• 2020 Volume 15
My Grandma's Rice is Better Than Yours
Beca Damico


My grandma’s rice is better than yours

    Featured in every Easter brunch and Christmas Eve dinner or special family gatherings for as long as I can remember, this dish consistently brings a smile to my face. When I was a kid, I looked forward to these holidays because I knew that I would get to eat my favorite dish, “Arroz Estica e Puxa” or “Sticky Rice.” However, this is not the ordinary sticky rice you’re most likely thinking of, but I’ll get into that later. To this day, I’m amazed at how my grandma managed to combine such simple ingredients into such a tasty and beautifully crafted dish. My mom has tried to recreate it, as well as my other grandma, but I promise you, no one can make it as perfectly as Vovo Dulce. 

    The dish is made in a large pan, and assembled carefully but in a messy way, if that makes any sense. Rice, ham, cheese, olives, and peas are all one needs to make this dish. At this point, you might be wondering why I love this dish so much if its so simple. The way the cheese gets pulled and the little pieces of ham that become hidden in the rice and the colorful appearance of the dish when it has just come out of the oven and the cheese on top is yellow and browning at the edges and the green of the peas scattered around the pan, was and still is very magical to me.
    Last December, I went back home to Brazil and on Christmas Eve we visited my great-grandmother’s (on my dad’s side) house for lunch, and I knew that my grandma was going to do some of the cooking in order to help my 94 year old great grandma. I secretly crossed my fingers and hoped that my favorite dish would be the main attraction, as I hadn’t eaten it since our last visit the previous year. So when I opened the door to help my grandma bring in presents and food into my great-grandmother’s house, and saw two pans of my favorite rice, I became ecstatic. (I remember being sad because I knew that I still had to wait for it to be put in the oven, instead of digging in right away.) It was a Christmas present all on its own. It had been at least a year since I got to experience this culinary masterpiece à la Dulce. Yes, I had asked my mom to make it, but her version doesn’t even come close to my grandma’s iconic cheesy rice. 

    The only thing I could think about was digging into the soft, warm, cheesy rice that was sitting right in front of me, the aroma taking over my sense of smell, as I watched my family sit down around the familiar table, that we had eaten meals at many times during my childhood (and we still do, just with less frequency). The two pans of rice had just come out of the oven and we could all hear and smell the sizzling cheese. I watched as other members of the family got spoonfuls of rice and had to cut the cheese with their hands because of how perfectly baked it was. My mouth watered at the sight. 

    When I finally got to spoon my first bite of the rice into my mouth, an interesting turn of events occurred. 1. I burnt my mouth because it had just come out of the oven. 2. When my tongue had recovered I finally could taste all of the familiar flavors. 3. I couldn’t stop eating it. 

    As we sat around the table talking and catching up on life, the hours passed and I continued to eat the rice. I think at one point it got cold, but I didn’t care. The different flavors reminded me of my childhood, when I would crawl under the large, dining room table in my grandparent’s apartment and sit there entertaining myself with small spoons and bowls. Or when I would stand on my tiptoes, wearing an apron and my hair pulled back, and attempt to reach the sink so I could help with the dishwashing after a meal. Or walking around the mall with my grandma. Or going to bakeries and buying fresh bread with my grandpa. Or one specific occasion when I left my shoes in their apartment and my grandpa wrote a beautiful poem about the small black flats I had forgotten. 

    It’s interesting to me how a taste, or a scent, or a texture can open floodgates in your mind that remind you of things that you had completely forgotten. This rice is nothing special, when I was a kid I liked it because of the flavors and the experience of the stretchy cheese. However, now I see the dish in a new light. When I moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil to the United States about 7 years ago, everything changed. As any other 8 year old that has to leave the only home they ever knew, I was hesitant. I miss my country very much, but I’ve learned to appreciate this new one as well. I don’t see my family as much, big family dinners have become rare occurrences. I had to quickly become accustomed to eating different, and unfamiliar foods. And I had to learn an entirely new language in less than one year; perhaps the most significant change. In terms of my favorite rice dish, I only have it when we go back to visit every other year but I have learned that the rarity of it is what makes it extra special, in my heart and my memories. Since the move I see the dish as a way of being transported, to simpler times, to my childhood, back to Brazil. 

Photo by Garrett Glasgow


Pedal Gracefully


The petals will be sand in my rain jacket pocket.
They lick dryly against the polyester static
in the zipped cell set flat against my chest.
I was taught to leave them until they
shriveled by their own means, the only pressure
my movement, my legs gliding through circles
on the spokes of my droplet-dotted bicycle in evening’s rain,
the jerks and shifts to avoid senseless puddles threading waves,
energy, loops of ice pebbles
up through my muscles, startling my core
and promoting the slight saunter, delayed erosion
of the curled-up, cocoon shape of decay
beyond replenishment dangling
in my hidden pocket.

