Essay

In Isolation with Tyree Barnette & family

Location: Sydney, Australia

Every trip to our local grocery store was a scavenger hunt. After waiting in line for entry, I navigated the congested isles with a narrow shopping list to satisfy some uniquely challenging palates at home.

My three-year-old son, Hampton, was growing curious about trying new foods. I hoped to add some weight to his slender frame. A product of an induced birth, Hampton arrived tall and skinny, his viny legs entangled in each other while his long arms wrapped around his torso. He looked like a tree root made of flesh. His hair went from thin whispers to a thick, light-brown golden crown.      

I stopped to read the ingredients of some muesli bars, knowing that it could cost me toilet paper, paper towels, or disinfectant spray in another aisle. Everyone around me was voracious, stockpiling household items as if the world outside was disintegrating.

But caution was key. Anything with more than traces of peanut butter would give Hampton an anaphylactic reaction. We’d discovered his allergy when he was one year old and had a taste of peanut butter on his lips from a sandwich. Less than a half hour later, a child health nurse was in our apartment after his lip swelled and he began coughing.  

My other son, one-year-old Miles, had been born a little thicker than Hampton and nearly as tall at birth. His was a calmer, natural water birth. The first few months saw his thighs and stomach swell and a bushel of deep black hair rolled out of his head. But then, his rapid growth plateaued. During a regular check-up with a nurse, he was deemed underweight for his age.

Afterwards, I replayed all the times he’d shown no interest in eating. I’d tried oatmeal, yogurt, applesauce, rice, spaghetti, and hash browns—all foods we’d tried with his brother. But with Miles, our routine was that we would try to feed him, he’d chew up and spit out the food, I’d clean it up, and we’d resign to breastfeeding. We had yet to find what I thought of as his gateway meal: the first thing he really liked which would open the door to other food.

I doubted I would find such a thing during a pandemic.

Luckily, most of our typical go-to items for further trial and error were still on shelves when I reached them: ramen noodles, frozen hash browns, fruit, smooth almond butter, apple juice, and microwave popcorn. A few other healthier options completed my shopping list and I returned home to experiment.

My wife Tracina is by far the better cook out of the two of us. She treated me to homemade shepherd’s pies when we first started dating back in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the first dish she cooked for me. Later there was steak and eggs, spaghetti bolognese, shrimp tacos, and stews when the weather turned cold. We were married for barely a year before she accepted a job in clinical research halfway across the world.


Every trip to our local grocery store was a scavenger hunt.


When I got home, Tracina took out the hamburger patties and balled them up in her fingers before liberally sprinkling salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and onion powder—we always found that meat in Australia needed a bit of extra seasoning for our taste. Then, she reformed these thoroughly seasoned patties into thick disks for the grill, along with some carrots and asparagus.  

“No, Hampton!” I warned when he tried to turn over a hamburger prematurely. “We flip it once when it’s ready or it’ll dry out.”

When he got bored watching me poke at the sizzling meat, he wandered off to open the screen door for Miles, who came trotting outside, smiling and pigeon-toed.

Minutes later, Hampton finally got his moment to flip the fat, darkened patties, now thoroughly sizzling in their own yellowed juices. I scooped up the limp vegetables into a baking pan to cool. I had little hope the kids would actually eat the veggies—but we had to keep trying.

For added motivation for the kids, we formed an ‘eating circle’ since our villa doesn’t have a kitchen table. Instead, we gathered around each other, sitting on wicker bar stools, Miles and Hampton in their highchairs. Facing them, we cheered them on, encouraging them as they ate.

To guarantee the boys would eat something, Tracina dropped some frozen French fries into a deep fryer while I sat a hamburger patty inside a plump brioche bun. I gave it a squirt of ketchup, then cut it into bite-size pieces.

Hampton went first, picking up a piece of meat and bun with his thin fingers, turning it around curiously with a grin, and then cautiously biting into it. A few drops of ketchup fell onto his shirt. He nodded his head excitedly, food peeking out from his teeth.

“It’s so good!” he said, smacking and taking another bite. I hoped that seeing him enjoy the food would motivate his brother.  

Miles bounced a little in his highchair. He leaned forward, his little mouth opening with a popping sound. I guided a piece of burger just past the eight teeth he had to rest on his tongue. He worked the food around his puffy caramel-coloured jaws, deciding how to eat it. Then, after a few chews, Miles smiled and laughed, bits of bread flying from his mouth. He swallowed and scooted in his highchair for more.

