Yesterday I was at the grocery store.
I needed to get soymilk, because it is lent and I am fasting. I try to fast like my father does, the Ethiopian way, without any meat or dairy other than fish for 40 days. But this year I didn’t fully since I cook for myself with my dorm mates and it’s hard that way.
I looked for soymilk and found almondmilk, flavored milk, sweetened milk–varieties Americans invented. So unlike my mother’s soymilk, that she would make for me and serve hot. She soaked the dried beans in water for a whole night, and then she would prepare the soymilk machine in the morning. It would click and buzz as she hummed while making breakfast, while my brother and I groggily walked to the kitchen.
I liked it plain, poured hot from a pitcher into a small ceramic bowl. My brother liked to put sugar in it, and my mother drank it like soup, with layou and jiangyou inside, spicy. We would drink it at the table, listening to the Chinese radio and talking. My mother’s soymilk is thicker than the store-bought kind, served hot, the best for cold days.
As I stood there reminiscing in a supermarket, I finally found the unsweetened kind, picked it up and left. Soymilk, cold and packaged and carried in my backpack, as I walked into the gray Sunday of Boston.