“Plenty of readers expressed dismay about discovering that a treasured recipe had a common origin. . . . But more frequently, when readers learned the truth, they accepted it and loved the recipe more than ever. The cookies and cakes and potato salads were, after all, still associated with childhood memories and departed loved ones.”
—Alex Mayyasi, “The Dirty Secret of ‘Secret Family Recipes’”
The secret to good chapati or, as Indians, who first made it, say, paratha, the secret to the East
African version is layers. Good chapati, like flattened cornucopias, like, I suspect,
all colonized hope, unravels in the Fibonacci sequence in which it was rolled, oiled, coiled.
Good chapati, our history reminds me, has got give and some singe,
requires the right amount of salt in warm water
and that the dough sit overnight with a wet towel over its container to protect
the moisture and the simple, everyday ingredients. This dough must be rolled
to a level of flatness somewhere between crêpe and pita
and fried in a refined coconut oil that withstands
high heat.) If someone makes chapati or any food that requires a long wait
and the sweat of their kneading for you, this is a love
to be celebrated, secretly, quietly: family, recipe:
protected yet common. Simple. Good.