Tracina clapped enthusiastically from across the bar as Miles finished a few more bites of the burger. I tried to sneak in a carrot too. He spat it out.

When they’d finished, I cleaned their mouths of grease and ketchup and gave them each Sippy cups of watered-down apple juice.

This was a breakthrough. I gave both boys a Tim Tam for dessert, a favourite in our house. Hampton demolished his while Miles ate half, gleefully sucking the chocolate before biting into it.

In all that time in isolation, we shared dozens of meals and taught our kids how to eat. In return, they taught us patience. My grocery list grew as the kids slowly embraced new foods and different flavours. Another small victory: they started looking forward to our eating circles and helped arrange their highchairs.  

We are still working on the vegetables.


By Tyree Barnette

Essay

In Isolation with Lana Guineay

Location: Adelaide, Australia

The white muslin dress is already dry on the clothesline. Blue-green leaves of eucalyptus trees sway in the summer breeze. It’s hot. Summer in Adelaide includes at least one searing heatwave, the outback northerlies not biting but something worse—the deadweight of inescapable heat, sinking into your marrow. It makes things fuzzy. In the car, the door handle and seatbelt clasp burn my fingers. The asphalt horizon shimmers. Things that once seemed so important lose their vigour. I stay inside in the air conditioning, windows blinded against the glare, eating cherries cold from the fridge, and wish for a cool change.

Adelaide is an orderly city, one of planned grids of streets laid over Tarntanya, the open grassy plain home to hundreds of generations of Kaurna people. Today’s city is dictated by compass points, and its seasons are likewise predictable. Wilderness here is tamed into a ‘green belt’ of parklands circling the city, parklands that seem vast and gold by day, and turn dark and unwelcoming at night. There are stories of attacks. Adelaide’s too sunlit to be gothic, but it’s there anyway at times, that feeling of darkness in a place designed by a man named Light.

Cicadas shrill through my summer breakfast: pink frosted cake and fresh figs. I eat with a fork over the kitchen counter. I will continue this isolated summer of staying inside well into the next season, and the next, though I don’t know it yet. I’ve been sick—it matters very much with what—and I’m staying in place not just because temperatures are over 40C, but because I no longer trust my body.

One of the last public things I do before lockdown is visit the neurologist, who suggests an elimination diet to help ease my symptoms: certain fresh fruit, vegetables, meat. On the ride home I clutch the paper verboten list, and it is long and full of my favourite foods.

I’m inert, but the city has continued on around me with its summer art festivals, tourists flocking despite growing fears of a virus they say is coming here soon. One of the first confirmed cases is a viola player in town for the Adelaide Festival—he misses his concert, isolated in hospital.

Soon the players and the audiences are gone, leaving wide stretches of yellow grass where spiegeltents have been alive with dancing, singing, music for the last month. The smell of festive foods linger—deep fried oil, the sweet airiness of fairy floss, the tang of plastic-cupped mojitos and stale beer—then vanish with the jovial air.

March is over. By April we are a city in lockdown, though a gentle one, and as the heat finally lifts I stay at home, and like all food-lovers I ask: what will we eat?


The lemon tree has a golden year, bearing endless bright waxy fruit, which we squeeze, zest and slice, serve up in big dollops of tangy lemon curd.


What we eat is this:

Home delivered groceries by the boxful: spinach curls in bouquets, fluffy-haired carrots, plastic-wrapped bread, long fingers of cucumbers, ripe tomatoes.

Curries and pies and ratatouille and pasta made from the pantry staples Mat stocked up on at the local Indian grocery and greengrocer: cans of beans, tomatoes, and lentils, rows of homemade passata, plump sacks of rice I pat like a middle-aged stomach.

Fruity olive oil given to us by Mat’s family in the Riverland, making my fingers slick as I pour from the huge unwieldy jug into pans, pots, over salads.

Between my restrictive diet and the pandemic, we eat more seasonally, more locally, more consciously. As shelves in chain supermarkets empty of toilet paper, beans, tinned food and pasta, we’re prompted to ask: where, exactly, has our food come from?

Autumn comes in stops and starts. Icy mornings, warm afternoons. A cold snap gives me chilblains, though I still have tan lines on my shoulders. I can see the Adelaide Hills from our raised garden over my coffee (now decaf) in the morning, their gentle peaks nested in lilac clouds as their crops ripen and fruit. The orchards yield tiny sundowner apples, blushed with the first colours of autumn, and crunchy Packham pears. I make simple apple pie and eat it with fresh cream; the pears we slice into salads, poach in spiced syrup, and eat straight out of the jar.

