three bodies: Tortilla dulce

Tortilla dulce

Most people enjoy a strong association between smell and memory.

Christmas food taking you back to one specific Christmas, the scent of fabric softener to your first flat on your own, dry grass to the afternoons on the campus grounds, idling hours away outside class.

She wasn’t like that. The scent of flowers did not trigger memories of her childhood country house. A perfume did not recover the feeling of kissing the neck of her first girlfriend. She didn’t have much use for that sense, other than pragmatic. She did not understand when characters in movies romanticized the smell of rain recently fallen.

There was one exception and that was the smell of tortilla dulce, the dessert her grandma’s mother used to make whenever she visited as a child. The figures of Jesus on the cross hanging on every room used to scare her but it was worth it just to eat that sweet omelette. Or so she thought when she was six years old, that it was a fair trade.

Yes, the one smell that could bring her back.

Not just the memory of the dish itself or the woman who used to make it – of her sing-song accent, betraying she came from the Galician parts of the county. The memory of that house, cold and damp, with stone hallways and heavy wooden doors. The whole building had since long disappeared but she remembered the quiet darkness of it. She would remember a TV set in the living room but she couldn’t recall anything on. And how her great-grandmother would sit her at the kitchen table – she remembered it as an unstable, plastic affair, incongruous against the many iron-looking appliances in the room – and make her wait until the omelette was finished. It was a ritual of sorts, and the scent of eggs and sugar and milk and stale bread would forever bring her there, to the cold kitchen, tapping her feet against the hard floor, and how the dish wasn’t done until she could smell a light burnt odour in the air. It didn’t taste just right if it wasn’t a bit burnt, black on the underside. The kitchen was the only room in the house where the sunlight could easily reach every surface, where she could tell winter from spring, or if it was time to go home.

It didn’t happen often, this remembering; nobody she knew cooked tortilla dulce anymore.


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