COMFORT FOODS // Tortang Talong — Sadia Pineda Hameed

Porridge 1

Tortang Talong

The night a loved one dies, we dream of a paruparo; by the morning, we know. If this is not enough to honey the ache, then the paruparo visits us to say goodbye a few days after. We are always visited when we are most in need.

My mother is part of a network of passageways that exist only in dreams; semaphore lines across time and place that allow us to commune telepathically with those who are distanced. I have tread between times through dreaming, arrived in places I recognise from dreams, had half of a conversation dreamt, and the other half concluded in waking life. It is how we tell secrets, pass on stories: it is how we cope.

I receive a call from my mother. It is to tell me a recipe for tortang talong, which she learnt last night in a dream. She says she was feeling down my father was away for a few months and it had her thinking about distance; the pull of distance, the need to cultivate distance, how to traverse distance. It also had her thinking about distance yet to be traversed, unspoken conversations, knowledges left unshared, what is lost across long ways away. But anyway, she says, I cooked an omelette this morning and oh, it was so delicious! I dreamt of my mom, and she said it’s so easy:

  1. just poke some holes in an eggplant and put it in the microwave for 6 minutes.

My mom says she roasts it on the gas hob so she can peel the skin easily, but she knows I don’t have a gas cooker – only the electric one – so she says, 

  1. no no, you don’t need to, it’s too much trouble, just do it in the microwave and peel it with a knife if you need to. You can do it on the gas flame but your father isn’t here to do it— otherwise you can do it like that.

I asked my mother if she was remembering this, whether she remembers watching my lola cook this back home when she was young. No Sadia, I said it was in the dream last night! I haven’t cooked it— I don’t know what it’s called, I think my mom just made it up. But it’s so easy, you should make it — when your father is back we’ll drive up to see you and bring you lots of eggplants so you can make it. So,

  1. then it’s the fun part, you get a fork and flatten the eggplant like it’s been run over, like a pancake (keep the stalk on! You can hold it by the stalk while you flatten it down) 
  1. then you mix some eggs in a bowl like an omelette – Sadia do you still eat eggs, you can eat them for this, maybe this once – and just put salt and pepper,
  1. and my mom, she just said watch me – no instructions, I just watched her – and she said do it like this; and she picks up the eggplant by the stalk and dips it in the egg, and chucks it on the frying pan and that’s it, just flip it by the stalk, no spatula. She also poured the leftover eggs in the pan on top of the eggplant— and that’s it,

I made it this morning and it’s so delicious! You have banana ketchup? I bought you a bottle at Wing Yip, I remember

  1. so put it with banana ketchup, and rice, and put the oil on the rice. I had it and it was so nice. Anyway,

beautiful girl, miss you, tell me when you want to visit, or we can come up, your brother can drive, love you love you love you my beautiful girl, your lola is thinking of you she wishes you all the best in everything you do! I will go to the church tomorrow and light a candle, light four candles, one for your lola, one for your father, and one for you, and your brother. Love you beautiful girl bye bye, say hello and best wishes to your friend, okay, bye, love you so so much my beautiful girl! Okay, okay, bye–

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Sadia Pineda Hameed is an artist & writer living in Cardiff. She is also one half of LUMIN, an arts collective and indie publisher/small press. Her practice involves text, visual and installation/ performative explorations of dreams, telepathic communion, intuitive processes and meta-modernism. She has appeared on BBC Radio Wales’ Arts Review Show, and has been published by Porridge Magazine, Amberflora, Esthesia Magazine, Tŷ Celf, Wales Arts Review & has a creative non-fiction essay forthcoming with Parthian (2020)

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