The Central Markets are closed, but when Le Deux Coqs offers home delivery, I impulsively order glazed fruit tarts, golden buttery croissants and flans, crème brûlée, petite canelé, peaked lemon meringue pies. When the cardboard boxes arrive, I realise I’ve ordered much more than we can eat at its best, yet it feels opulent, a gesture of protection. I slice the tarts and leave them on the doorsteps of neighbours and friends.

By my birthday in May, we can have four people in the house with social distancing. M.F.K. Fisher once said that the perfect number of guests for a dinner party is six, but allowed that “three or four people sometimes attain perfection either in public or in private, but they must be very congenial”. And so we have a congenial dinner with mountains of Afghan food from Parwana. Though it’s sad when we pick up the plastic bags from the restaurant—lights off, tables upturned—we make a cheering spread on our dining table; platters of food and winking candles. The mantu dumplings and creamy banjaan borani topped with sweet tomato sauce, yoghurt and mint is so abundant, so mouth-wateringly good, the company so welcome after months of isolation, that the dinner feels like the answer to a prayer.

Winter comes, and with it we eat roasted beetroot and sweet potato; stacks of dimpled oranges on the kitchen countertop. My knitted jumpers take days and days to dry, our sheets so cold to the touch they feel wet. Our vegetable patch begins to produce: we toss salads with tiny, peppery radishes, cos lettuce, and tender baby spinach clipped from their neat rows. The lemon tree has a golden year, bearing endless bright waxy fruit, which we squeeze, zest and slice, serve up in big dollops of tangy lemon curd.

By July, restaurants and pubs are open again, but there’s a worrying outbreak in Melbourne. Our neighbour city returns to lockdown for another six weeks, people scrambling over the state border before it too is closed.

Midwinter solstice comes and goes, and though I don’t feel it yet, the days are getting longer and spring will arrive just as predictably as its predecessors. The garden will know it first. I greet one of our resident magpies —hello general, how’s your wife?— and look for the first signs of nesting. I watch the silverbeet leaves in the dark earth of the veggie patch. And then just like that, the signs appear. On our walk down by the river, I see the first batch of ducklings, early this year; and the first almond blossoms, the cottony buds reaching into the sky.


By Lana Guineay

Essay

In Isolation with Chris Ardley

Location: Melbourne, Australia

At 5:59pm, as Melbourne enters its strictest lockdown yet, I am pottering about in the garden. I’m there to pick a spray of parsley, the garnish to an osso bucco I’ve had simmering for the past few hours. Truth be told, calling the squat paved area behind my house a garden is a lexical generosity. The property, subdivided in the 90s, is mostly house. The outside area, scarcely two metres deep, is mostly courtyard, fringed with low maintenance pencil pines. We have added a few planter boxes and pots, populated with herbs year round and small tomato bushes in spring. A dwarf lemon tree sprouts from one of the larger pots, but the shadows cast by neighbouring houses starve it of enough light to be really productive.

A neighbour’s apricot tree overhangs the fence. Years ago an errant fig seed strove upwards through a crack in the bricks—today it is a modest tree with a daughter nearby, their roots rumpling the paving. These chance fruit trees sustain us through summer; in July, sweeping their dropped leaves is a half finished chore.

Picking the parsley, my mind turns to the same meal, another garden: twenty-five years ago, across the continent in suburban Perth. Barefoot despite the winter chill, I’d been dispatched to the enormous vegetable garden behind our house to harvest herbs for this unfamiliar dish. Seeing the curly leaves finely minced and distributed through the osso bucco brought a palpable thrill. Though my palate was young, I could already recognise the parsley’s flavour, those fresh leafy top notes dancing through meat and polenta, tomato, lemon rind and onion.

Now, as an adult, osso bucco epitomises comfort food for me, with its mirepoix base, soft braised meat and rich gelatinous sauce, thickened by the shot of marrow that took me years to work up the courage to eat. Every other time I’ve made it, the parsley has come in a plastic sleeve from the grocers. Whether through time in transit or growing conditions, the flavour is muted compared with the robust kick I once knew.

