This is a moving, lyrical personal essay from Kim Green and Chantha Nguon. For 10 years, these two friends have been collaborating on Nguon’s life story, through interviews and cooking sessions, which will eventually culminate into Slow Noodles, a memoir on food, loss, and recovered family recipes. This excerpt from the memoir-in-progress is an evocative piece on surviving the Cambodian genocide, and remembering the flavors, the memories, and the past that the Khmer Rouge regime tried to erase.

In my dreams I’m back in that kitchen, chopping onions and garlic, running to fetch wood and water, and falling asleep in a hammock as Mae rocks me to sleep. But of course, that world is gone. My mother left me nothing but her songs and recipes, and aromatic memories to last the rest of my life.

I always remembered the flavor of happiness. It tasted like Mae’s pâté de foie, encased in cracked pepper and smelling of garlic and cloves. It tasted like anticipation: the lullaby chick chick chick of the night train from Battambang to Phnom Penh rocking me to sleep, as I dreamed of the pâte à choux cream pastry we would buy upon our arrival, just by the station.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.