Hotpot Recipe for the Newly-Wed – Vera Dong
Drinking port – Keith Nunes
On the mercy sometimes shown to slugs – Rob Walton
Beached – Vivienne Bailey
Lilt – Sam Clements
Pinch of salt – Sue Barker
What Remains – Lisa Wiley
The Salt-sting of Learning When to Say No – Judy Darley
Unbeaten – Angela Wilson
They sent him back – Annette Edwards-Hill
A Life Abridged – Keith Hoerner
Salt crusted – Liana Ashenden
Missing Person – Mandira Pattnaik
The Saline Effect – Isabelle Lloydd
Salt haiku – Mike Perusse
An afternoon with Nana – Gretchen Carroll
Hotpot Recipe for the Newly-Wed
translation by the author, with Bin Ren
Start a hotpot soup base on your wedding day / When doubts slide in add something up-lifting, maybe thyme / Peppercorn also, heaps and must be ground / When melancholy strikes add angelica, the happy herb / Don’t forget chilis, deep fried / When quarrels subside add Chinese spices, the five delights, mashed garlic and jalapeño dried / When tempers flare add cooling marjoram and sweet paprika / When tears clear savour the soup / As perpetual as salt and pepper, like yin and yang.
火锅汤底配料 – 新婚夫妇专供
趁着婚礼，为未来熬上一锅灼热的汤底 / 释然偷偷降临的猜疑，要加些令人兴奋的佐料，如百里香 / 胡椒粉是必须，多多的，磨碎的那种/ 解开突然来袭的忧郁，要添加当归 – 快乐的药草 / 还有煎过的辣椒/ 平息彼此的争吵，要加入喜悦芬芳的中国五香、蒜末、还有晒干的墨西哥胡椒 / 还有发脾气，需要清凉的马郁兰与甜椒粉 / 擦清眼泪，细细地品汤 / 盐和胡椒，是永恒的阴阳。
Dad and I would have a couple of ports before Christmas dinner, every year on Christmas Day, the 25th of December in our country at that time.
Once we finished the bottle after Christmas Dinner, Dad would sing in Portuguese and Mum would sing in Latin into the evening, and then through to Boxing Day.
On Boxing Day my father would seek out the Boxing Day sales (alcohol) and Mum would tear up bits of left-over turkey and feed it to the chickens so their eggs would taste like turkey.
Traditionally, Dad and I would drink the on-sale alcohol through Boxing Day into the 27th (no special name for that day in our country at that time) and then Mum would scramble the turkey-flavoured eggs and add handfuls of chicken salt.
Then we’d all watch the cricket. Dad would fall asleep in front of the TV, sometimes pissing his pants. Mum and I would laugh, and then we’d fall asleep.
Last year someone left the gas burner on, probably Mum because she’s the only one who used the range, and my folks died.
I was in the garage the whole afternoon pretending I could drive Dad’s Jaguar.
I survived, lived on for some time after that.
On the mercy sometimes shown to slugs
Lauren sprinkles regular salt on her peri-peri salted fries.
“But they already have salt.”
“Yes, but salt combos, Sara. Salt combos!”
They finish eating. Lauren goes to put away the plastic saltshaker from the picnic set she insists on using. It is no longer there.
Later they are in the garden. Lauren is horrified.
“I said I don’t want to use chemicals. Think of the slugs.”
“Thinking of the slugs is exactly what I’m doing – and everything is chemicals, Lauren. We are chemicals. You put sodium chloride on your fries. You’re using the wrong language.”
Lauren sulks and the afternoon drags. She discovers Sara has created a barrier of salt across the path before going to shower. She sweeps up the salt and replaces it with caster sugar which she has ground to make even finer.
She loves the hostas, and doesn’t like their perforations, but she can’t bring herself to hate slugs.
Sara shouts down from the bathroom window, “Sucrose, fructose, C12 H22011! Sucrose, sucrose, sucrose! Glucose plus fructose equals sucrose!”
Lauren thinks she sees a slug licking the lips it doesn’t have with the tongue it doesn’t have.
She blows Sara a kiss.
Maia wakes suddenly. Wrapping arms across her chest, she pulls the T-shirt close. How long has she been here? Leaving the shelter of taupata, she pushes naked feet into the shore’s salt-edged grains. Small beach weta scuttle and salsa, six legs side-stepping, an insect rhythm.