At ten years old, I was an eager apprentice in the vegetable garden. Hours before the parsley run I’d also harvested the lemon and onion that were anchoring the dish, delivering them quickly before running back to play. Months before, I had helped pick and pulp the tomatoes, sanitise the jars and cook the passata that formed the bedding for the flour-dusted veal shins. We lived on the then outskirts of suburbia, on a duplex block. The developers hadn’t been able to sell both, so we inherited a great pile of foundation sand and “a back-back yard” that my parents reclaimed, turning it over to all manner of produce. Twin plum trees, quince and lemon dominated the back corner, near a trellis holding up peas, beans and hops. Brassica, potatoes and alliums filled the front corner in winter; tomatoes, basil, corn and zucchini in summer. Our kitchen scraps fed a compost pit at the end of a gravel path flanked by strawberries, cape gooseberries and herbs sitting in pockets throughout.


Seeing the curly leaves finely minced and distributed through the osso bucco brought a palpable thrill.


Seeing in intimate detail food go from dirt to plant to plate instilled in me a love of things growing, a love entwined in rapturous observation: the more I saw the more I wanted to see, of the transmutation of light and shit to colour and flavour. Very few strawberries ever made it to the table, studied for ripeness by three pairs of intent eyes and eaten as soon as they might be palatable. My younger brother and sister tended to pick the fruits too soon, their mouths puckering at the bland astringency. Older and more patient, I was sometimes able to find a berry at the peak of ripeness, crushing it between my teeth and feeling the sun-warmed juices play across my tongue.

My siblings and I were the garden’s pesticide. We spent hours lying in wait armed with butterfly nets, chasing the bounty our parents offered of 50c a head for white cabbage moths, 5c for soft green caterpillars. Snails were gleefully flung to further reaches of the garden for no reward. Slaters, often found rolled up in fruits, were picked out and kept as pets. The transactional lure that drew us to the job planted hooks, drawing us into the love of food we share today. We weren’t always the most effective, but there was little harm done: when cooked, caterpillar corpses turn a bright orange, and are easily picked out of a dish.

The parsley is picked over and stirred into the still warm pot. It’s the only part of this dish I have grown. My lemon tree isn’t bearing, the spring onions couldn’t survive even a modest foraging for garnish, there were only ever enough tomatoes in summer for a salad or two. The store-bought versions I used in their stead are shiny and fleshy, their flavours muted, vegetables in drag. They lack the grit of those I helped grow. Even buying them was a contactless process, flashing my card against the reader after running them through the self checkout. A frictionless transaction, devoid of love.

After we moved away from that house in Perth the people who bought it subdivided it, built a house on the foundation sand, and sold it. I doubt the vegetable garden is still there. Later, I moved across the country, pursuing a doomed romance, and founded the garden in pots, though without the same care and attention I once gave. My tiny buckets of soil seem pathetic in the face of the global, industrialised food system, my tending them mere burlesque.

And yet, when I discreetly slurp the sauce from a wooden spoon, the flavours are harmonised. The seeds sown in me those years ago have borne fruit. It’s not the same as the osso bucco my mother cooked—the parsley I grow is flat leaf after all. But it still sends me rushing back to that first time, when my toes were grimy, when I was scared to suck out the marrow, and I felt my hand in it coming together.


By Chris Ardley

Essay

In Isolation with Candice Chung

Location: Sydney, Australia

The restaurants have opened again. We’re in the middle of a dance. I learned, listening to a podcast while I watched instant noodles grow fat in a salty broth one day, that we’ve all become bit players in something called ‘the hammer and the dance’. Since the bloom of the virus, we’ve been living by this invisible pendulum.  

In my tiny kitchen, I thought it sounded like a Russian play. The lockdown was the ‘hammer’, the podcaster explained. “Bam, everybody has to go into their houses,” the staccato of his voice taking on a sportscaster’s pace. “But once you get the deaths down to a minimum, then you begin the dance.”

It was a hard thing to reconcile. That our freedom to return to our favourite eating spots hinged on the nation’s death toll felt odd, if not altogether dystopic. I listened to the rest of the podcast at my coffee table, my pandemic lunch spot, and thought about real hugs, real ramen, and eating at a real restaurant. I thought about leaving the tight borders of my own flat; free from the Orion’s Belt of where I ate, worked, and slept.

But months of being kept at arm’s length from the world has also made me wary of getting close again, and the idea of breaking bread in public has started to feel like setting foot in an ex lover’s place—familiar, yet quietly unsettling.