When I feel their knots and spikes
jutting slightly against the thin, glossy fabric of my coat
to skim my chest, I know that their abrasion
counts on more than the donut circulation
of pulses in my legs, the swaying of my torso
set on an evening of shades lighter than gray
but softer, less blinding than white:
an evening where my head moves from ground
to overhead, to every side as lustrous cars,
colors of maroon, navy, black,
ripe cherry
paint strokes of my reflection beating by.
The people on the sidewalk
glance down at their puddle-tinted soles
though inside their heads feel nothing close to dread.

When I halt by the sidewalk, slip off my bike,
tumble on sleekness,
When I rush through the black metal
gates, dripping and shedding minced tile slates,
trickling beetle skins of paint to the garden,
my hand hesitant as it hovers before my chest,
I think to
pinch the crinkling petals of the tulip
which once sat dry above dampened dirt
that had not yet turned to mud. I remember there was
a fresh series of days when stems cascaded white silk,
were ruffled against softly by brown rabbits,
so delicately skipping, wisping their rain-stained,
acute triangle noses
against flourishing roots and petal skins, glazed by a natural
film of strawberry milk, frosted white or evergreen-mist blue.

Never bring fingers
like pennies
of frozen plush
to a dry, wrinkled yellow stem:
a stem that may wiggle, hold on
but proceeds to crack.

Art: Flower Fossil by Grace Baranko



Born anew in elasticity, beige and borrowed,
I bathe in barrels of crimson wine
Until it stains in droplets of sacrament on my skin,
Unrelenting, like ashen sediment.

I bathe in barrels of crimson wine
In drunken baptisms veiled by vapor haze.
Unrelenting, like ashen sediment,
My morals bleed in the eggshell of stolen scriptures.

In drunken baptisms veiled by vapor haze,
Could I distill what drapes above in a sole stream?
My morals bleed in the eggshell of stolen scriptures,
Like ink tarnishing cobalt-stained glass.

Could I distill what drapes above in a sole stream?
Its contents coursing, intravenous and acute,
Like ink tarnishing cobalt-stained glass.
I exist outside of solemn syllables and damning.

Its contents coursing, intravenous and acute,
I’m ridden with rituals composed of moss and memory.
I exist outside of solemn syllables and damning,
Evergreen and unforgetting.

I’m ridden with rituals composed of moss and memory,
Curiosity like venom dispersed in opaque milk.
Evergreen and unforgetting,
Do I fear both the life I live and its residue?

Curiosity like venom dispersed in opaque milk,
I feel tangible when speaking in what is not said,
Do I fear both the life I live and its residue?
Sordid in silence, an apple in my teeth.

I feel tangible when speaking in what is not said,
Like how blind blends into midnight with ease.
Sordid in silence, an apple in my teeth,
The remnants of the Sistine chapel on my palm.
Like how blind blends into midnight with ease,
At the week’s closure, I lament and wash away
The remnants of the Sistine chapel on my palm,
Calloused from judgment’s embers.


Art: Angel by Anthony Sanchez

Ramesses II


I used to lounge on the Nile flood plain
to watch the river churn and cut the sands,
and to think how people cheered
for my glory long ago
and now there is only the same glory to cheer for.
Yes, I was great;
I saw it in the flames,
the cascades of shifting bodies in the streets,
proud of swordsmen, land-winners,
fledgeling charioteers.
For them I was enigma,
Ramesses, the Great Ancestor, the god
who tinkered in the life-forge.

But sulking at the Nile bank, I saw rocks
moved and smoothed and shattered, simple water
ravaging the earth, and my mind sprung
up and asked the gods to let me
become water, so Ra told me,
smirking, I was a man.

Yes, I was a man, but maybe
if I climbed high enough
I would be a man emancipated
from the anchors of the world.
Yes, I was a man, but I was a man
deserving, and for years
I climbed the climb to power.

In the seventh year I summited, stumbling
in the sky-wind as gods blew
out their lungs to sound
a warning over the winds, calling
you are no god, just
one speck
on Ta Dehent. Nothing around.
No yielding soldiers, complacent
prince, palace, throne,
glory. Sand. There was sand and I wilted
into it. I took to the tomb.

Now, at night the Nile is not mine;
the red sky sees an empire
and a man in the gloom stands
with a pensive lean.
I am granite; I cannot turn;
neither of us can see the other’s eyes.
In the prelude to boundlessness,
marble does not freeze him,
though his body
mocks me. He forgets
how it is to have everything
and still for the world to spin

Art: Destruction by Jade Wilson