Home is such a stupid idea, the kind of thing you slap on an embroidered pillow and give to an adoring grandmother. Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home for the holidays. So on and so forth. I hate that. Home is not where the heart is. Taking up residence in your chest cavity would be awkward, not to mention gooey and a bit crowded, what with the lungs already being there.
Nadeem Aslam’s article in the Times brings up another kind of home and this is the home I believe in. Aslam found home in his cousin and her cooking, a splash of Pakistan in an apathetic London. This particularly surprised me. I read Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers and was appalled by how a good story got lost amidst a mess of ethereal language, kind of like tearing out pages of The Count of Monte Cristo and scattering them through fluttering sheets of perfumed chiffon. What’s the point? So to find such a straight-forward point made quietly without fuss was, for me, a joy. I think I’d actually like Aslam if he didn’t waste his time on the fluff.
Back to my point. I actually see what Aslam is talking about. I don’t live in my parents’ home in Connecticut anymore but I’m instantly home with them when Dad makes the coffee. I find home in simple roasted chicken and steamed broccoli, the dinner we often had on Sundays. I’m still looking for the perfect falafel, the kind I ate frequently when I lived in Cairo, and one day I hope to be able to recreate a dish called koshari, essentially a bowl of straight carbs with a spiced tomato-based sauce.
Home is in our experiences. It’s not a physical place, but in the smells and tastes and sounds of our comfortable environments. It’s in the things that remind us of love and happy times. I don’t think Cairo wanted me to call it home, but I did and I will always seek out physical reminders of that home. If anyone knows where to find good koshari in Maryland, let me know. I think I remember enough Arabic to express my gratitude.