In isolation, I’ve been craving a different mealtime dynamic.

I miss the strange intimacy of watching other people eat. Living above an alleyway cafe helps. The changing sounds of the crowd used to be my constant. I never needed a clock to tell time, just the swell of coffee and all-day breakfast orders booming from the takeaway line. Some mornings I would wake up to the smell of brisket being cooked for the week’s toasties. A garlicky yawp from the world that I looked forward to—even as a vegetarian—when all else turned grim and quiet.

There are rules to being a good mealtime observer. In restaurants, one must live by the code of aggressive disinterest. No flashes of joy or shock should cross the face as we take in a neighbour’s order, their salt intake, and the wittiness of their conversations. Did they laugh more? Or did we? Are we building the kind of life that leads to a plate of dry lasagne on a Monday evening while our shadow self (Table 6A, excellent beanie) splits a dessert with someone so pro-kiss that they must be either enviably drunk or French?

I have taken notes on nights like these. After all, my work depends on it. What else must a journalist do but mark the happy sighs or annoyances in the room as we lay bare our desires to strangers for the briefest moment, in the most foundational hope to be looked after, to be fulfilled?

Author Edwidge Danticat captures this off-kilter, communal vulnerability in her short story,In The Old Days, when her narrator Nadia describes the conversations she’s overheard at her mother’s Haitian restaurant from a table that’s out of view:

I heard men and women declare their love for each other then listened as others confessed that they had fallen out of love. I heard parents explain the birds and the bees to their kids then leaned forward as a girl at another table revealed to her mother and father that she was pregnant. […] Why did so many people think they could confess the most shocking things to each other over a meal?

The truth, it seems, is that we are at our most unguarded when we eat. I think of all the times I’ve sat across from a crush, my own plate untouched, watching as their face softens—a borrowed intimacy owed to an arbitrary pancake or a messy taco that’s comically hot, unpredictably hands-on.  

But not all watching is quiet, passive. In my inner city apartment, after months of hiatus from the eating world, I start looking for a fix of the easy communion I’ve missed, and stop at a Mukbang video made by a blue-haired YouTube star named Soy.

Like all live-stream eating channels, hers is a show-and-tell of enormous meals eaten alone while chatting casually, sometimes distractedly, to a loyal audience. This particular clip features dishes from a Vietnamese takeaway spree: a chicken pho, turkey noodle salad, a ginger-glazed wild salmon, and a plate of sweet, smoky-looking bò lúc lắc (or ‘shaking beef’).

Then she reveals the reason behind that meal: that her Vietnamese grandmother had passed away in the pandemic, and being stuck on the other side of the country, she had no way of attending the funeral, or letting loose her grief. The video is her one-person wake. And we were invited to it.

I watch, dumbstruck, as she turns the act of being watched into something wholly open, participatory. In watching her eat, we’re asked to sit with the raw shock of her loss—sharing what seems unsharable across a virtual table, a solitary meal. 

Later, I meet a friend on Houseparty. Through my phone, I watch her reheat leftovers and nurse the spicy stew in loungewear I’ve never seen. I crack an egg into a frying pan as she speaks, hot oil hissing as the glossy white bubbles and the edges crisp.   

At the sound, my friend freezes.

“Wait—are you in the bathroom?” she asks.

In the fluorescent light, with only my face visible against the cream tiles of my kitchen wall, I instantly understand her confusion. We’ve shared countless dinners and brunches in real life, but neither of us have been inside each other’s homes. I pan out my camera to show her the noisy culprit—and vow to say something next time I live-fry anything on the phone.

In isolation, this is our new dance. Rather than sharing what’s on our plates, we bond over deeply domestic parts of our days. We play out mealtime rituals in parallel, and bear witness to each other’s needs as grief and gladness continue their quickstep dance.


By Candice Chung

Essay

In Isolation with Bre Audrey Graham

Location: London, England

Eight years ago I left home and moved to London. I’m not really sure what that version of me—eighteen years old and uncertain of what she wanted—was thinking when she chose to do it, because it feels so far away from who I am today.

Recently I’ve been clearing out USB sticks full of files and old boxes of photos gathering dust in drawers. In them I can see my cheeks swell and shrink depending on the season, my hair colour shifting in shades, the contents of my screenshots differing in line with who I ached for at the time. Across those eight years, only the walls in which I lived stayed the same. The flat had too many rooms and a bathtub as big as a bed—and it had a garden, most importantly one that kept growing in spite of my neglect.

