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109 S ophia takes one look at the ball of our Sicilian great grandmother ’s starter dough she pulls out of the freezer and mumbles two words: freezer burn. I know my sister will blame me if we can’t get it to rise. “I thought you were the gourmet cook around here, Charlene.” “I wrapped it in foil and plastic wrap. Besides, peasant bread is hardly gourmet.” “It may not look like it, but this is our family heirloom,” Sophia says, waving the dough in my face. “This is what we have from Sicily. No diamonds to pass on from generation to generation. We have a graying lump of dough. This is our forever!” “Then why did you wait forever to use it! I told you you shouldn’t have left it in the freezer for so long!” I take it and watch it sparkle from all the crystals of ice that have grown on its surface despite my careful wrapping. I hold it above Sophia’s ring finger and tell her our rock is highly refractive, but my sister isn’t amused. “We promised Mom we’d pass this on to another generation. It’s up to us.” She begins chipping away at the coat of ice on the starter dough Freezer Burn with a potato peeler as slowly as I imagine one chips away at fingernail polish. That’s my sister being the idealist that she is. Maybe that’s why she still goes to church and I’m the jaded lapsed Catholic who stopped believing. “No. You promised Mom. Besides, we have to have children before we can pass it on, Sophia, and you know I don’t want any.” She throws the peeler at me. “Well, I do! So start chipping.” She reaches in her pocket for a rubber band to tie her hair back in a ponytail and stretches it so much, it snaps. “Don’t forget, you’re the one who begged for my help, Ms. Kitchen Catastrophe,” I remind her as I take stabs at the ice. “You’re the one whose idea of cooking is to wait for the smoke alarm to go off to know something’s done. You’re the one who cooked green beans until they looked like cigarette ashes in a pan welded on the electric burner—the equivalent of a Three Mile Island meltdown, I might add. Then there was the sonic boom when your boiling eggs exploded—shells splattered all over the place. You were lucky you didn’t get hit in the eye with the shrapnel. Remember that?” “Are you done yet?” “And your third K.C. wasn’t a charm. It was a warning the time the ceiling light fixture fell just after you walked out from under it. Good thing you didn’t take the time to stir the linguini. No wonder you didn’t complain about eating half-cooked clumps of pasta after that close call. In other words, there’s a reason you need me. Unless this priest you invited to dinner has an iron stomach. Let’s face it. If it weren’t for me, you’d fill our shelves with boxes of Minute Rice and in that minute you’d find a way to ruin it.” Sophia puts on an apron and begins fumbling with the strings. “Do this for me, please,” she begs. “See, you can’t even tie your own apron.” I tug tightly before I make a bow. “Okay, so I’m nervous.” “You have every reason to be.” 110 Freezer Burn 111 Sophia takes the dough from me and begins melting away the Ice Age on it by running it through water so hot the steaming spigot looks like a dragon’s nostril. “You know I’ve baked bread before with Aunt Josie?” “Fantastic. Then you remember drafts are a no no. Would you get that for me?” I point to the window and wait for Sophia to close it. “What does this revolve around?” “Making bread, silly. And what kind of saying is that?” “My global studies professor likes to use it. She even makes a circle with her finger.” “And now in my best imitation of Dad imitating Julia Child’s voice, let me say that we’re using wheat flour because it has more body than rye or corn as well as the fact that water and milk are the intriguers that lend steam to the performance. As for salt and...


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