It’s a tradition with half a name, a family name, no name at all, really. Perhaps that’s the influence of immigrant great-grandparents; without language to pass on, names say what something is, no more, no less.
I shape the dough, tugging and pressing and kneading, giving a form that my hands know how to make without direction. I feel my mother’s hands in mine, and my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s before her, working the dough and dropping it into the pan where it sputtters and hisses on the surface.
It is a tradition, yes, but it is meant to be shared. This should be a time with laughing and singing, with eager hands shaking crumpled paper bags and pulling out sugary treats to pass around while hot. Instead, this is a quiet time, a time when I stand alone at my stove, going through the motions because I can’t imagine the day passing without them. I wonder if, on the other side of the country, my mother is doing the same.
I pull the dough out of the pan, shaking it gently to let the oil run off then placing it carefully on a paper-towel-covered plate. The only paper bags I own are from Trader Joe’s, and it somehow feels silly to sacrifice them for a few pieces of dough. I quickly sprinkle sugar on both sides and flip the pieces back and forth again to coat them in more sugar, just for good measure.
Do I even know why I’m doing this tonight?
The door handle rattles and my roommate walks in, blue scrubs and backpack speaking silently of a long day at the hospital. I can’t help smiling at the perfect timing. I turn from the stove, holding out my plate, the way it should be.
“Want some Fried Dough?”