Where is he?
It had been a bad one. Acrid fumes crawling into her skin, the acetone smell strong, burning into her nostrils. Coming down, crashing. Him asleep when she left, asleep when she returned. Day after day. Afterwards, satanic visions screwing with his head. Plucking a mind apart. The head lock, smashing into her again and again.
Where is he?
The sky is blackly grey. Like his eyes. Like the steel-capped boots. Should have kept her mouth shut. Running, the best in the college sprints last year, a pretend-gold cup, her name on the front. Has she run fast enough?
Where is he?
Scraps of sea creatures litter the shore, a receding tide extruding briny crab claw, half a pipi shell, tipa on scalloped edge. She trips on sun-whitened driftwood, wind-shaven limbs of pōhutakawa, her vision salted with tears. Her ribs ache.
Where is he?
Strings of tussock, whorls of pīngo, spikes of spinifex. A tangle of fingers, darkly inked. Maia kneels. She traces sand-drizzled patterns crossing the gaunt cheeks, like a dun-coloured film of guipure lace. Her brother’s blackly grey eyes are open, unblinking, the lashes skewered with crystallized sodium chloride.
He wanted to erase thoughts of salt from his mind. The wind was picking up, rattling the house, disturbed, insistent, curving the lips of darkness. His mind drifted to childhood memories, the days of youthful ignorance and cosy ambivalence.
The clock’s rhythmic tick tock soothed him midst the rumbles of the night, sedating him into a drunken sleepiness. He still missed Sebastian. His soft skin and boyish grin, his gentle warm character and distinctive mannerisms. The way he could shift sands with the poetry of his voice, dancing rooftops.
Pinch of salt
Standing on the salt flat, pink ponds glistening at my feet. I twirl.
Sparkling mounds of crystals flashing by as I turn faster and faster.
Salty coddled egg spooned to my baby mouth.
Tomato sauce sucked from cheerios, happy birthday to you.
No, try it like this.
Salt from finger, tequila from bottle, sour citrus suck, suck, suck.
We kiss, salt on surf tongues, zinc on summer noses.
Fish and chips, fighting off gulls.
Margarita sipped though salt-crusted rim.
Slitted eyes spy a whorl of workmates.
You grind and grind pink Himalayan salt onto a perfectly salted soufflé.
The mortgage, the bloody mortgage, you say.
I choose anchovies, brown rice and mushrooms.
With just a smidgeon of salt.
My favourites, mine alone.
In the thin Bolivian air.
She hadn’t planned to go in with her clothes on, but the tide was low, and she kept walking toward the waves.
The moment she tasted the saltwater, she knew he was really gone. Maybe that’s why she drove the eight hours to the coast. To verify the sea was still salty.
If his remains were ashes, she would have spread them here off Long Island at “the people’s beach,” where he brought her once as a little girl. To join the salt still lining the brim of his hat.
The Salt-sting of Learning When to Say No
She hadn’t wanted to visit Krakow’s salt mine any more than she’d yearned to see the concentration camp 60km away.
It was breathless in the mine, and oddly warm. The heat and the smooth walls made her feel she was trudging through the innards of some giant creature.
The boy from the coach walked beside her, catching her eye and smiling as he had at the camp, where he’d produced a paper bag of apricots and held it before her until she’d taken one and bitten into the soft, furred flesh while other, older tourists glared. Snacking at a death camp was clearly a disrespectful act, she noted, adding it to the list of dos and don’ts she carried in her head. She hadn’t known what to do with the sharp-edged stone so it sat in her cheek, waiting to be spat out.
When the salt mine guide invited them to sample the wall, her skin tightened with dismay. Who knew how many other foreigners had wetted that space? The boy, who looked Dutch or Danish, licked with relish.
With her pulse lurching, she let him slip his tongue into her mouth. His saliva carried intimations of fruit and smoke, peppermint and salt. She pressed the apricot stone between his lips and backed away. All she could think of was how much she craved a drink of water.
We are marched to the town square at dawn, to spend a day in the snow globe. Before shutting us in, the guards take out the glittery gingerbread house.
