Zen and the art of chopping.

It starts when the blade hits the board.

You look up from the cutting board, and realise that it’s already started: that sense of calm, the quiet place you find inside yourself.

You grip the handle of the blade and continue. This is your zen garden, your mandala, your mantra, composed of the sound of metal hitting wood, metal hitting wood, metal scraping wood. The hand moves the onion, knowing where it needs to go. Hold it firm, cut it in half. Hold it firm, slice the top. Hold it firm, take off the papery skin. Push it aside. Hold it firm, slice halfway through.

You remember this trick that a friend taught you: slice the onion halfway through its widest point. This is an extra step to get smaller pieces, less chopping, less cyring, less work. More focus on what you’re doing.

The onions are done. For the carrots, you pull out a piece of old newspaper to catch the peelings.

As you’re peeling, you remember something that they did, or said. You smile as you think of this. Your hands knows what they’re doing, turning and peeling, occasionally pushing the peelings onto the page. You don’t want to drop anything and make a mess.

You turn on the oven and as you do this, you remember the first time you made this dish for them. You had just learned to make it, practicing alone. The nice Korean lady at the store told you how to make it, scribbling notes on the back of your receipt. No instructions, just ingredients and a few measurements. But you’ve learned that more of this and less of that make for a better dish. More suited to what you want and what they like.

You don’t remember every meal you’ve made for them, but you remember how they always say, “Thank you” before they sit down to eat. You remember that they always joke, “I knew there was a reason I kept you around.” They like to eat with the shades closed, but you like the sunlight. They feel like the neighbourhood is watching you eat, but you don’t care. You like the idea of others watching people in love eating together.

Dinner is almost ready. The windows are a little steamy now. The room smells of garlic and toasted sesame seeds. “Is it ready,” they ask. “Close,” you answer.

“Can I do anything?”

“The dishes.”

They wink.

You wish it was always this easy. All you have to do is chop.

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