Grandmother’s Porridge (할머니 죽)

Clare Chung

Standing on my tiptoes, I could barely peer over the rim of the stone pot
Brimming with fragrant, pillowy white rice

The billowy heat rolled past my cheeks
Burning them into bright red splotches
But I couldn’t look away
My grandmother’s skilful hand stirring her wooden spoon around and around
Hypnotizing my 7 year-old eyes

It seemed like magic
To turn the smooth hard grains of rice
Into a soft, fluffy white porridge
Magic, only my grandmother and her wooden spoon could do

A porcelain bowl of steaming rice porridge
Sprinkled with youthful naivete
And a dash of innocence

But porcelain is easily broken

And a decade later,
I am the one standing in front of the boiling pot

I know now
That starch granules split apart when put into boiling water
And gelation is what causes rice to turn smooth and thick
Not my grandmother’s enchanted wooden spoon

I can’t taste the magic anymore
And the steady comfort of being spoon fed
Or emotions of childhood awe will never return in this lifetime

But it fills my stomach with warmth just the same

A porcelain bowl of steaming rice porridge
Sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds
And a dash of salty soy sauce

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