While the trees and the hardy greens always weathered both winters and heatwaves, one thing returned every year without any effort on my behalf: a tiny pot of mint. I’d bought it from a supermarket the first summer I moved in and it had sunk its roots into the soil of a raised bed and went wild. Its leaves lingered long into January and by the time May came around every year, it was a lush tangle of peridot green. Even though literally everything in the world has changed since twenty-twelve, this mint has mustered on.

Last month, I left the garden and moved out of the place that was my home for so long. On my last afternoon in the emptied-out apartment, there was a heatwave. The city sweated as I drank the last beer I had left in the fridge for that exact occasion. After doing the final checks, I went outside in the scorching heat to water the garden one last time.

I soaked the pots of roses that grew up the ancient wall and bloomed every June with apricot-coloured, sherbet-scented flowers. I made sure that the bottlebrush my Dad bought me to remind me of home had just enough water to feel like it was still in the hemisphere it belongs in, and then finished by turning the hose on to the now flowering mint bush. The warm water from the hose hit the leaves, and the scent of damp soil and the fragrance of mint filled the humid air.

It was the scent of my grandfather’s garden. Everything came to me all at once: around the back of the garage, to the left of the Hills Hoist, was where the mint grew. Three years ago when Poppy, my grandfather, was sick I was able to go home to Australia to be with him. The week I arrived he was still walking, week two he was in a hospice, and by week three I was holding the weight of my grandmother at his funeral. Like everything else lost in time, when he died, the mint that had grown in his garden did too. 


The warm water from the hose hit the leaves, and the scent of damp soil and the fragrance of mint filled the humid air.


Amidst the confusion of the pandemic, I’ve tried not to think of how far away home has become. Watching people on the news every night lament not being able to be with loved ones when they’re ill is an unfathomable agony amongst it all.

At Poppy’s wake, we ate pies. He was a pastry chef, a job he had almost his whole life but had retired long before I was born. I was too young to taste the ones he’d made in the factory that sent him deaf, but it didn’t matter because I had something better—I had his birthday cakes. One year, he piped a delicate pastel pink mermaid tail onto a Barbie doll that sat atop a chocolate popcorn-covered cake in a sea of bubble-gum blue jelly, giving life to a doll that had never lived. He could spin sugar into roses and roll fondant over Christmas cakes as if it was as light as silk. He could make things that even in my most confident moments of cooking, I would never get close to creating.

If I was ever offered entry into an alternate universe where cancer didn’t kill him, I would scroll through my phone and show him the photos of all the ornately iced cakes I love and he would show me how to pipe puffs of cream and reimagine roses from a bag of sugar sprinkles. Standing in the garden, I thought about the birthday cake I’d just ordered for myself and what colours I wanted the icing to be. I turned the hose off and sat down, suddenly overwhelmed.

It wasn’t just the mint, it was everything. Saying goodbye to the kitchen I learned to cook in; the walls of the apartment that had heard all of my crumbles and triumphs. I watched the sun reduce the water from the hose into smaller puddles along the tiles and waited for them to dissipate into nothing before I got back up again. It dawned on me that in this new world, crossing streams and seas to get home to Sydney in an emergency would be impossible.

In those two weeks I had with Poppy, I got so much before he was gone—I read him a feature I’d written in a magazine about a place he loved, I watched while my Mum nursed him and sliced roasted potatoes and lamb for one of his last meals at home. My Nan still lives in the house where the Hills Hoist swings and the mint no longer grows. She’s too frail to hang the sheets on it anymore and where the herbs used to spread, just weeds wander.

The last time I talked to Mum and she told me that Nan’s latest blood test was bad. This is where it starts, blood is at birth and the beginning of ends. I know I can’t get back home this time if she deteriorates.

Before I go from the garden, I pull a handful of mint out from the roots along with a few of the roses and take them across town to the new postcode where I live. It’s opposite a park but I don’t have a garden anymore.

In my new kitchen, a place I’m still working out how to cook and move within, I smash the mint into a green pulp in the marble of my mortar and pestle. I swirl it into seltzer with a drop of rose water, a generous glug of gin and a sprinkle of sugar. If I am surrounded by what tastes and feels like home, I’ll feel closer on every call—a combination of closed eyes and the right flavours. There is so much in memory. And though everything we love will change, wet mint and sugared roses will always smell the same.


By Bre Audrey Graham