“That’s not very fair,” we say.
Inside too much glass, with nowhere to hide, the sun will dry our sweat to salt, our skin to fish scales.
“I don’t know about this,” T. says.
“It could be worse,” R. says, “if they’d caught Gramps. Put him in here.”
“I’m glad it’s not him.”
“At least we got the chickens out of the shed.”
Then come the agri-lobby. They shake us up for chanting the slogans of our protest rallies. We hit against walls, battering limbs, jaws, noses. Kids stare as the snowflakes turn red. We chant; they shake. By lunchtime they are tired of it.
“I don’t feel good,” T. says.
“Me neither,” R. says. ‘If it were Gramps, he’d be dead.”
We play dead all afternoon.
By evening, the guards are back. Stony, unbending.
“Are you going to steal any more chickens?”
What can we say? How can we live without voicing our truth? Here’s the dilemma: our ears are bleeding. We say no.
We wonder if they’re expecting us to clean the place.
We hobble across the square towards the highway. One valley over, at the end of a gravel road where Gramps lives, the chickens are running through meadows and flapping their wings.
“I hope they’re happy now,” T. says.
“It’ll make it seem worth it,” R. says.
They sent him back
We lived a mile up the valley but the wind off the sea still reached us. Our car sat on the road, covered in salt, a rainbow slick of oily water trickling down into the gutter.
Mary lived next door. Her husband Dave was away fighting. In the spring they sent Dave back. Betty and I watched as he limped up the pathway. At 5pm they closed the curtains even though it was November and the sun was high above the hills.
The next day Betty asked Dave to look at our car. She stood on his doorstep, hand on hip, leaning towards him. He followed her out to the road. Later, she said his hands didn’t stop shaking, not when he was turning the crank or lying underneath the car.
He told Betty the bottom had rusted. We needed to keep our car out of the salt air. The wind whipped his words away, took them further up the valley.
You should talk to him she said hopeful I might leave the house. I ignored her, wheeled myself out of the room.
Two months later Dave was gone. I saw Betty reach out and touch Mary’s arm as they stood on the footpath.
They sent him back Betty said when I asked. They saw him, they saw him and they still sent him back.
Our car sat on the road, wind whistling under the chassis. When it rained rust bled into the earth. Stained it red like blood.
A Life Abridged
I stand at the kitchen sink washing the one thing I took from home after you died: The Madonna and Child statue. I wash it gently, remembering the time you unwittingly soaked a statue of St. Joseph carved out of salt in a sink of warm water. You did not realize it would dissolve, desert you like your man-made religion. Only to return later, pushing your hands through the milky-white water, confused, almost frantic, as you thrashed about in search of what you had laid there.
“Pimientos de Padrón y dorada salvaje a la sal, por favor. Oh, and a bottle of Ibizan white.” I sighed with pleasure, dipping the soft bread into aioli. A breeze blew the garlic from my mouth and coiled around my neck. Through large sunglasses the light was too bright. Bathers rolled away from stinging sands.
Peeping from behind the gigantic sandcastle, his children see the sun coasting along the blue – majestic, unchallenged by clouds. Hear the gentle waves lapping against the shore applaud.
Where’s Mummy been? the youngest asks. Still gingerly erecting a sand wall for the castle, the older one says, She’s shoveling snow, remember? When the third says, She’s making the sun shine, making the waves, the others look up to comprehend.
Their father has made a shallow sandpit for himself nearby, let the invading brine fill it. He’s been lying inside it. The wind and heat conspire to dry the water, and when they win, he’ll be left in a bed of salt – coarse, crystalline – pricking him even when time has evaporated.
He sees the crabs dig holes for themselves, then emerge in panic to whisper into his ears the gurgle of saltwater as it sounded when he tried to save his wife.
He’ll save the story for a future day. If ever his children fall short of answers.
The Saline Effect
I spend my summer waiting for the perfect wave.
We hang out on the endless black sand grin at Muriwai, tanning like potato skins. My eyes are bloodied from the dodgem crashes of saltwater as I paddle out on a faded neon board for the big one. It’s the penultimate day of hols when I give up. Ashore, my little sister has constructed a wreckage of sandcastles. She is ten years old with red jelly hair. There are white murals on her legs where her cut-off shorts end. A birthday cake frosting of salt on her soft thighs, knees like the spare mechanics of a calf.
