‘At nine, it’s only just beginning to occur to me that I’m on my own here. The adults give you what they can, richer or poorer. Mint jelly! It is accusation and insult. She has detected my father’s hand in the sauce. Affronted, I want to slap the table, bluster away, just like my dad does. But how do you argue with mint jelly? I took a risk and failed. It had never occurred to me that tastes and preferences could be so embedded in personality and history.
To me, deliciousness is still a simple matter—I don’t have enough experience yet to understand how personal such things are. How you must choose the ingredients and tools slowly, putting together a palate, just as you build a life. Taste is desire, permitted or not, encouraged or not. There is no arguing it away, there is no winner in this fight, no recipe to follow. There is only blind faith and improvisation.’
An excerpt from an essay published in The New Yorker from “Life Without a Recipe,” by Diana Abu-Jaber, which is forthcoming in April, 2016, from W. W. Norton & Company.