This is my last full week in Dallas. Sure, I knew that I would eventually have to go home. But I’ve become so well adjusted to this as my new normal that it’s odd to think about returning to New York—especially a New York that looks nothing like the city I left.
Of course, some part of me is excited to get back to my apartment and to lead an independent life once again. But I’m going to miss my family’s nightly cocktail hours, cheese plates, and marathons of The Americans.
A silver lining of these final days is that my mom has been feeling extra inclined to cook something special for dinner. Last week, it was chaat. This week, just when I thought she couldn’t level up even more, she told me she was making pakora for dinner.
To me, pakora, a fritter-like snack, is special-occasion food. It’s what I’m used to eating at a wedding or Diwali celebration. My mom informed me that in addition to pakora being a classic party app, it’s also something that South Asians typically make when it is raining out. And it was pouring last night! The occasion demanded pakora, Mom claimed, as she mixed up the batter, with chickpea flour, water, green chiles, and red chile powder. It’s worth noting that my mom is something of a health nut, and deep-frying in our house is a once-a-year occasion. So all of this felt particularly remarkable.
I hovered over my mom to watch her do her thing at the stove—coating rounds of onion, potato, and long green chiles in the batter, and effortlessly sliding them into the hot oil. Once the pakoras turned a caramel shade, she took them out and instructed me to sprinkle the top with chaat masala while they were still shiny with oil. As she cooked, she recalled memories of growing up and eating pakora with her family—how her late father, my nana, was obsessed with eating the little fried bits left in the oil after the pakoras had been taken out. Was she trying to get me to move back to Dallas permanently? If so, this was her most successful attempt yet.
We sat outside, pouring ourselves a rioja my mom had pulled from her collection, and dipped the pakora in cilantro chutney and ketchup (my dad’s move: swirl the chutney and ketchup together into a spicy, tangy sauce). I got suddenly very sad, knowing that this unexpected three-month stint at home would be over in a little more than a week. That it would be very long while before I got to spend an extended period with my parents again.
Obviously, not every part of being home has been perfect—there have been plenty of arguments and tensions and all of the other things that tend to come up when a fully grown adult moves back in with her parents. But last night’s pakora was a good reminder that, as mentally taxing as the quarantine has felt at times, the ability to spend this period surrounded by family is a unique privilege. I’ve got nine days left in Dallas and, as they say, I’m going to make them all count.