“Mattie! Wash your boardies!” Mum hollers when we get back to Granddad’s. The smell of deep-fried heaven wafts enticingly in the air. I chuck them onto the washing line, jog to the fast-food place and hand over the last soldiers in my pocket money battalion.
That night Granddad does a big fry up, kūmara oiled like new school shoes, salted within an inch of their lives. The extractor fan’s broken, so the smell gets into our bedsheets. I wake up the next morning and see a Goldilocks zone of waves outside my window. I get my boardshorts. The legs are stiff, chafing my skin. That ants-in-your-pants vibe. Mum eyes me on the back step, clinging to an enormous mug of black coffee. “What did I tell you kiddo, salt’s a killer.”
oak smooth finish –
years grinding by
would you like pepper with that?
fleeting mindset, sprinkled
with Himalayan thoughts
ethically sourced, artisan made
reading about salt
An afternoon with Nana
Mum and Dad are going out so I’m visiting Nana. Mum doesn’t like Nana but I do.
Nana opens the door and it’s gloomy inside but that’s OK, I know how to open her curtains. Dad leaves and we go into her second-best living room. There’s Ginger Kisses and ginger ale on the table. I like ginger food, it’s like a party on my tongue.
We have a chat but I’m thinking of what I want to do next – clean out Basil’s cage. He’s a blue Budgie that I helped Nana choose. He sings when I take his cage outside and clean out all the poo from the cage’s floor. He pulls out his feathers when he’s inside and I don’t think that’s a good thing.
I tell Nana again, “Take him outside more!”
She goes, “Humph.”
I play outside until Nana says it’s dinnertime. She’s made it early, as Dad is picking me up soon. I take Basil’s cage inside and he stops singing.
I don’t like dinners at her place – it’s always boiled chicken and the skin is floppy. With mushy carrots too. Dad said she stopped eating red meat and salt after her heart problems before I was born. I poke around trying to find a tasty bit, but it’s all yuck.
When I leave with Dad, she stands at her front window and we wave at each other. The sun is still up, but it’s really dark behind her.
That night, Tash and I left our flat, rent unpaid, because the landlord wouldn’t fix the blocked toilet. The houses in the street were to be demolished for the new motorway. We left a warning for prospective tenants, scrawled on the wall in thick black pen.
We didn’t know the two girls at the new place. They shared the big room with a harbour view, while we got a narrow dark one at the back.
Barb worked at the freezing works on the hill above the harbour. On Friday she brought back a big package of mince. On Saturday she took over the stove top.
Tracey had a deep guttural voice. She had grubby blonde hair and a boyfriend in old army fatigues who hung around the place, quiet as anything. One morning she’d been crying. She had a bloody jagged scratch on her cheek and dark blue shadows under her eyes.
Barb said Tracey told him to leave.
I was relieved. He hadn’t so much as given me a glance, but you never knew.
By Saturday morning, he was back.
“He’s apologised and they’ve made up,” Barb said while she sloshed food on plates in the kitchen. Boiled mince again, nothing to disguise the horrible taste, not even salt. The boyfriend drifted in. I passed him my plate of mince and stared at him till he had eaten it.
“Go easy with that,” he begs again.
“You need plenty for seasoning,” she proclaims for the umpteenth time, working vigorously, preparing the ingredients for that night’s coq au vin. “It tastes terrible if there’s not enough.”
He just can’t help himself. “How many times do I have to say it. It causes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure. Too much of that stuff makes your insides commit suicide.”
“That’s right, throw your medical degree in my face again!” She’s tearing the chicken apart, wrenching flesh from bone.
“Garlic and herbs can be used for flavour and seasoning. In fact, they can have health benefits.”
She shovels teaspoon after teaspoon of the disputed substance in with the cannon fodder chicken.
Their saline disagreements hang in the air like shrapnel.
After cutting off his head she felt much better. Decapitation rendered the naked body satisfyingly anonymous. Just a male trunk and limbs now, mere flesh without identity.
