Harris Khalique | BLACK PEPPER POEM

Black Pepper Poem

Black pepper was my guide
into the world of spice.
Siyah mirch’, you would call it.

Irresistible when my sunny side up,
half fried egg is peppered black.
The dark thin membrane is layered off
by the first dash of hot toast,
exposing deep yellow.
I pepper the egg once again.
Making it rich, viscous, spiky.
You wouldn’t sprinkle but carpet
your dish with black pepper.

You liked your sandwich toasted,
slices to be almost charred.
Baqar khanis, nan khatais, rusks over-baked.
Deep fried cumin seeds sowed in salty biscuits
from a small oven near Pakistan Quarters,
chicken patties from Pereira’s in Saddar.
We savoured the crispness, the aroma, the taste,
the cumin, the salt, the zing in our childhood.
Black pepper everywhere.

This intense full-bodied South African red today,
Mixed aromas of currant, plum and spice,
Hints of mocha and cedar.
To you,
To black pepper.

At ‘Relish’ in Cape Town,
just by the hotel where I stay,
the hotel – a wacky set from ‘Clockwork Orange’,
more edges than rounds, more metal than cloth,
‘Relish’ is a respite – delicate and warm.

When I was small
you said,
“You eat too fast my son,
relish your food.”

“Father, I relish the seared Moroccan salmon today
topped with chermoula stuffed prawns,
with lots of black pepper.
My eyes are wet, my nose running.”