A Molecular Melting Pot


Lauren Cohen

Voices Editor

// This piece was inspired by the realization that I exist as a molecular melting pot. //

I started out as an observer: wide-eyed, curious.

My mom standing in the kitchen, frenetically chopping onions with one hand, sprinkling turmeric and saffron over a pot of noodle stew with the other, speaking rapid Farsi into the cell phone nestled between her shoulder and cheek. Bushy eyebrows staring at me from my bathroom mirror. Shouting cousins. Five pots of Ahmad Earl Grey tea a day. Aunts who can’t draw the line between love and harassment. Trips to “eh-school” and “Palm eh-Springs.” Stinky kabob, rice, and sumac in a Pyrex for school lunch, nothing like the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lunchables of my peers.

I then became a critic: pubescent, ashamed.  

“Mom don’t burn that weird incense throughout the house when my friends are over.” “I want to thread my eyebrows.” “Stop talking to me in Farsi; this is America.” My face blaring red each time the Ahmad tea bags were pulled out at restaurants. Scheduling lessons to teach my mother how to say the words “squirrel” and “skewer” (all futile, of course).  Wishing I too could bring the conventional cold sandwich and Trader Joe’s lunches. Wishing I too could be white, plain, simple.

I am now a student: proud, excited.

Begging my father to only speak Farsi with me so I can become more fluent. Ideas for a documentary on my parents’ escape to America as refugees. Photocopying recipes for ghormeh-sabzi and ashe-reshteh (“noodle stew”). Smooching my mother every time she mispronounces a word. Smiling back at my thick eyebrows. Listening to my grandparents share their favorite memories from Iran. Eagerly packing my favorite Persian lunches. Unearthing dusty photo albums which document a life I will never know, but will always covet.