For a long while she stared at the headless torso, the strongly muscled arms and legs. His physique had impressed her once. Pleased with it himself, he liked to pose nude for her camera. She used to like his saltiness: his coarse tongue, his sweaty body. “Trim, eh?” he’d say with a wink, fondly patting his chest. Now it was different: this figure in front of her looked less trim, more trimmed. She preferred it that way: a curtailment well deserved.
Taking an envelope from her desk, she wrote a name and address on it in bold block capitals. His name, his address. Then, slipping the snipped photo inside, she licked the tangy flap and sealed the surprise ready for posting.
Anything you Like
More like a vase, really, than a cooking pot. Nothing like a saucepan; perhaps a bit, almost, like a cauldron, though it’s bright and patterned, and what it’s made of feels more like ceramic than anything else. It gleams under sunbeam, and Nathalie assures me that it’s magic.
On the long days, or the really tough days, when everyone in the office has just been a total pack of dicks, and the bus was late, and the sky stern grey. That’s when she gets it out and puts it on the stovetop and decides she’s going to cook with it.
“Go ahead,” she tells me. “Add anything you like. It’ll be great no matter what.”
I never feel entirely sure…
But she dumps a bag of rice in there, and some lentils, some leftover pizza, and half a lemon. She recklessly tips in half a shaker of salt.
“Nathalie, that’s way too much salt…”
She smiles at me with the corner of her mouth: “Is it though?”
I grew tall at the beach, digging between granules of shell and salt. People would ask, are you digging to China? But the opposite place to where I was then is where I am now, with you telling your friends how I tunnelled, through layers of sediment, grey iron, red lava, to meet the poet; how the first of your poems I read had a line about waiting for someone to unearth you. They laugh with you. I miss the joke. You speak so fast.
Once, a different-angled sun scorched my back. It couldn’t penetrate tog straps and strips of ribbon my mother tied to stop them slipping from too-narrow shoulders. I was sun-striped. Now, you lick stripes of salt from between my shoulder blades. As your saliva dries beneath the whir of the ceiling fan, the breeze whispers, hoki tū mai.
You ask, “Is it not so hot in the Antipodes?”
I say it is a different heat and explain how the light of home is different too, and how sand is made of more than one thing.
“Your friends don’t like me,” I say.
“You are not what we expect you should be.”
I say, “When I take you home, you will understand me then.”
Your dark brows hood your eyes. You tell me I misinterpreted, or that the translation was not good enough. You do not want to be transplanted. You gesture at orange and almond orchards.
Fiesta Chili Pepper Period
Catherine Chiarella Domonkos
Bloomers, the poufy underwear bursting with lace trim worn by 19th century women. Mom buys a pair for me to wear under my gray-green plaid school uniform when I am seven. Oh, if Sister Augustine only knew. We try to jazz up the clinically depressed outfit with forest green velvet saddle shoes, but I am returned home with a note to return to school only when I am sporting the prescribed brown Buster Browns. Mom trims my braids with purple paisley headband and neon wool ties, all to the same effect: Come back when you’re ready to look like the rest of the flock. Hence, the underwear. With red satin ribbon. That shiny red, a real tomato-orange, what the designer’s color bible, Pantone, calls Fiesta. Pulsing with life and ready to party. I am tantalized by its heat. My secret red makes me giggle with confidence that out there in a gray-green world, a world sometimes like sea foam after a storm, laden with debris and rot, I am set apart. In middle school, a red patent handbag, more a Melt than a Fiesta, but still strong, vibrant. In college, I paint the walls of my bedroom a red hot passionate Fire Truck. Chili Pepper lipstick and I am spicy, a little bit salty. Tangerine Tango highlights and I am a sunset shimmering with energy. Now: Pantone Period. The one with the outline of a bleeding uterus on the color chip card. Sister Augustine, I think I’m ready now.
The subtropics need – first from the ground. Sand spurs hobble barefoot boys, cripple their gait, their pinch. Iron droplets down coral tongues. High knees through the empty lot. Fixed bridge over a dead-end canal. They stretch, slinging shirts ashore with a leap. Brackish spit, smiles, and slack tide between teeth. A trickle through the gullet. Then barnacles do what they must when the seawall needs the boys ribboned. Algae at the incisions. Spark of salt. And the sun, which sends for storm before the day is through, rides the bony mount of their shoulders, vying for eyes.