My First Taste of Manna

There’s a funny little tickly feeling somewhere inbetween my heart and my tummy.

I just had my first taste of manna.

It astonishes me how easily this first taste happened. A few clicks on the computer, a recipe found – and a recipe, surprisingly, from someone familiar to me.

I never did find matzo cake flour. I had to make my own. Even that was simple enough, the blender whirring away madly shooting the matzo meal up into a shape like a fountain, as I hit the ‘aerate’ button over and over, the pale wheat showering and falling into a lightened fluff with the slight essence of grain edging gently out in a fragrant aroma.

In a round glass bowl I poured the flour and tossed in the ground coriander. Ground coriander is surely a heavenly ingredient – it makes you breathe in deeply to capture its sweet warmth, to bring it up through your nose and straight to your soul. Then I made a indentation – a bellybutton – in the center of the coriander-scented flour. The bellybutton was filled with a generous dab of sesame oil, and as I filled it I myself was filled with memories.

Of the first time I took a high pile of flour, hollowing out a center into which to break an egg, to mix outwards, to blend disparate ingredients from their center together into a rounded soft mass with give and take which could be kneaded, rolled out, cut, twisted or shaped, baked, and finally . . . finally, eaten. The bellybutton.

Of the aroma of the first loaf of whole wheat bread I ever baked. The loaf ended up as heavy and dense as a New York City phone book, but the deep wheatiness, the smell, was outstanding. The smell was good and rich and pure and enticing, so enticing that again and again a bite would have to be taken from the loaf, even though again and again it would disappoint, not being able to hit the level of the simple and amazing aroma.

Of my father, who I only knew briefly, meeting him for the first time when I was fourteen years old. I mourned for how we might have known and understood each other, though he never ever was a father to me.

In the middle of all this, as I stood with my hands in the dough kneading and musing, my daughter walked into the kitchen. “What are you making, Mom?,” she asked, our black cat gleaming green eyes at me from her arms. “Manna cakes,” I smiled. And as she walked away chattering my eyes filled with tears. The dough was stiff, difficult to work. These doughs without eggs often are. It looked like sand, flecked with lighter and darker bits, and it smelled rich and deep, and it was not just dough. It was my past. It was my past that I’d lived and my past that I hadn’t had a chance to live. And it was my now, with all that it held, which was this daughter who held black cats with green eyes in her arms, my daughter.

This was manna, and this was before I even took a bite.

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