moment, in the routine, of offering something to another, and to myself.

My family shares recipes. Both my brothers are excellent cooks and the main cooks of their households. And even when I’m tired and worn out, I can get excited about food. What to order and from where. It seems obvious I’m sure. Food is a huge way I stay connected to my family and to my community.

Ever since my stepmother of 26 years died in 2010, I make her recipes to remember her. Sometimes it’s just a cocktail or a certain type of salad, something simple. But I love to feel like I’m cooking with her in my kitchen, nearly eleven years after she’s no longer here.

Every winter, I make a soup called Winter Green Soup that feels like a spell. Meant to cure. All the greens, all the vegetable stock, all the good things that come from the ground cooked down to something bright and rich. I do it for myself. But I also do it for her.

In today’s poem, the focus, of course, is food. Here’s a poem that gets to the heart of the abundance and sensorial pleasures of making food together as a family. That feeling of eating together, even after you’ve suffered a loss, a move, or something that’s shifted the very ground underneath you. It may not always satiate every need, it cannot bring back what we are missing, but it can heal.

far away from home I am hungry
by Urvi Kumbhat

                                After Jane Wong

We wake to find   our lives   have been quartered
We hold at bay the knife just a little longer
Such tedious operations in repair      We begin
to stitch           Downstairs my mother slices
a guava       How do I translate: its constellation of seed
tart white flesh            a quicksilver moon
This and every afternoon        There’s more
Roll the drums              This is the swarm
of a deathless summer
Boil       the water          fry         the bread

We bite into raw tomatoes in between meals
We sack the ripe curve of its flesh
We demand its red                   underbelly
Anthills of rice           My grandfather
making a hole for ghee             No one’s allowed
to not eat          There’s still so much       stitching to do
But in the meantime     someone grate the carrot
it’s time for halwa       Nani surveys the kitchen
We gather all the ginger            we can find
Someone claim the coconuts        gently crack open

their heads                     Someone pass the rotis
to the dog        Someone watch         the gravy
is boiling over now         We understand no love
that is not in excess              Here are thickets of sugar
Here are spoonfuls of kaccha aam to lacerate
your tongue          more please              Here we
hang on to the cook’s sari asking
oh when oh when oh when          Here our hands
become one with what we eat         Later we all
belch in private                          Fall asleep
our bellies swollen          hungry
                            for something else

"far away from home i am hungry" by Urvi Kumbhat. Used by permission of the poet.